Social Media Management for Law Firms

So. You are part of a law firm. You need a little organisation for your “social media” presence. Here is a little guide setting out one way to do this based on my experience with my personal accounts.

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There are probably better guides out there. Also this probably applies to non-law firms as much as law firms. However, the perspective of someone who has played around with it may be useful.

In the past I used TweetDeck. However, this is now largely decommissioned, having been assimilated into Twitter. The only real alternative I have found that is reasonably-priced and meets all the basic requirements is Hootsuite. It costs around £90/year for the “Pro” package.

What Do You Mean By “Social Media”?

“Social Media” is the trendy buzzword for a handful of “social” websites and web services. Here “social” generally means “communication between people”; it is a combination of publication and comment.

In my case “social media” refers to at least the following:

  • Twitter;
  • LinkedIn; and
  • Google+.

The unmentioned one is Facebook. This may be a bit too “social” for a law firm (although has possibilities from a recruitment perspective).

How Should I Setup Hootsuite?

After you have signed-up and paid for Hootsuite, log-in. The first step is then to setup your law firm as an “organization”. To do this follow the guide here: https://help.hootsuite.com/entries/21678723-creating-an-organization. For “organization name” I add the name of the law firm. As I am “on brand” I also add a firm logo. Leave the “add social networks” for now: we will do that later.

Once you have added the “organization” you should be able to see it when you click on the top menu button on the left-hand side menu bar. To add other people as managers and social networks click on the “Manage” button within the “organization” pane.

Adding Social Networks

On the right-hand-side of the lower pane there should be an “Add a Social Network” button. Use this to add accounts from the social networks discussed above. This typically requires you authorising yourself with each network so make sure you have your usernames and passwords handy.

After adding each social network select the next icon down in the left-hand side menu bar (“Streams”). Click on the little “+” icon at the top to add a new set of columns/streams (a “tab”).

At the moment I have one tab per social network/network feed. After adding the tab select the required social network from the dropdown box in the first “Add a stream” column that appears.

For Twitter my recommended streams are:

  • Home,
  • Mentions,
  • Retweets,
  • DMs, and
  • Sent Tweets.

If you want you can add all streams but five streams fit well across my monitor (you can use the little slider bar in the top right to reduce the number of columns/streams per tab).

For LinkedIn you are limited to “Company Updates” and “Scheduled Status Updates”.  For Google+, “Home”, “Sent Messages” and “Scheduled Messages” are options.

Now you can see all of your social media feeds in one handy place. You can also now post to any one of the added networks including the use of the “auto-scheduling” feature.

RSS to Update

A clever little feature of Hootsuite is that you can pipe an RSS/Atom feed through to a social network. Hence, if you have a blog you can automatically tweet new entries or post these to LinkedIn.

To set this up go to the cog (“Settings”) within the left-hand side menu. Choose the “RSS/Atom” option. Click on the “+” to add a new feed. Type in the URL of your blog (e.g. of your firm). Select a social media network to post to and set various frequency settings. Save and leave. Hey presto.

Further Lessons

Following these basics, the next stage is build a team and use search and assignment functions to get active. But that is the subject of another day’s post.

Any other tips please feel free to add to the comments.

Case Law Review – BL O/244/13

Case:

BL O/244/13

Claimed Subject Matter:

The invention relates to a method of synchronizing data, including representing messages as text or binary property list files (plist). The synchronization protocol provides for exchanges between a client and server in which separate sync modes (e.g. fast, slow, reset) are associated with different dataclasses and the dataclasses can be updated in parallel. This is achieved by proposing and agreeing the sync mode for each dataclass; sending sync-start, syncchanges and finally a sync-commit command between client and server.

Applicant: Apple Inc.

Claim 1 was directed to a server-side method and claim 10 was directed to the sychronization server.

Comments:

The alleged contribution was deemed to be:

Synchronizing data including initiating a sync session by receiving a request comprising a separate proposed sync mode for each of multiple data classes, specifying changes to data of the multiple data classes, using a status code to indicate whether the sync mode for each dataclass is accepted, in accordance with the sync mode for each dataclass, updating the data and selectively committing the changes, which means that a reduced number of messages is required to be transmitted. (Paragraph 23.)

The Hearing Officer deemed that the contribution was not a method for doing business as such:

The synchronised data may be ‘business data’, and the method of synchronising it may be performed in the course of business, but the contribution to data processing is broader, for example including the  provision and processing of sync modes and does not, to my mind, mean that the contribution falls within the category of a method for doing business as such. (Paragraph 25.)

However there was more debate as to whether the contribution was a computer program as such. To determine whether it was, the five signposts from AT&T (paragraph 40) were considered.

The Hearing Officer was not convinced that saving bandwidth by reducing a number of messages was an effect provided by a communication process outside of a computer. Instead, the number of messages was reduced inside the computer. Hence, the first signpost was not satisfied (see paragraph 29).

Reviewing the reasoning in relation to the second signpost, I believe this is most open to counter-argument. In paragraph 31, the Hearing Officer found that the effect was dependent on the type of data being processed: sync mode data. However, he also argued that the contribution was defined in terms of data processing and not the nature of the data being synchronised. In sum, the Hearing Officer is saying that the contribution is dependent on a particular type of control or metadata, but that the data it is applied to can be anything.  The Hearing Officer was of the opinion that this contra-indicates a technical contribution. I could disagree – the same reasoning could also be used to demonstrate compliance with the second signpost.

With regard to the third and fourth signposts the Hearing Officer concluded that the computer implementing the invention was not changed by the invention:

All that has changed is the number and format of the messages transmitted. (Paragraph 36.)

As such the fifth signpost was also answered in the negative. As none of the signposts indicated a technical contribution the Hearing Officer concluded that the invention was a computer program as such and the application was refused.

Without delving into the detailed facts of the case the decision seemed a bit harsh. It appears to follow reasoning similar to Hitachi (T 258/03) and apply it to subject matter that in my mind is more technical. It appears to follow similar recent decisions by the European Boards of Appeal that clamp down on the “relieves bandwidth by reducing messages” argument that is often applied in these cases.

One interesting question to consider is: would the decision have been the same if the independent claims covered a system of two entities, a client and a server? If the answer is yes then this appears unfair to parties that only supply one side of the communicating equipment.

The case does nicely illustrate how the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) evaluates patentable subject-matter. The framework displayed in the decision can be applied to most patentability cases at the UK IPO.