What revolution? Are we there yet?

tacony-palmyraWhen I was a kid our family traveled to the New Jersey Shore (….capitalized because if you’re from anywhere near Philly it’s a formal noun) at least twice every summer on a Sunday get-a-way. Just after we crossed the TaconyPalmyra Bridge I imagined sand on the road shoulder.  And then it began, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Drove my parents crazy.

Note taking during sessions that addressed social web stuff during the annual Legal Marketing Association conference last week was frantic.  Although not revolutionary, law firm marketers and the lawyers they work for have become “interested.”

A generally conservative industry, the business of law is rarely first at anything. “We want to be first to be second” is one of my favorite quotes from a legal administrator I spoke with a few years ago. It rings true.

A-list law industry blogger Bob Ambrogi was interviewed at the ABA Tech Show last week and he concurs that interest is peaking. Here is a short video clip recording his observations of the evolution of social media in the legal industry compliments of LexConference.

Law firm leaders who originally dismissed social media now want to understand it.  Bob gave a decent off-the-cuff, interviewesque description, but in case you, the CMO or marketing professional in your law firm, is looking for a clean definition that you can adapt for your purposes, I offer a  version by Stowe Boyd (one of the top ten analysts blogging today, according to Technobabble ) that I think captures it pretty darn good.

“Social Media are those forms of publishing that are based on a dynamic interaction, a conversation, between the author and active readers, in contrast with traditional broadcast media where the ‘audience’ is a passive ‘consumer’ of ‘content’. The annotations or social gestures left behind by active readers, such as comments, tags, bookmarks, and trackbacks, create an elaborate topology resting on the foundational blog posts, and this enhanced meta-environment, the blogosphere, is the context for and the realization of a global collaboration to make sense of the world and our place in it.”  Stowe Boyd

This definition may be too philosophical for general usage within the law firm context, but it definitely describes one of the key tools, blogging. I think it rings true for social networking too, and all the tools that comprise the Web 2.0 wave. However, if you need a simpler way to introduce and help the peeps in your law firm understand the differences, here’s another version I use.

(This was inspired by something I read but I don’t have the reference anymore. My apology, and if the individual steps forward I would gratefully attribute.)

Social networks  – Web based services that provide a platform for the development of online communities. The communities typically form around shared interests or exploring opportunities.

Social media -(which includes blogging) is any service, site or Web based application that enables the publishing of content and allows open commenting – read/write web.

So, now to connect the thoughts.  While I totally embrace the opportunity to introduce others to the good stuff of the social Web today, I’m freaked out to admit that I’m already asking, “Are we there yet?”

The answer is no, not yet. I’m knee deep in trying to understand the next generation of Web applications  -Web 3.0 -the giant global graph that links users, actions, knowledge, companies, and etc.  The tools that will offer frameworks for corporate applications allowing enterprise social networking, business intelligence, watching, monitoring, communities of interest, practice and processes integration are on the horizon….approaching the shore.

I am NOT a Trekie, I am NOT a Trekie, I AM not a Trekie. Admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion is the first step. Am I there yet? Probably not….

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