Think using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn is alienating us from real-world interaction? Think again. In a January 2011 Pew study:
75% of all American adults are active in some kind of voluntary group or organization and internet users are more likely than others to be active: 80% of internet users participate in groups, compared with 56% of non-internet users. And social media users are even more likely to be active: 82% of social network users and 85% of Twitter users are group participants.
So what could this possibly mean? According to TechCrunch’s John Biggs:
Well, it seems that the Internet, contrary to popular opinion, is making us closer and more connected. This is good news but is also ascribes to the Internet a power over political and group events that it may or may not have. After all, the Internet is a medium of communication that simply reduces the cost of reaching thousands, if not millions, of people. Hosting a party or a political rally is easy when you can reach a few million folks, whether it’s electronically or through the printed page. Less popular groups, say the “Grannies Who Love Headbanging” group on Yahoo, however, will still remain unpopular. The Internet does not guarantee popularity but it does augment it.
This certainly cuts against the conventional wisdom that online interaction is replacing real-world interaction. In fact, it appears that it’s actually fostering more offline participation. As Internet usage in the United States continues to sky-rocket, literally hundreds of millions of people are becoming connected in a way that would have previously defied logic.
Is using social media going to completely change the way that you interact personally and professionally? Maybe. What seems certain is that there are a lot of people connecting and networking through these communication platforms. And they’re people. So you can be sure that they will be discussing their hopes, needs, desires, and dreams. Will you be part of those conversations? The answer may greatly depend on whether you are willing to join the conversation.
As Jordan Furlong writes at the Stem Legal Strategy Blog:
I’ve spoken with a few law firms recently about ways in which Stem can help them promote their presence online, and on each occasion, I’ve brought up the critical importance of content. What I’ve often heard back is that lawyers are surprisingly (to me, anyway) reluctant to commit to content contribution. It might be that such efforts are unbillable and therefore unattractive to busy lawyers under pressure to produce revenue. It might be that the firm has failed to sufficiently motivate and prioritize lawyer content production. Or it might simply be that lawyers want to practise law and leave the content to non-lawyer staff.
But whatever the reason, this reluctance constitutes a major roadblock to firms’ chances of using the web to successfully promote themselves. I’ve read a lot lately about how law firms are poised to essentially become legal publishers, and it’s certainly true that the potential is there. But it seems to be the rare firm whose lawyers are both willing to regularly produce content and are able to ensure that content is readable, compelling and engaging. This is more than a minor annoyance; this is a fundamental challenge to the execution of a marketing strategy.
Whether we’re talking about website content, blog content, or other social media content, communicating online plays an absolutely essential role in remaining relevant professionally.
Now please don’t misunderstand me. You’re not going to tweet, share, or like your way to success. Those that are using social media platforms as advertisements are failing to harness the true power of these communication tools.
On the other hand, if you’re not willing to invest any time at all into online reputation development and networking, you’re simply missing opportunities.
Think of it from this perspective. There are probably many offline professional development tasks in which you invest precious time that you may prefer billing hours or servicing clients. However, you do them, because you believe that they are helping you grow your practice. You don’t completely ignore offline professional development simply because it takes time, do you?
The truth is that the Internet is just new, albeit amazing, method of communicating and connecting with a great number of people. Ironically, if you believe the conventional wisdom that spending time online is alienating you from the real world, in truth, just the opposite may happen.