I saw a great headline the other day: Dear Congress, It’s No Longer OK To Not Know How The Internet Works.

I remember fondly the days when we were all tickled pink by our elected officials’ struggle to understand how the internet works. Whether it was George W. Bush referring to “the internets” or Senator Ted Stevens describing said internets as “a series of tubes,” we would sit back and chortle at our well-meaning but horribly uninformed representatives, confident that the right people would eventually steer them back on course. Well I have news for members of Congress: Those days are over.

Guess what?

Dear Lawyers, it’s no longer OK to ignore social media.

It’s no longer cute to refer to it as “The Facebook” or snicker when someone uses “tweet” as a verb, or ignore LinkedIn connection requests because you think there is a nefarious motive behind the request, or ask when the firm is going to start mailing out a newsletter again.

It’s time to bite the bullet and move beyond a LinkedIn profile. I will continue to recommend that you start there, and maximize it (here are some ideas from my recent post, “Where do I start?”), but, really, in 2012 it’s about time you move a few steps further down the social media path.

There’s Twitter and hashtags.

Twitter is  a great place to cast a wide net. To find people beyond your geographic base.

By way of hashtags you can find the people who are interested in what you are talking about. Legal marketers use #lmamkt to communicate. For my firm, I use #insurance a lot. You get the idea.

If you’re going to a conference, check the website and see if there is a hashtag set up for that. Start communicating with the people attending the conference, before the conference, so you actually have contacts to meet at the conference.

Hashtags will also allow you to follow trends, and you can then identify people and influencers (such as THE PRESS) that you can follow and engage.

And it’s easy to engage someone … just start retweeting their content, or replying to things that they say. Bam. Connection.

Facebook isn’t just for sharing pictures of your kids and grandchildren.

It’s okay to “friend” your colleagues and close clients. It’s okay to share bits and pieces of your personal self. With the new security settings, you can have different levels of sharing, even, gasp, allowing public content.

Facebook business pages allow you to stream content, such as blog posts, but to also add photos and information not really appropriate for your website. Pictures from a charitable event that you sponsored, pictures from your summer associate program, links to conferences you are attending. It’s also a great place to promote firm events.

You can also use Facebook to promote your clients. If they have a Facebook page, add it to your pages favorites. You can then share the content that they promote.

You can also share your firm’s content on your personal page, a very subtle way of promoting the work you do to your personal friends and contacts.

YouTube videos aren’t just for kids. They are a great promotional tool for lawyers and law firms.

Yes, you can go professional and have wonderfully produced segments on your firm’s website, but just think how much more exciting it would be to capture your initial thoughts after a big win on your iPhone, upload that to your YouTube channel, and Tweet it out to your followers, who include your industry’s top reporters, all before you walk down the front steps of the courthouse?

Blogs are more than just an online newsletter. Newsletters were always a one way street. Blogs are a means of engaging and connecting with people. Blogs are easy for people to share with their network.

You can use your blog as a way of establishing your credentials. Want to move your practice in a certain direction? Start blogging about those issues. Perhaps a couple case updates. A new piece of legislation or regulation working its way through the legislature. I always say, “Write on it three times and you will be seen as an expert.”

Some “experts” will say “never post case updates,” however, they are EXTREMELY popular with our readers. So, follow your stats. If they read it, post on it.

But no matter what you do, keep in mind that self-promotion is a-ok.

How will ANYONE know what great work you are doing if you won’t promote it? Add that case win to your bio. Write your thoughts on that new piece of legislation and make sure your clients know about it. If you do it, show it. I like “representative matters” (client names omitted, of course) which discuss the work you do (and, more importantly, the work you want!).

Sure, I, the marketing director, can send out a press release, but think about how much more of an impact a blog post on that case win would make?

Sure, I can post that article in the LinkedIn Group, but how will that showcase the fact that YOU wrote it?

And speaking about promotion. You can’t just write and go, you have to promote. Promote your blog. Promote your Twitter feed. Promote your Facebook business page. Promote. Promote. Promote.

Write a blog post? Add links to Twitter, Facebook business page, then share on your personal feed. Post it to your firm and personal LinkedIn profiles. Add to the appropriate LinkedIn groups.

Update your website and blogs to include your social media buttons. Make it easy for people to follow you where THEY socially network.

If you don’t use a service like JD Supra, Lexology, or Mondaq to syndicate your blogs to the legal and business community, start.

And get a smart phone.