In my last post,I talked about delegating or outsourcing some blogging and social media tasks to others to reduce the burden of managing these activities, while still gaining many of the benefits.
But using outside services to write or post for you does raise some potential issues, including loss of engagement, style that is inconsistent with the individual lawyer or firm, and potential ethical issues. (For more on blogs and ghostwriting, see my posts Should You Use a Ghostwriter for Your Blog and Ghostwriting and Legal Blogs or my post on the Lawyerist blog, Outsourcing Blogs and Social Media).
My last post talked a bit about choosing a writer or service (or an employee or associate in your firm) that understands and can convey the correct style, but there's more to consider than that.
The safest (and most effective) course of action, rather than outsourcing the entire endeavor, is to delegate or outsource only part of the process, while maintaining control over your content, voice and interactions. Lawyers often use paralegals or younger associates to draft pleadings, motions or other court papers in the lawyer’s name, and a similar practice for blogging and social media posting is not inherently unethical if the lawyer is also providing input into the work, supervising, reviewing content for accuracy, ensuring that no ethics issues exist, and signing off on it before it is posted online.
Tips for choosing a ghostwriter, outside service or employee for blog or social media activities:
- Use a service that understands the difference between promotion and providing value to your audience
- Use someone who has worked with lawyers and understands that ethical rules may prohibit some activities, words, phrases or posts.
- Thoroughly investigate the company or individual, their philosophy, writing style, and approach to blogging and social media. Ask for examples that demonstrate how they use these tools themselves or on behalf of other clients.
- Require that all content be original, and provided only to you, rather than generic content provided to many other attorneys who practice in your area of law (even if those other attorneys are outside of your geographic area)
- Insist on a work for hire agreement stating that the work created for you and your blog or social media accounts belongs to you and not to the writer or their company
- Develop a written agreement that states that nothing may be posted on your behalf without your prior approval, whether the posts are made on your accounts or are comments on others’ accounts or sites
- Review all content – you are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of all content posted on your behalf and for ensuring that it complies with the ethical rules. You’ll also want to be familiar with what is being posted so that you can speak intelligently about it if you receive inquiries or comments about it, and to confirm that it presents you and your firm in the best light possible
- Check that the legal information is correct and that you agree with and support any opinions expressed, and that those opinions will not offend or otherwise upset or create conflicts with your clients and referral sources
- Establish a good mix of posts that provide value and link to other sources in addition to providing your own content and links to your own content, and make sure that promotional posts are kept to a minimum
Finally, remember that social media is meant to be social. To be the most effective, you should be the one engaging with your readers and followers. Respond to comments and communicate one on one. Take online relationships offline into the real world; set up meetings and phone calls. Make introductions and connections between people in your network. Share others’ content; it not only reduces the amount of original content you need to post, but it builds your networks and your relationships with those whose content you share.