TechCrunch published an important post yesterday about the amount of time we invest in Twitter. Using Robert Scoble as an example, this post demonstrates a valuable lesson for everyone. There’s a risk involved when we disproportionately web-publish to another company’s service. The cost is that we increasingly ignore our personal web-publishing efforts.
While this may seem strange coming from the guy who penned Lawyer Marketing with Twitter, the issue is not about twitter, facebook, linkedin or friendfeed. The issue is our ability to create a balanced approach.
Earlier this year, D’Arcy Norman wrote about social network sharecropping. The idea that we are dumping our thoughts, pictures, notable links and relationships into the hands of others. And let’s make no bones about it, that’s what’s happening. When we publish to servers that are not ours, we are giving away control. But at what price?
The issue as I see it, is not that we’re using these services. But rather, that we are participating in an unbalanced way. In the legal sphere, my big concern is for those lawyers are engaging these tools without first having a personal web presence. That’s right, a blog!
Using social networks and social media without a blog to tie these services together, is simply a bad move. Especially for lawyers, who may be starting late in the game, you cannot skip steps. Guess what Connie Crosby did last year when her twitter account was accidentally cancelled? She blogged about it, and more important, she got results! Not having a blog means you are not a player. If you lack that personal publishing presence, that means you don’t have a voice on the modern web. It’s a position of web marketing weakness.
The other problem I see is the ‘no follow’ trend of the big social networks. Most of these services, including Twitter, have cut off the outbound link value of their links, including individual profile pages. That means, while many believe they are contributing quality content to these services and getting a valuable link back to their firm or company website, this is increasingly not the case.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way the ‘nofollow’ attribute or link popularity was intended to work. Link popularity is supposed to reward quality content & the people who create it. Similarly, the ‘no follow’ attribute was created to prevent blog comment spam. But now combined, these two features are used by the big social networks to create black holes of link value. Draw you’re own conclusions here, but either way, the loss of publishing control puts the content creator at a disadvantage. At the whim of a third party, who may delete your account at a moment’s notice, and without recourse.
Now what all this adds up to, is that web publishers should own their own land (ie. websites & blogs). This is an extremely important point for lawyers & law firms. You wouldn’t let an outside company own your firm domain name, right? You protect it! It’s the same lesson here.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t participate in these communities. You should participate! But in a balanced way, and not at the expense of establishing a personal blog. Frankly, twitter without a blog is just playing around. If you are using social media to participate and build a reputation, you need to back it up with some substance. And though some may disagree, my take is that substance frequently requires more that 140 characters.
I understand that blogs are hard work, and that twitter is easier. So what? If you’re going to put hours into this, the last thing you want to do is take the easy way out. As the TechCrunch post says, blogging delivers those memorable pieces that you (and others!) will refer to for years to come.
It’s an easy equation really. Blog something of value first, and then go chat with your friends about it.