Social Media and the Art of Gobbledygook

I have been ruminating about this post for some time.

Social Media is my passion. In fact, I have gone so far to say that I am insanely passionate about it, which someone took to mean “… you have lost the plot”. Possibly.

But what I have observed over the last few months is the increasing divide between those people in the (social media) know and everyone else.

We talk about all things social media with such alacrity but the reality is that there are still a lot of people who have very little understanding of the lexicon let alone how any of this *stuff* works.

And, if anything, their understanding is imbued with all the wrong messages, largely as a result of the headline grabbing attention that Facebook or Twitter continually gets.

I have wondered whether it is comparable to other phenomenon  but it is hard to match one genre with another.

However, what it does resonate with is the oft repeated criticism of lawyers who talk in a language that their clients don’t understand.

I can still remember going into practice and looking at letters that were replete with legal phrases, latin and a lot of back-covering gobbledygook.

Now I will confess to having lost myself in the rather gladiatorial nature of dispute resolution and been prone to writing the odd prolix letter here and there (… you see, old habits die hard) but I did try to make a conscious effort to make sure that I wrote in a way that my client would understand the key issues and hopefully some of the subtleties  or nuances of the case. It was a constant challenge though and it was difficult at time to completely step back from the language and put yourself fully in your client’s shoes. Of course, there were occasions, where after a bit of egging on by the client, you felt comfortable in writing that letter for effect; but again I would always consider that at some stage the letter could be seen by a judge and if it was flippant, full of bellicose language or ego-centric comments, then I would have to answer for it and not the client.

If social media and the innumerable platforms are going to become an aid and not a distraction for law firms then whoever is controlling the messaging needs to consider the following:

1. The internal position.

2. The external external.

3. The approach which says: “There are no stupid questions”.

4. An explanation backed up with some live training.

5. A focus on how the social media universe is developing.

6. How there is increasing integration in social media land.

7. To focus on the people first and a heavy dose of listening before everyone gets carried away with jumping aboard.

8. To have a mechanism where the risk and reward is properly assessed.

9. To start with the premise that everyone knows nothing.

10. To stop talking about social media as if it is something other than … marketing, communication or business development. It is simply a different way of doing things and that needs to be explained.

Don’t assume that this is age related. There will be some younger people who are just as much in the dark.

If you find yourself getting frustrated in having to explain the same thing over and over then don’t think it’s their fault but rather look at your own messaging. I have spent many hours training lawyers on LinkedIn and I am still amazed with some of the questions I get but that doesn’t mean to say that the people are any less committed  to making it work.

I love the line “What do you think”. It is taken from a chapter of the Little Big Things from Tom Peters. In the final analysis if you find that you are getting a lot of blank faces staring back at your don’t be afraid to ask them what they think about social media and in particular the language you have chosen.

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