Social Media

Wikipedia defines a social networking service as a service that focuses “on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, e.g., who share interests and/or activities. A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web-based and provide means for users to interact over the internet, such as email and instant messaging. Although online community services are sometimes considered as a social network service in a broader sense, social network service usually means an individual-centered service whereas online community services are group-centered. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, activities, events, and interests within their individual networks.”

A social network hosting service generally does not charge money for membership but uses online advertising on its website.

Early social networking on the World Wide Web began in the mid-90s with online communities such as, GeoCities, and The main focus was to bring people together to interact with each other through web-based chat rooms, and to encourage users to share personal information and ideas via personal webpages by providing easy-to-use publishing tools and free or inexpensive web space.

New social networking methods were developed by the end of the 1990s. This newer generation of social networking sites included Friendster in 2002, followed by MySpace, LinkedIn, and Bebo. These sites developed advanced features for users to find and manage friends. In 2005, MySpace was reportedly getting more page views than Google. Facebook launched in 2004 and has become the largest social networking site in the world.

The main types of social networking services are those which contain categories (such as former school-years or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages), and a recommendation system linked to trust. Facebook, Bebo and Twitter are social networking services widely used around the world. The most widely used in North America include Facebooks and LinkedIn.

These social networking services can connect people who share interests and activities across political, economic, and geographic borders.

Common features of these social networking services include the following. Individual users are encouraged to create profiles containing a variety of information about their personal lives. 
Users can often upload pictures of themselves to their profiles, post blog entries for others to read, search for other users with similar interests, and compile and share lists of contacts. Some services have a section dedicated to comments from friends and other users. There are some controls available to protect privacy, allowing users to choose who can view their profile, who can contact them, who can add them to their lists of contacts, etc.

For business development, companies have found that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are great ways to build their brand image. According to Jody Nimetz, a blogger on the website[5], businesses have five major uses for social media: (1) to create brand awareness, (2) as an online reputation-management tool, (3) for recruiting, (4) to learn about new technologies and competitors, and (5) as a lead-generating tool to find potential prospects.

Scholars in many fields have begun to investigate the impact of social networking sites, analyzing how such sites may relate to issues of identity, privacy, social capital, youth culture, and education. There have been growing concerns about users giving out too much personal information and the threat of sexual predators, data theft or viruses. Large services such as MySpace and Netlog work with law enforcement to try to prevent such incidents. In addition, information that was altered or removed by the user may in fact be retained and/or passed to third parties. Third parties may use information posted on social networks for a variety of purposes. Information posted on sites has been used by police, probation, and university officials to prosecute users of said sites. Content posted on MySpace has been used in court. The online profiles of college students are reviewed by potential employers. In October 2006, a fake MySpace profile led to the suicide of a Missouri teenager, Megan Meier[6]. The Meier case drew national media attention to “cyber-bullying,” which involves the use of communication technology to anonymously intimidate, defame, and emotionally damage other people.

An attorney is prohibited under most jurisdiction rules from making statements about his/her legal service that are false or misleading. Attorneys should not put ads in emails or blog posts. Likewise, an attorney should be careful about the content on his/her social networking profile. The attorney should not post any statement regarding the result of a specific case without a disclaimer or similar language explaining that the results will vary in each case.

Some social networking services permit members to recommend others and praise their work. If a recommendation contains a false statement, the attorney should undertake action with respect to the removal of this recommendation.