Before getting to the heart of the matter, let me say that I forgive Greg Lambert for not understanding. There’s no reason why he would, as the law librarian for King & Spalding, where he’s cloistered from the problems, aggravation and harm.
It’s like trying to describe the taste of a food you’ve only seen from a distance. It may look delicious, and you assume it tastes as good as it looks. But there is no way to understand what it actually tastes like. But then, he’s not entirely wrong either.
The hashtag hecklers on the other hand, aren’t exactly coming to this with clean hands either. They are not doing anything illegal in their heckling, and in fact, they feel as though they are actually giving the LMATech conference a dissenting view from what is being tweeted from the conference.
However, it is heckling, and not just dissent that is being voiced by those calling BS on the LMA. It’s pretty clear that the dissent is out to discredit the message and the messengers, and when it becomes personal like that, it takes on a mudslinging effect that suddenly gets very nasty. It gives those of us outside the argument something that amounts to entertainment, but not really anything of real value comes out of these types of arguments.
As Greg half-realizes, he’s on the outside. He thinks it’s about his amusement. He thinks he can tell its purpose from a distance based on what it means to him.
This is about some childishness that I and others engaged in during the Legal Marketing Technology Conference in San Francisco. As is usually the case with such things, attending marketers used a twitter hashtag, #LMATech, to twit about the conference. Its glory. Its genius. Its wonder.
This is among the fabulous marketing tools that legal marketers use. And because it’s all on twitter under this hashtag, it’s available to all the world to read. Iif you’re so inclined, to twit about as well. I was so inclined, at least for a couple of hours.
But I didn’t do so for Greg’s amusement, though he learned about it because others were amused and retwitted about it. Ironically, some of the attending marketers retwitted the “heckling” twits as well (maybe not realizing the absurdity of what I was saying, as it’s hard to distinguish the ridiculous from the real in legal marketing), and followed the hecklers on twitter. From a safe distance, it was just some immature amusement to disrupt the pleasant flow of mutual-admiration twits amongst the marketers, sharing their deep marketing knowledge with cool ideas like
That, however, isn’t why I did it. Nor is it why Brian Tannebaum did it, though I don’t speak for Brian. Or a bunch of other lawyers who engaged in what Greg calls heckling.
He’s right that we don’t care much for legal marketing. It’s not as simple as it might appear to the outside, though. There are knowledgeable, competent people who help lawyers and firms market, who are concerned about ethics and competence rather than the newest way to perpetrate a fraud on the public while taking money from foolish and desperate lawyers. But these marketers have no reason to go to #LMATech.
There are also a large group of people who want to take money from lawyers for marketing. They neither know nor care about ethics, and are the first to tell lawyers how to market by lying. They want to learn tricks to give the appearance of having something to sell to lawyers. These are the marketers who openly twit that it’s more important for a lawyer to market than be competent. After all, marketing makes money, and money is all that matters to them.
Among those marketers who were involved, the hashtag allowed them to spread their message publicly.. The worth of their message is in their mutual appreciation and adoration; they twit about it publicly so the world can see the work they do, individually and collectively, and appreciate their excellence. When it’s disrupted by someone who tells them their baby is ugly, the it ruins not only the joy of the moment, but disrupts their message. To the marketer disrupted, the person is a heckler, ruining the show.
Hecklers have no higher purpose. This is what Greg fails to understand. But I don’t blame him, as there would be no reason for him to share the concerns of the hecklers since he’s the law librarian at a large law firm, where he will never meet the client scammed by deceitful marketing, or the desperate lawyer whose last dime was sucked away by a sham marketer.
Larry Bodine, on the other hand, has no excuse. When he took over as Editor in Chief of Lawyers.com, which certainly must have paid far better than his own marketing consulting business, he knew about the sliminess of his vocation. Though Lawyers.com is connected with the once venerable Martindale-Hubbell brand, it’s just another low rent lawyer referral service, cashing lawyers checks and selling pretense to “leads.” Then there are the weekly “specials” on faux self-promotional videos and wall plaques for “honors” offered at at 50% off. This is Larry Bodine’s world, the gutter of legal marketing.
Angered at his impotence to stop voices that were disrupting the campfire of marketers, Larry went on the offensive, twitting to his cloud of grasshoppers to report me and Brian to twitter as spammers for using the adored #LMATech hashtag and making him look, well, weak.
As Ken at Popehat notes, Larry had no claim on the hashtag. Adam Steinbaugh, remembering his days doing security abuse at Myspace, immediately pegged Larry as a whiner, which isn’t what a savvy social media guy ought to be.
Tannebaum and Greenfield may be many things to Mr. Bodine, but they’re certainly not ‘spammers.’ They’re not advertising anything. They’re mocking Mr. Bodine’s conference — which is likely to do little to endear them to other attendees or earn them any clients (who, most assuredly, do not care what lawyers talk about at lawyer conferences). They’re not selling anything except LOLs. While it’s hard to fault Mr. Bodine for not understanding the finer points of the “report for spam” tool, it is bewildering that a legal marketing professional has no working understanding of the definition of “spam.” That might be all you need to know about internet legal marketing professionals.
While they are both right about Larry, and it has got to be embarrassing — no, humiliating — to be outed as so social media clueless that he wouldn’t realize that the only possible outcome was for twitter to see Larry as a whiner. But I see it in a slightly different light, one that eluded Greg Lambert.
Is Lawyers.com so afraid that what it does is so awful that it can’t bear up to the scrutiny of a few lawyers? Is that why its editor in chief feels compelled to engage in venal, if infantile, conspiracy to silence us?
Marketers are engaged in a race to the bottom. Not all, but most. Some of us try to slow
down the race, and sometimes we use twits, some humorous, some pointing out the absurdity of their claims and brilliant methods. Maybe we will turn a head of a few more marketers. Maybe we will change the mind of a gullible lawyer. Maybe we will slow down the race just a bit.
But in the race to the bottom, Larry Bodine, editor in chief of Lawyers.com, appears absolutely determined to win at any cost.