I have to admit I was taken aback by the premise of ClearView Social, the new app being developed by social marketing consultant Adrian Dayton. Targeted at medium and large firms, the app “helps attorneys more easily share content with their professional networks through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms,” according to the press release last February.

That sounds harmless enough. But further reading reveals more about what the app does:

ClearView Social allows one person in the firm – for example, a designated marketer – to create a queue of content to be shared in an email template. When attorneys receive the email, they can click a link, which launches the application for sharing the content via various social media platforms, including LinkedIn and Twitter, which are integrated in the tool. This allows attorneys to share on those networks without leaving ClearView Social. It’s as easy as responding to an email.

So the app doesn’t actually help attorneys share content they find worthwhile. Rather, it makes the attorneys the conduits or redistributors of content someone else chooses to share.

As I understand it, some person in the firm’s marketing department lines up a bunch of articles — no doubt articles lauding the firm — and sends them out to the firm’s attorneys. The attorneys scan the list of articles and then click a button next to each one they want to share. Voila, their Twitter or LinkedIn feeds get a bunch of stuff that the marketing department thought would be good to share. The attorney doesn’t even have to read the article before sharing it. With a good-sized firm, it is conceivable that the same articles would get sent out over hundreds of social-media feeds.

Upon learning of this, it struck me as a mindless approach to social media. Then I realized that one of ClearView’s early users had already described it precisely that way. Right there on the ClearView site is a big quote from a big partner at a big firm:

ClearView Social is a no-brainer, it makes it so easy for me to share. All I have to do is open the email and click a button.

No thought required. No need for engagement. No time wasted reading the article. Just press a button and let the app and your marketing department do all the work. This isn’t sharing — it is pseudo sharing. The lawyer is not a contributor or participant, but merely a conduit.

Somewhere along the line, I got the apparently crazy idea that if there is value to be gained through social media, it will come only through engagement and conversations. But in the rush to exploit social media as marketing tools, way too many users have gone from engaging with social media to spamming it — to sending out as much stuff as they can as often as they can.

In defense of Adrian and his app, they didn’t invent social media spam or introduce it to the legal market. It’s already flooding my social-media feeds. Ghost-written posts. Scheduled posts. Automatic feeds. Believe me, law firms are already doing this through any number of applications. Adrian strikes me as an enterprising guy and he is just trying to give marketers an easier way to do what they already do.

One of the most conspicuous examples these days is the scheduled tweet. You know those people who somehow manage to tweet at all hours of the day and night, never needing to sleep or work. I am embarrassed for them sometimes, when their incongruous pre-scheduled tweets arrive, oblivious to what people are actually discussing.

I have seen days when every sentient being on Twitter is caught up with a major news event or international tragedy, when every tweet is discussing or reacting to the matter at hand. In the midst of this will come one of those pre-scheduled tweets, touting some silly article or webinar on 10 ways to do something trivial, making the tweeter seem either ignorant or uncaring.

My friend Kevin O’Keefe, explaining, “Maybe I am old school,” recently posted this:

I just believe a lawyer ought to look at social networking and social media as relationship and reputation accelerators, not as something to get your prospective clients to leave to come to your website.

Well, I guess I’m old school too. If hundreds upon hundreds of lawyers start using their social media feeds as nothing more than spam dumps, flooding them with links not because they have value, but because their marketing department told them to, then that will most certainly smother all the life out of social media. There will be no value left for them or for the rest of us.

ClearView was originally due to be out last month, but Adrian recently posted that it has been delayed and is now slated to come out later this summer. Until then, some of you would be well advised to learn to how to share on your own. Who knows, you might just find that you engage with others and, as O’Keefe suggests, accelerate a relationship or two.

Photo of Bob Ambrogi Bob Ambrogi

Bob is a lawyer, veteran legal journalist, and award-winning blogger and podcaster. In 2011, he was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50, honoring “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries and leaders.” Earlier in his career, he was editor-in-chief of several legal publications, including The National Law Journal, and editorial director of ALM’s Litigation Services Division.