Or, You Don’t Need to Delete Your Facebook Account Just Yet

Relax. Use social media for good.

While waging war on paper in my home office, I found the outline of a luncheon speech I gave to a local paralegal group earlier this year. So that I can throw away the paper, I’m memorializing the outline of my little speech here. Keep in mind I was actually eating lunch while talking, no mean or graceful feat.

What IS social media? [Rhetorical question, blog readers. If you’re reading this, you probably know what it is.]

Anyone here using Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Blogs? [A surprising number, at least to me, of legal professionals still say no.]

I know social media has a bad rep. A recent CLE presentation I heard by a digital forensics expert likely frightened most of the attendees into deleting their Facebook accounts as soon as they got home.

My position is that if you’re using it for evil, or to lie, cheat, bully, share your naughty parts or thoughts, or do anything you wouldn’t be comfortable doing in this room, plus add your mom and your boss, then you shouldn’t use it.

But social media can be an extraordinary networking and educational tool for smart users.

First and foremost, find out what your current employer’s social media policies are, if any. Even if your employer has a generous or no social media policy, don’t use your work computer for personal purposes, including social media, because your work computer isn’t really yours.

Also, you can take this next fact to the bank. Nothing on the Internet is private.

If you don’t use anything else, and your current employer’s social media policy permits, set up a LinkedIn profile, http://www.linkedin.com/. Paralegals are integral parts of their firms, and can help market their employers. As much as we interact in the community, sometimes the most important part – what we do and where we work – gets omitted.

LinkedIn offers the opportunity to maintain professional connections, preserve a giant and constantly updated Rolodex (look it up if you’re too young to know what that is) of contacts, and also keep up with the latest legal news and ask questions in  LinkedIn Groups especially for legal professionals.

I think of social media as free CLE. I’d have to spend thousands of dollars in registration fees and travel expenses to get this kind of information at seminars.

Professional blogs feature practice and news in your specialty areas, and are a great way to keep up with the latest developments in your field. Don’t know where to start looking for legal blogs? The ABA Journal lists blogs by topic and author type at http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs. Often, your favorite bloggers will publish a blogroll and/or share links that will lead you to other blogs you’ll like.

Using an RSS feed reader is the best way to absorb online content quickly, and to make sure you don’t miss anything. Google Reader is free. Start by subscribing to a few specialty area and paralegal blogs to get the feel of it.

Twitter is hard for many legal professionals to embrace, but it can be a great learning tool even if you don’t want to tweet yourself. You can follow legal experts across the country who share great information via very brief status updates every day.

Social media is a good thing – when used for good.

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