Swearingen Communications Insights

Fresh ideas, seasoned perspectives, and solid marketing strategies to keep you grounded and growing.


Social Media: Second Coming, Or “Gag Me?”

Several of us in a PR/marketing/legal marketing group on LinkedIn have enjoyed a lively — and entertaining — discussion this week about Social Media. It’s gratifying to be among seasoned professionals who recognize two simultaneous truths: Social Media is no magic bullet.  And it is an unstoppable force to be addressed and incorporated.

One conversation began with “Are Social Media marketers drowning in the Kool Aid?” (initiated by Francis Moran, http://www.francis-moran.com). There were moans, jibes, and laughs about over-caffeinated Social Media zealots, frantic to override any  marketing activity that doesn’t involve a 2.0 component.

I’ve got news for the fanatics: “Just do it!” is not a Social Media strategy (apologies to Nike).  The consensus among the thoughtful practitioners was that Social Media does not replace traditional marketing, it enhances it.  Social Media is a formidable,  new tool.  But it’s only powerful when guided by a well-established  Social Media strategy.

A second conversation, initiated by Robert Algeri (http://www.greatjakes.com) involved an anonymous professional named “cranky attorney.”  Cranky attorney still doesn’t “get”  why his firm needs a website.  You can imagine how cranky attorney feels about Social Media.  As Robert and I traded comments, I shared a few of my “cranky professional” stories as well.  I understand. It’s no fun attaining success in one’s profession, only to have Web 2.0 change many of the rules.  From my end, it’s fantastic when a mature professional grasps what Social Media can do for his or her business.

A recent incident illustrates the push-pull between old and new.  This Saint Patrick’s Day, I joined two other panelists who spoke before the Bar Association of North San Diego County (http://bansdc.org) about Social Media for attorneys.  More than 120 attorneys attended.  AVVO, which is somewhat like a LinkedIn for attorneys, was the subject of much debate.  One attorney participant wrote us after the presentation, questioning AVVO’s ranking system and overall legitimacy.  Attorney Kevin O’Keefe, CEO of LexBlog (http://www.lexblog.com) and one of the top legal marketing gurus in the United States, was kind enough to respond to the attorney’s letter, which I shared with him.  I won’t include all of Kevin’s great insight, but here’s a snippet:  “Everyone who gets the name of a lawyer from a trusted source, (which is) the leading way people find a lawyer, (will) Google the lawyer’s name. What they see will leave an impression on them. The AVVO profile, whether completed or not completed, is apt to show up high in a search and be looked at.”

Let’s be honest: “Cranky attorney” resides in a lot of us.  Social Media has introduced unprecedented shifts in how we do business.  Depending on our perspective, these changes may seem inconvenient, threatening, or distasteful.  But Social Media also offers unprecedented opportunity. How we adapt and adjust to Social Media might make or break our professional viability, long term.

My solution? For now, I vote for a Goldilocks approach to Social Media:  Not too much, not too little, but just right.  How about you?