Who Owns Marketeering Hashtags On Twitter? NO NOT U.
Yesterday was the 2012 Legal Marketing Technology Conference, where lawyers and people who market marketeering to lawyers gather to discuss how technology can get you more clients. What do you do to provide competent services after Twitter and Google+ and guest blog posts have brought in those clients? I'm sure you'll work it out somehow. The important thing is that you landed the client!
The happy marketeers used the hashtag #lmatech on Twitter to gush about the conference. Here the marketeeers ran into something they did not anticipate or like: when you use a hashtag on Twitter, you don't control how others use it. Others might use it to dissent from, and even ridicule, your message. Much of the 2012 silly season has involved one presidential campaign launching a hashtag and the opposing campaign overwhelming the hashtag with satire. That's the marketplace of ideas for you — not the marketplace that legal marketeers are enthused about.
So when the marketeers began tweeting with #lmatech, dissenters took note and expressed themselves. Chief among these were Scott Greenfield (tweeting here) and Brian Tannebaum (tweeting here.) Scott and Brian spend a lot of their time pointing out that the legal marketing emperor has no clothes — that the modern legal marketing model is run by people with extremely limited experience in actually providing competent services to clients, and focuses on an insipid leverage-the-internet model rather than a focus-on-the-client model. This does not endear them to marketeers.
So when Scott and Brian began tweeting on the #lmatech hashtag, marketeers got angry. Some got more angry than others. For instance:
That's Larry Bodine, who like many marketeers has a tragic irony deficit: he spammed that suggestion to nine people.
Larry Bodine is Editor-in-Chief at Lawyers.com. The slogan of Lawyers.com is "Your Legal Solution Starts Here" — which is completely true, so long as your problem is "how can I get more phone calls from crazy people who want to sue someone to get the CIA microchip out of their head?" Lawyers.com, and the directories like it, rely upon this premise: lawyers should market themselves by being in searchable directories, even though no responsible or ethical lawyer would ever recommend that a client pick a lawyer out of a directory if they could possibly avoid it. Regrettably, some old-school lawyers (including in-house counsel) still expect to see you in such directories, an expectation cultivated when they were published in weighty paper tomes, and so most lawyers pony up the money to be there.
(Lawyers.com is part of the Martindale-Hubbell-Lexis-Nexis family of companies, which also lend their name to junk merchants spamming me with offers to buy a $150 plaque commemorating the three-year-old 15th anniversary of my passing the bar. Because clients!)
Larry Bodine thinks that the marketeering hashtag #lmatech belongs to marketeers who will use it to promote a unified front. But you can't stop the signal, Larry. Though abuse of Twitter's spam reporting system is rampant amongst censorious tools who would like to suppress messages they don't like, ultimately the internet is too big and has too many redundant avenues of communication. Streisand Effect, meet Larry Bodine. Larry Bodine, meet the Streisand Effect. I think you guys are going to have a lot to talk about.
Lawyers like Scott and Brian will keep criticizing the modern legal marketeers and their focus on Big Mac vs. Whopper marketing instead of service-to-clients marketing. They have an enormous amount of credibility doing so, because they both produce a lot of substantive blog content that's actually meaningful and helpful to lawyers and consumers, and not pap crassly calculated to draw eyeballs. (Although their content does suffer from a regrettable lack of ponies or the phrase "snort my taint.") People like Larry Bodine will fail to suppress that message, and will fail to control hashtags. But Larry's effort demonstrates something important: free expression on the internet is targeted not just by governments, but by marketeers who want the internet to be a place for uncontradicted commercial messaging.
Edited to add: Larry Bodine is doubling down.
Edited again: A somewhat different take.
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