Social media, lawyers and tracking what’s next
By now, you’ve probably realized the importance of gaining an understanding of the fundamentals of social media, even if you don’t plan on using social media on a regular basis. This is because, as I’ve often discussed in the past, social media now affects all aspects of our lives and the practice of law.
For starters, it’s affecting the outcomes of cases, whether it’s lawyers using social media evidence to support their client’s case or jurors using social media to discuss evidence during trials despite judicial orders forbidding that very act. And, many lawyers are now using social media to connect with colleagues, showcase their expertise and promote their law practices.
So, the bottom line — social media is here to stay. It’s not going anywhere.
That being said, it’s in a constant state of flux. New platforms emerge everyday and become popular almost overnight. So needless to say, it’s often a chore in and of itself to stay current on the latest and greatest in social media.
The trick is to look at three different subsets of the population. First, there are non-digital natives, which I would classify as those who are older than 27 years of age. Then there are the digital natives with access to smartphones, often those between 13 and 27. And then there are the digital natives who only have access to computers and tablets, those between 3 and 13.
Now you might wonder why I’m even bothering to mention the habits of young kids in an article targeted toward legal professionals. The reason is that these children are quickly shaping social media — and they’re doing so completely under the radar. But their choices will profoundly affect the future of social media. Let me explain.
First, let’s look at the non-digital natives. Most of us are on Facebook, many of us who work outside the home are on LinkedIn, and some are using Twitter. We’re prefer the established social networks because we’re slow to adapt to new platforms.
The non-digital natives between 13 and 27 are leaving Facebook in droves, since their parents — and even grandparents — have now taken over that platform. So instead, as is often widely discussed the media, this segment of the population is now using Twitter and Tumblr, in addition to more visual apps such as Snapchat, Vine and Instagram. The vast majority of their social media interactions occur using their smartphones, which is why the apps are such a popular way to interact.
So what are kids without access to smartphones doing? This is where things get really interesting and it’s a topic that is rarely addressed by the media or elsewhere. Most of them have access to computers and tablets, which their parents often monitor. That’s one reason the Kindle Fire is a popular tablet choice for kids — it has built in parental controls. But even with parental controls, these kids find ways to interact — often using routes which were never intended for real-time interaction.
For example, my 11 year old reads books on her Kindle and when she finishes a book, she’s prompted to review the book and join a discussion about the book. In that discussion area, the kids are now role playing. In other words, they are each “playing” the part of an animal character from the book — often a fantasy novel. This, even though the discussion area was never intended to be used for real-time, interactive conversations and often crashes due to the sheer volume of postings.
From there, these kids then move online — to Google Plus! This social network has been — and continues to be — deemed a “failure” by technology writers, but I believe it is the social network of the future because it’s where the true digital natives are now interacting.
How exactly do they have access to Google Plus, you ask? Because of Gmail. You see, most kids who are of middle school age often create their very first email account. (In case you’re wondering, I monitor my daughter’s Gmail account and every email received comes to my iPhone). And once these kids set up a Gmail account, they are prompted to set up a Google Plus account. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Once they graduate to phones, I strongly suspect that Google Plus will be so familiar to them and they’ll have such strong networks established, that they’ll stay on Google Plus — accessing it from mobile devices — and supplementing their interactions with other social media apps.
So, keep an eye on these kids. Their habits are flying under the radar but I believe that they will truly shape the future — both of social media and the business world. And as we all know by now — the legal profession won’t be immune, so stay tuned.
Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and Director of Business Development and Community Relations at MyCase, an intuitive cloud-based law practice management platform for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.