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5 Things Attorneys Need to Know About Social Media
Sunday, May 13, 2012

1. Social Media Impacts Every Facet of Your Client’s Business and Your Business 

Social media isn't something that can be pigeonholed into one segment or area of yours or your client's business. Instead, it impacts every facet of the business, from human resources and marketing/advertising to research & development, and routine operating decisions. Even if you or your clients are only using social media for occasional free advertising, the employees of your organizations are using social media daily, bringing with that new issues in labor, intellectual property, corporate and other areas of the law that must be addressed. 

2. Not All Social Media is the Same 

No single site is the same on social media. Each comes with its own rules and policies that you need to know to protect yourself and your clients. For example, Twitter only allows a takedown of infringing accounts under trademark law if you have a registered mark. Facebook will allow you to rely on common law rights, but has more stringent standards for impersonation than Twitter. Knowing the different rules and policies is crucial.

3. Privacy Does Exist on Social Media 

Many people make the mistake of thinking privacy has no place in the world of social media. On the contrary, privacy controls are not only important, but can protect private information, even before the courts. More and more, courts around the country are recognizing the validity of privacy controls in discovery to prevent attorneys from conducting “fishing expeditions.” Even outside of the courts privacy remains important, as evidenced by the recent controversy surrounding the decision of some companies to ask potential employees for social media passwords in interviews and job applications.

4. Ethics Rules Apply on Social Media 

The rules of ethics do not disappear at the click of a login button on social media. Attorneys must still follow the same obligations of confidentiality, respect, and advertising provided for in the rules. For example, attorneys should not use the word "expert" in a LinkedIn profile to describe themselves. Similarly, attorneys should consider putting the words "This is an Advertisement" on their profile if they are advertising their skills and knowledge. More importantly, attorneys should remember that nothing can ever truly be deleted and that posts about opposing counsel, a client, or even a judge may come back to haunt them. 

5. Social Media is Worth the Effort 

Too often companies and attorneys decide it is easier to forego any use of social media to try and avoid the issues that can accompany it. However, the truth is social media is worth the work. Take the Procter & Gamble Old Spice “Man Your Man Could Smell Like” social media campaign. This campaign resulted in 38% growth in the Old Spice brand, close to 3000% percent growth on Twitter, and close to 300% greater traffic to OldSpice.com. All of this resulted from a few videos on YouTube and regular media, handled smartly through collaboration between in-house counsel and the business. Social media is truly worth the effort it requires and if done the right way, can reap success for both attorneys and their clients. 

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