I just sat in on Avvo’s webinar on “Ethical Issues in Online Advertising and Social Media” and wanted to share some thoughts. I’ve recently been fascinated by the intersection of communication and advertising, which has become increasingly interesting with the rise of social media and online marketing. Here on the GJEL blog, for example, we write about developments in distracted driving legislation, teen drivers, and other issues related to consumer safety because we have a deep interest and want a better market for consumers. We hope to engage and interact, not preach.
The same goes for our involvement in social media. Our twitter account and (forthcoming) Facebook profile are ways to connect with others who share our deep interest in consumer safety. We would be foolish to ignore websites that host such discussions because we would miss out on the goings on in this field that we’re passionate about.
Avvo CEO Mark Britton blogged yesterday about the complications that accompany Facebook’s incredible growth. I commented on the post that, as an early Facebook user, it has been funny to watch as whatever privacy or limitations to growth the site began with were stripped away one by one. At first, users were outraged, but slowly became acquiescent to the site’s growth, knowing that it just can’t be controlled and is actually an incredibly useful and informative tool. Professionals have experienced a similar transformation: what began as an unnecessary development has become essential.
The question of how much professionals should get involved online is important for lawyers to consider. Kevin O’Keefe blogged recently that while it’s important for lawyers to engage online, they should refrain from doing it for wholly self-serving reasons. He’s right: that’s not the purpose of social media and it increases the likelihood that a lawyer will impinge on the ethical guidelines outlined by today’s webinar.
Every aspect of our society has become more immersed in technology and social media. It’s unstoppable. I have no doubt that the next generation of lawyers will be deeply involved in maintaining their online presence through blogging, tweeting, or using whatever hip new service is available to them. But lawyers should continue to strive to maintain a clear line between online communication and solicitation.
Photo credit: webtreats