Social network service

What are you doing to build your Community?

by Fred Abramson on February 22, 2010 · 0 comments

One of the great problems of the information age has been the disruption of  local communities.  During the last generation, people were able to rely on their local community to help them sustain their businesses.   Accountants were able to order a pint of Guinness at their local Irish pub and pick up a new tax client before the time the beer has settled.  The local butcher could rely on his buddy’s from his softball team to pick up osso buco at his store.

Now the local accountant has been replaced by H&R Block and you buy your meat in shrink wrapped plastic on environmentally unfriendly styrofoam at Stop and Shop. Even the local watering hole has been replaced by a TGI Fridays.  In the process, our local communities are being destroyed.

You may be paying a bit less in the short term, but there is a price. Our lives are missing the interaction of oral conversations that last more than a couple of minutes.  These conversations are important not only financially, but socially. If you are a financially planner, the local accountant would naturally refer you business.  The butcher probably knows about the best poker night in town.

Now that our local communities have been upended, many of us are turning to socially networking to re-build our communities. Unfortunately, social networking sites such as Twitter do not allow for many deep meaningful interactions that lead to building communities very quickly.

A community looks to each other to grow the relationship and to interact.  According to Chris Brogan, community happens when you feel that you are among like-minded people and when you feel that your contributions matter.? Communities empower users of products or services, or people with like-minded interests to interact.

You may not realize it, but who you buy from really matters.   Spend a few moments and think about the impact of what you purchase.

Yesterday I bought a gift for a for a two year old girl at the Dolphin Bookshop, in my hometown of Port Washington, New York rather than Barnes and Noble. The purchase supports a local independent bookstore in the community. I love technology, but don’t expect Kindle stores showing up on Main Street anytime soon.

The next time you are wondering why someone from your community hasn’t bought something from you, you should think what have you done lately to build our community.

What do you think? What are you doing to help build your community? Have you been able to use social networking sites to build a community?

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What privacy rights do you have on social networks? Nearly everyday, civil litigators like myself and law enforcement officials request information from Facebook regarding user information.  Understandably, Facebook has been very difficult in responding to such requests, believing that users have a right to privacy concerning its users information. But how much right should users of social networks have over information that is of public record?

Many social networking sites have taken the position that they will not respond to requests for information without a subpoena.  This is a problem because users cannot obtain access to their accounts even if their account has been hacked.

This is especially problematic when it comes to the problem of cyber bullying. I have been trying to obtain records from Facebook for a client whose child whose account has been hacked by a cyber bully.  Facebook has been unwilling to provide information to me about my clients own account.

According to, the Deputy General Counsel of Facebook, Mark Howitson told lawyers at the Legal Tech Conference in New York today that they are ready to fight requests for user  information without a subpoena.

Unfortunately, you can only serve that subpoena in California which is problematic if you live in New York. Even with a subpoena, they will only provide basic subscriber information unless that user gives his or her consent.  The company believes that it does not have to provide user information under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act which was passed before Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, danced to his first disco tune at his bar mitzvah. Since this issue is relatively new, a congressional hearing is forthcoming.

Mr. Howiston suggests that the best way to obtain information from Facebook is to make a simple friend request, which is of little utility.

What do you think?  What right of privacy should you have on social networks?  Should there be a cyber bullying exception?

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I have a friend who is an accountant at a small firm. Lets call him Cliff.  Cliff greets everyone with a compliment and is an ace accountant.  Cliff surfs the internet at work.  Cliff was recently on Twitter,  looking for people to follow.  He becomes Twitter “friends” with Samantha, an accountant at Hobes and Hobes, a rival firm.  From the looks of Samantha’s avatar, she is attractive.

Samantha asks Cliff to meet him at a bar after work. After a few dirty martinis, Cliff tells Samantha that his accounting firm is about to land Giggle, a big, funny internet company. Samantha buys the next round and that was the last thing he remembers.  He wakes up the next morning and finds out that Hobes and Hobes has landed the Giggle account.

Does your company block access to social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin because you are afraid of employees like Cliff? Is the work environment at your workplace hostile to employees who blog? If so, your company is part of the majority of organizations that have a restrictive social networking policy.

While a strict social networking policy is a simple way of limiting legal liability, do you really think that your company can compete in a 24 hour a day workplace with outdated policies? Probably not.  If your company is  struggling with how to integrate social media into the workplace, one way to focus is by creating a social media policy with an eye toward collaboration.

The Harvard Business Review observes that businesses are discovering that an über-connected work environment is not just about implementing a new set of tools — it is also about embracing a cultural shift to create an open environment where employees are encouraged to share, innovate and collaborate virtually.   Some benefits of a hyper-social company include:

  • Access to social media improves productivity;
  • Millennials will seek jobs that encourage the use of social media;
  • Companies that provide access to social media create a more engaged workforce.

After creating your hyper-social networking policy, it is then vital to address its legal implications, which I addressed previously in Legal Reasons Why Your Company Should Have a Social Networking Policy.


Employees are online whether you like it or not.  By simply banning the use of social networking sites on company computers, your employees will simply use smartphones to stay connected. By thinking expansively about social media, more specifically about using it for increased productivity and collaboration, there is great opportunity for growth.  Have your ideas written in the form of a social media policy, which will put your employees on notice of any potential legal problems. By the way, Cliff is not real. But he could be and you can be responsible for Cliff’s actions without a written social networking policy.

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Social Media is an ongoing experiment.  Both people and companies are using this new tool to connect with people that they have never met in person.  The main goal of all of this activity is to generate new business.  The million dollar question is how to convert your Twitter followers and Facebook friends into paying customers.

The answer, according to members of the panel convened on October 23, 2009, at the Trust Summit, is to build trust. In front of a packed room of tweeps at the Harvard Club in NYC, social media rockstars Chris Brogan, Julien Smith, David Maister and Charles H. Green, discussed the issue of trust and how it relates to social networking.

According to Chris Brogan, the relationship economy will move the future. The goal of using social media is to create sustainable relationships over time.

In his book Trust Agents, Chris explains that on the web, groups of highly motivated people within every circle have already joined together, helping each other reach a higher ground. I asked Chris, through Twitter,  how professional service businesses (ie law) can harness this group to become clients. I am skeptical that lawyers and other service businesses can use social media to achieve this goal. Chris responded that you need to be a priest and build a church. What he means is that you should use social media to be part of multiple groups that will help your access each group.  Your goal is to be in the center and be the priest.

The trust paradigm is not new. Charles H. Green lectured that you shouldn’t view business through the lens of competition.  The purpose of companies is to serve society.  He argued that competitors should work together to serve the public.  Cooperation between competitors serves everyone interests.

David Sax, writing in Save the Deli observed this spirit of cooperation in the thriving Los Angeles Jewish Deli scene.  Throughout the country, Jewish Delicatessen is an institution that is in decline.  The pastrami is expensive and people are worried about the impact of schmaltz on their cholesterol.  But in LA, the Jewish Deli is thriving because deli owners cooperate.  If Nate N’ Al’s is out of stuffed derma, they call over to Greenblatt’s  for help.   You should do the same when using social media.

As Julien Smith eloquently put it:  “Social media is still an experiment. Be curious of other people when using social media. Only by risking can we create greater things for everyone.”

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Today I had a discussion with a friend who works as an insurance defense attorney for a large insurance company.  While sitting on a comfy sofa at Book Review in Huntington, Long Island, I began perusing a copy of The Whuffle Factor by Tara Hunt.  The book is about the importance of creating and implementing social capital. We then discussed its applicability to her job. Does social media have any place for an in-house insurance defense attorney?

Her opinion was a resounding no.  As an employee at an insurance company, she has no clients.  Why bother with social media if you are not looking to connect with anyone? I then asked whether she thought it was important to find out more about opposing counsel through researching their profiles on social networking sites?  She said that it was not worth the effort.

Lastly, I asked whether it should be common practice for her to view the social profiles of opposing plaintiff’s.  For example, wouldn’t it be helpful to view the Facebook page of an injured plaintiff?  What if the there is a current photograph of him playing soccer if he is claiming injury to a torn meniscus?  Wouldn’t it help your case?  She said that she thought that there would be a problem in getting the page into evidence (I certainly don’t agree with her there.)

Do you think my friend is right?  Is there a place for social media for Insurance Defense Attorneys?

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Subpoena information for Facebook & Myspace

October 6, 2009

Listed below is subpoena information for Facebook and MySpace. Facebook Online Service Address: 156 University Avenue Palo Alto, California 94301 Phone Number:  650-543-4800 Fax Number:  650-644-3229 E-mail Address: subpoena@facebook. com MySpace Online Service Address: 407 N. Maple Drive Beverly Hills, California 90210 USA Phone Number:  888-309-1311 Fax Number:  310-356-3485 E-mail Address: lawenforcement@myspace-inc. com

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Legal Reasons Why Your Company Should Have a Social Networking Policy

June 3, 2009

Your employees are probably participating in social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. But what are your workers doing on Facebook while on the clock? Are they networking or are they sharing their 5 favorite beers? On the one hand, you want to trust your employees and make them feel like they have […]

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