It's not much of a secret that I'm not a fan of modern legal marketing. I mean, I'm not a crank on the subject on the level of a Greenfield or a Tannebaum, but I'm a critic. I think that modern legal marketing is epitomized by comment spam, legal search engines that produce mostly calls from crazy people, sham referral services, and aggressive flimflammers trying to make money from lawyers.
No, Klout is not an East German techno-pop band. It's a meta-social-networking company — not one that lets you post on Facebook or tweet, but one that measures how many people might conceivably give a shit when you do. Klout helps you focus on things like this:
Are your tweets interesting and informative enough to build an audience?
How far has your content been spread across Twitter?
Are people adding you to lists and are those lists being followed?
How many people did you have to follow to build your count of followers?
How often are your follows reciprocated?
Klout does not have a metric for whether, as a professional, you have the faintest grasp of what you are doing. (I sure hope they're working on it.) But to the drinkers of modern legal marketing's Kool-Aid, that's not the right question. Neither is "how does Klout influence actually translate to clients hiring me?" Rather, the question is how much the other people who like this sort of thing are liking the way that you do this sort of thing:
Legal marketers and others who advise lawyers (myself included) have been gently prodding lawyers to start using social media in marketing their practices with such services as: Twitter, Facebook, blogs and others. Oftentimes, we are asked: “How do you know if this is effective or just a waste of time?” Well now all of us can start gauging our effectiveness via a growing number of websites that seek to place a quantitative assessment of your clout (or Klout as it may be) in social media circles.
. . .
Klout is a great way to determine whether your social media message is strongly focused, whether it is reaching your target audience and whether you are seen as an influencer or not. Or as they would put it, do you have Klout?
To legal marketeers, Klout — like Twitter followers and Facebook friends and search engine hits — is its own reward. Marketeers would prefer that you not focus on how one uses this to deliver effective service to clients (if you're feeling noble) or at least how one monetizes it (if you're feeling crass). If you focus on that, you're going to know that you can't stand up in court and say "Your Honor, the prosecutor may have a good argument about the admissibility of that statement, but allow me to point out that my Klout score is much higher than his." If you focus on that, you're going to realize that, in terms of actual calls to you, what Klout and Twitter and such tools most reliably produces are calls from marketeers wanting to sell you (a likely sucker) on some other marketing widget. Meta-marketing geegaws like Klout, in short, are effective money-making tools only for people who operate them or who make money telling you to use them, not for lawyers.
Such things are also colossal time-sinks. Look, I love watching hits roll into this site on Woopra as much as anybody. But that's a hobby. We don't promote our real-world employers on this site, and we don't delude ourselves that our Popehat-marketing activities produce anything other than people who like to read free stuff. Lawyers who spend long hours tracking how many people are retweeting them might imagine they are contributing to the bottom line — but they are deluding themselves.
Antonin made this point for us all at the Canadian site that touted Klout. Here's the part they left in:
Are you seriously promoting Klout as having any value to lawyers? Do you actually believe that Klout or any other social media snake-oil metrics measure “influence” or offer anything remotely useful or quantifiable? Are you not aware that Klout and other so-called social media metrics can be gamed, just like any SEO crap tactics? Your bio states that you are a “lawyer and Practice Management Consultant” […] Instead of the same-old, same-old, why not write a post about whether lawyers need practice management consultants, instead of spending 5 minutes to open a Twitter and Facebook account and 10 minutes to get a WordPress or Blogger account? What about the pitfalls of social media credential fraud and the ethical implications of lawyers using social media?
Here's the part they cut out as against site commenting standards:
So, have you given up your gig and now spend your time helping lawyers harness the awesome power of the internet? No, not interested? Figures.
I'm waiting for a response. But not holding my breath.
Look, legal marketing has always been susceptible to shallow babble. Anyone who has ever watched late night TV, with its cheap-suited lawyers standing in front of mismatched books, knows that. But modern legal marketing is insidious in new and exciting ways. The incessant hum of marketeer bullshit is calculated to encourage both lawyers and clients to mistake solicitation and substance. Marketeers and their acolytes are pushing the notion that's not just descriptive, but proscriptive — that not only do clients choose clients for stupid reasons like finding them first in a Google search, but that this is a good thing. In fact, any competent and honest attorney will tell you that picking an attorney out of the yellow pages, be they paper or digital, is an awful idea to be avoided if at all possible. That's how the Rakofskys of the world get hired. Moreover, as Antonin suggests, the focus on marketing's SEO power, as opposed to its honesty and accuracy, continues to mainstream dishonest marketing tactics among lawyers on this relatively new medium.
Technology can help lawyers, and help lawyers help clients. A good web site can provide valuable, specific, honest information to prospective clients. Email is an effective and money-saving way to communicate with clients, co-counsel, opposing counsel, and others. Sites that let lawyers share documents with colleagues and clients are marvelous. But technology is not its own justification or its own reward. For grown-ups, shinier is not automatically better.
I wish I had enough Klout so more people could hear me say that. Maybe if I added some more key words and tweeted at key hours and RT'd to some opinion-makers.
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