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March 13, 2007

MySpace or Yours, It's a New World Out There

Connecticut Law Tribune - March 5, 2007;  National Law Journal on Line - March 7, 2007

Recently, a former student of mine who hung his shingle right out of law school asked me a loaded question: "What do you think about my putting a page on MySpace.com?"

I immediately started thinking about all the negative news out there: false representations, predators lurking for impressionable minors, parents looking to protect their children and so on. My knee-jerk reaction was, "Be careful about the image you are trying to present."

The question, of course, triggered a full investigation so I could form a much more considered opinion. Here goes.

There is a lot of conversation about www.MySpace.com and its use as a marketing tool for lawyers to attract new clients. Based upon an informal poll, a majority of practitioners have reservations about it. Most only knew what they've heard in the news, or nothing at all, about MySpace. Then again, many of them had never seen a blog, and are just getting around to constructing their own web sites. These same people also are still paying through the nose for Yellow Page ads.

For those who are negative, this strikes me as provincial, but typical. They are the same people who would still be sitting in the belly of the overturned S.S. Poseidon because the captain told them to stay put, even while younger, more open minds with nimbler bodies understood the ship had turned upside down and that they would drown if they conformed to the status quo.

The principles of marketing — communication of a message to your target audience — are as old as the birth of man. The method of delivery is what keeps changing. And if one doesn't change with the times, they are either deliberately choosing to wind down their business or will be among those people who close up shop claiming there are just too many lawyers. But deep down, they know they just didn't want to do what was needed to be done.

MySpace has been around for 10 years. It has more than 43,000 uploads a day. According to Alexa.com, MySpace ranks sixth, behind Yahoo, MSN, Google, Baidu and YouTube, in terms of global users. Within the U.S., it ranks third behind Yahoo then Google. MySpace is accessed nearly 40 million times a day! And it's FREE!

These previously named search engines and venues are a very different means of advertising/marketing. In a traditional advertisement, like television, viewers are looking to watch a show, and advertisements interfere with that goal, which is why we have gadgets like TiVo. It is why marketers started negotiating deals with the networks to have their products used by the television stars within the program itself so it couldn't be fast forwarded. These product placements started on TV with shows like "Survivor," when a reward for a victorious player was a bag of Doritos and a can of Mountain Dew. (Of course, product use within the movies started as early as the black and white movies when cigarette manufacturers paid stars to smoke on screen.)

With MySpace.com, the purpose of going on the site is to seek out information, establish networks, make friends, find lovers, whatever. In order to find any information, you have to participate by setting up a MySpace site. That is, "in order to see theirs, you have to be willing to show them yours." You are not viewed as an interference by the people you're targeting, you are the reason why they are going to the site. This is very different than traditional advertising/marketing. And that means it is constantly evolving as the audience evolves, grows and changes its demands.

To be most effective, MySpace is where you want to actively participate as one of the crowd, not place ads. There may be some who disagree with me on that point. But if you follow my logic, it makes much more sense. Again, be part of the purpose, not a distracting annoyance from that purpose.

Remember, with these new venues, the only thing that really works is authenticity. How you present yourself — whether in a blog, or on a web site, MySpace or YouTube — needs to genuinely and honestly reflect you and your goals as a practitioner. Audiences today are very smart and very savvy. Anything less than authenticity in any form, once caught and outed, will stay with you forever on the internet. •

Susan Cartier-Liebel is solo practitioner, adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University School of Law and a business consultant for solo and small firms. Her blog, Build A Solo Practice, is at susancartierliebel.typepad.com. She can be reached at SCartier_Liebel@comcast.net. Copyright © Susan Cartier-Liebel (2007) All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, transmitted, posted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of Susan Cartier-Liebel.

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Comments

Adrian

I have seen a couple of lawyers on MySpace, and my impression is that they would generally be young solos who don't have to worry about potential employers. I suppose that the site can be useful for promoting your services through your non-professional network, so there is certainly some potential. Other than that, I don't think many clients will find these lawyers directly there, and with the all the advertising it looks unprofessional. The site is also an advertising machine obviously aimed at a specific demographic; I'm part of the Internet generation but already feel like I'm too old to be there. MySpace also leaves its users and viewers overexposed to abusive uses since it allows so much custom coding to be passed through its profiles and messages. As a user you'll get lots of spam and even get messages with deceptive coding that try to trick you into posting bulletins without your knowledge. If you add a lot of friends, some of them will eventually put up a provocative profile picture, which could be embarassing for you. I think the usefulness of MySpace for lawyers is limited to networking with your non-professional community and promoting only a few practice areas.

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