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Are You Trying Social Media Contests to Promote Your Conference? [CASE STUDY: AILA]

Lindsay Curcio is an attorney who has been practicing immigration law since 1990. In addition to her practice, Lindsay is an adjunct professor of immigration law at New York Law School. Camille Mackler has been practicing immigration law since graduating from New York Law School in 2006.  She is also active with advocacy efforts and is the founder of the photo blog Immigration in Pictures ™. Both Lindsay and Camille are active members of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA). They kindly agreed to write up their experience as part of a social media contest put on by the association.

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The Lawyers Debrief:  Participation in Social Media Contest to Promote Bar Association Conference

Each year, AILA hosts many conferences and seminars to provide its members with important information about developments in immigration law.  The most important and anticipated event is the Annual Conference held in June of each year.  AILA has approximately 11,000 members in the U.S. and internationally.  Members include attorneys and professors. A law student membership program exists tooConferences are always well-attended and include a multitude of panels on all topics in immigration law and practice development, pro bono initiatives, networking opportunities and social events.   The conference is held in a different U.S. or Canadian city each year.

For its 2012 Annual Conference, AILA asked its members to help with marketing efforts.  The build-up for AC180, a social media contest for AILA members, began in fall 2011.  AILA told members about AC180 through postings its website:  www.aila.org.  The contest was called AC180 because it began 180 days before the start of the annual conference. Any member could enter the contest. If selected, AILA would waive the conference registration fee.  Contestants had the opportunity to compete through monthly social media tasks for other prizes related to the conference as well.

Lindsay entered the competition because she wanted to develop her social media skills and have some fun.  Camille has been using social media as a way to promote her practice and as part of her advocacy efforts since she went into practice for herself in November, 2010.

To enter, AILA asked members to submit a social media “plan” and a video explaining our interest and experience with different sites.  This let AILA gauge social media literacy and learn more about entrants.

Ultimately, AILA selected 11 social media ambassadors including us.  Ten entrants were attorneys and one was a law student.  Ages of social media ambassadors ranged from early 20s to early 60s.  All practice areas were represented including family and employment-based immigration, crimmigration, removal defense and federal court litigation.   Located in New York City, we were the east coast representatives. Other social media ambassadors came from Dallas, Buffalo, Chicago and San Diego.

Loren Crippin, the New Media Associate at AILA, notified all entrants in January.  The main requirement of the AC180 contest was that each entrant post some information about the upcoming conference at least once weekly.   Posts had to contain #AC180 or @AilaNational.  AC180 let us Tweet, post to Facebook, Google + or Pinterest, blog or otherwise promote the conference. We also were asked to complete the following tasks: write a blog post on what makes us passionate about immigration law and how our interests related to the conference, use social media to advocate for immigration reform, make a spoof video to promote AC180, and use social media to promote Nashville, the location of the 2012 conference. [Check out some highlights here.]

We were excited to be social media ambassadors for the annual conference. The experience was eye-opening in many different ways.  First, and most importantly, it was fun.  As lawyers, we seldom get to write short observations and inject commentary or opinions.  Rather, we are supposed to write lengthy, weighty briefs full of impressive legal arguments.  When we write blog posts, they are expected to have scholarly tones while we seriously dissect and analyze important legal issues.  When reaching out to a social media readership, however, we were forced to keep it light, concise and interesting yet entertaining or informative. It allowed us to play with our message, while conveying important information.    Using mediums other than words, such as video or memes, also encouraged us to use our creative sides.

It was also great to have the ability to reach out to large groups of people, all of whom have an interest in immigration issues, and convey our message.  As immigration attorneys we have a unique perspective on how U.S. immigration laws should work, do work, and their ultimate impact.  Participating in AC180 encouraged us to communicate our perspective in ways that reached the public and not just colleagues

Finally, it allowed us to meet people and expand our networks far beyond our geographical confines.  Through AC180, we became friends with other attorneys  throughout the United States.   In immigration law, networking is key.  Many of us are solo or small law firm practitioners, so the ability to bounce ideas off colleagues, discuss a difficult case, or exchange law practice management tips is crucial. Meeting not only our fellow participants, but other lawyers, students, and media representatives, through conversations started over social media makes us more efficient and informed.

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Camille Mackler and Lindsay Curcio both practice law in New York City.  They can be found on Twitter at @cmackler and @lindsayvisa.

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(photo credit)

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