For this week’s Guest Post Friday, Construction Law Musings welcomes Gwynne Monahan. Gwynne (@econwriter5) is the chief consultant of Shadow Froggy Consulting, where she focuses on educating the legal community on the benefits and practical uses of open source applications. She also founded Lawyer Connection, a social media network aimed at creating “a community of attorneys dedicated to assisting one another in making our way through the economic downturn.”
If you’re looking for yet another post on the pros (or cons) of social media for lawyers, I suggest you go back to Google and search again.
If you are curious about social media, though, or want (or already use) social media but find engaging in some meaningful fashion a daunting task, then keep reading.
Just as there are vital applications to help you manage your law practice, like Clio or Abacus, and manage the business side of your practice, like Quicken, there are applications to help you manage your social media presence. As you may already know from your practice management and business management applications, what was once daunting is now part of your normal routine.
Engaging in social media can work the same way, so let’s take a look at some applications that can help you manage your social media presence. We’ll look at three desktop and two Web browser applications. Please keep in mind that this is not a complete list, but merely a sampling and a method to get you started. I should also note that they are free.
Desktop applications are installed on your computer, just like a word processing application or your Web browser. Here are some to consider:
TweetDeck: I use this one myself. It runs on Macs and PCs, and lets you manage a long list of social media profiles, including FourSquare, Facebook, LinkedIN and Google Buzz, to name a few. And of course it lets you manage your Twitter account, or multiple Twitter accounts.
Digsby: Similar to TweetDeck in terms of accessing and managing various social media platforms, but also lets you manage and communicate through instant messaging applications, like AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk and Facebook Chat, to name a few. It also allows you to manage email accounts, like Yahoo Mail, Gmail, even IMAP and POP accounts.
Seesmic: Often vying for popularity (and sometimes winning) with TweetDeck, it lets you manage multiple accounts and its Desktop 2 Beta version lets you further customize with plugins. You may never need to visit the home pages of Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare or LinkedIN again.
Browser applications run inside Web browsers, like FireFox, Safari or Internet Explorer. No downloading is required, which is helpful for those who work in offices with strict policies on third party applications.
HootSuite: It calls itself the “Social Media Dashboard” since it lets you not only manage multiple accounts across multiple social media platforms, but also lets you grant access to others. For example, using HootSuite, I also tweet for @PrivacyCamp. What sets it apart, though, is its tracking functionality. You can see what updates to what social media platforms do, like drive traffic to your site or a specific blog post.
CoTweet: Its claim is that it is “How Business does Twitter,” and since its list of clients includes McDonald’s, JetBlue, Ford, Whole Foods and Microsoft, the claim is easily justified. It offers similar features to HootSuite, but it takes multiple users a step further by allowing you to assign updates to colleagues. So if you see a tweet about a construction accident, say, you can assign it to someone in your law firm for further investigation. Its threading feature lets you keep track of who has followed up on what.
I haven’t touched on any mobile applications, I know. They vary as widely as mobile operating platforms. UberTwitter for BlackBerry only, sadly, is the best Twitter application I have used. I tweet, a lot, and it handled my Twitter usage wonderfully. On my iTouch, I use Twitterrific (free version), which is good and also available on the iPhone. I recently gave up my trusty BlackBerry for a Droid, and so far, only TweetCaster (free version) has proven itself, despite its tendency to crash.
Again, this is a small sampling of social media management applications that are available. Mashable put together a good list, which includes ones I’ve mentioned here. The Freelance Folder put together a more comprehensive list, from social aggregators to more specific applications for any given social media platform.
Remember, at one point, it was less of a question of whether to start a law practice and more of a question of how to manage your law practice. The same is true of social media. It’s not a question of whether to engage, but how to manage it. My hope is that the applications mentioned above will give you a place to start. Experiment, see what you like and what works, and go from there.