One high volume and high maintenance information area is social media. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ all generate huge streams of information that have the potential for containing useful nuggets. What do you do if you want to dig out these valuable pieces without participating in social media?
You will need to create an account but can immediately lock it against followers or friends. Try a Twitter account first because it has fewest potential missteps in securing your account. One you have your Twitter account in hand, create another account at Hootsuite.com. Hootsuite provides a different way of looking at activity on Twitter and other social networks. More importantly, it has some nice features for monitoring content by keyword or Twitter username. You can use Hootsuite to monitor content on LinkedIn, WordPress.com blogs, and Facebook, among others, but you need your own account for each of those services.
Once in Hootsuite, you have a number of options for managing your information. It assumes you want to be social, so your Twitter feeds will automatically be displayed, even though they are empty. You can delete each of these to clear your window, ready for having searches there instead. You want to add a stream and the following screen will appear:
Hootsuite recently purchased Twapperkeeper (named with a nod towards Mead’s Trapper Keeper), a service that archived Twitter messages. You can archive a stream based on a single keyword in Hootsuite now, or you can use the original three keyword search. As you create each new stream, it will appear in the window.
The goal here is to rely on the search mechanism rather than the networking connections to capture information as it flows by. Since networking requires you to make or receive connections from others, search allows you to monitor without interacting with others. For example, if you were monitoring a particular company or topic, you can set up a search to focus on it without becoming a Facebook friend or Twitter follower of that company and explicitly showing your interest.
Once you have created a number of streams, you may find that they extend off the screen. Hootsuite supports tabbed pages, so you can aggregate streams on a given topic (practice area specific, for example, or a corporation or industry) so that you can quickly see what is going on in any given stream without scrolling too far left or right.
Lurking on Twitter or Facebook in this way may seem rather anti-social networking but social media remains a challenge for legal professionals. Using search to mine the information allows you to consume information that is being shared openly without having to worry about confidentiality, privacy, or disclosure of representation breaches.