Social networks make it easier for users to voice their opinion—opinions about anything and everything. But just because you can voice your opinion in no way means you should.
Writing has always been a release for me. I’m one of those almost-30-year-olds who still keeps a written diary. Weird for a technology fiend, but there’s a reason – because I’m human, and I have bad days. And because I have a career, one that can be public, I make sure to keep those bad days to myself. As much as I’d like to publicly vent my frustrations, I know better. Nothing good would come out of it, aside from some pressure being relieved. But apart from a temporary fix, I would be presented with a long-term problem. One that affects my career and reputation that I’ve worked hard to build.
A few weeks ago, Rebecca and I attended the Legal Marketing Association’s National Conference in Dallas. It was my third conference in so many years. With over 1,000 attendees, there were more Tweeters this year than any other. More users = more personalities, and a few who decided to use Twitter as their soapbox.
I must say…I was disappointed that people I consider colleagues took to Twitter to voice their negative opinions. Fine, you don’t like a presenter. Maybe a session was a joke, and you think you can do better. Or, maybe you’re listening from afar, and feel like you need to poke fun (I mean, who doesn’t have unlimited time to do this? [sarcasm, people]). It’s one thing to give criticisms, but entirely another to rip someone to shreds. And to do it on a platform where meanings are easily misconstrued. Online communities make it easy to “hide” behind a profile picture or as “anonymous,” but it’s cowardly to do so to hurt another human being.
I hope these people realized that senior members of our organization were “listening.” And so were the presenters who worked to put their presentation together – that doesn’t change, good presentation or bad. And these users who decided to publicly attack – their reputation is on the line because of the things they decided to publish. No one thinks you’re any funnier for making a mean-spirited quip about someone else.
As marketing professionals, especially legal marketers, we have to be very careful about how we’re perceived. It’s hard enough to work for lawyers, who have ethics they must abide by; now pile on some negativity and it’s likely you’ll be talked to about it. Why make it harder on yourself? Your colleagues, your lawyers, your law firm aren’t going to find the humor and may be quick to judge. Social networks still haven’t “earned” their rightful place in law firms, so it’s pertinent that you put your best foot forward, and not do anything that may jeopardize the hard work you’ve put in. Not only the hard work in your realm, but the work all of us in legal marketing have collectively put in.
Have an opinion, great – everyone should have an opinion. But keep the most negative ones to yourself. Before you publish, ask yourself, “what am I getting out of this?” A quick fix? A witty feeling? I would hope that, if the situation was reversed, and you were on stage in front of your peers, that you wouldn’t have the same experience as some of our presenters did this year.