Thursday, July 23, 2009

Should Lawyers Be Using Twitter?

When consulting lawyers on web marketing, I am frequently asked if they should be using Twitter – the new micro-blog that rivals the Cabbage Patch Dolls in viral zeal. Much like ALL web marketing, I respond with one simple answer: what’s the goal? If an attorney can answer this question, then the answer tends to be pretty straight forward. By the way, nobody tells me that their goals are to tell others what they had for breakfast – this is simply filling a vacuum that typically follows.

The Challenge is that most lawyers do not know what value Twitter can provide them

Twitter is referred to as a micro-blog and is nothing more than a way to tell others "what are you doing" within 140 characters or less. This works out to around 20-30 words within 1-2 sentences. If you are a verbose writer, this is a challenge to say the least. All of these short "tweets" are listed chronologically much like a blog so what you are doing now is where the eye commonly follows. People (anybody for that matter, without permission) can "follow" your tweets and keep up with you. Here are a few lists of lawyer s on Twitter (and yes, some of them will tell you want they had for breakfast this morning):

- 145 Lawyers to follow: http://scoop.jdsupra.com/2008/09/articles/law-firm-marketing/145-lawyers-and-legal-professionals-to-follow-on-twitter/
- Big Law Lawyers: http://www.securitiesdocket.com/biglaw-lawyers-on-twitter/
- New York Firms: http://kevin.lexblog.com/2009/01/articles/social-networking-1/twitter-users-going-to-legaltech-new-york-heres-a-list/
- Lawyer Mom’s: http://www.darlinghill.com/2009/04/04/darling-hills-hot-15-twitter-feeds-for-lawyer-moms/
- AmLaw 100 Users: http://lawyerkm.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/law-firms-on-twitter-an-update/

Extensions of Twitter to Facebook, Blogs, Blackberries, etc.

Yes, Twitter is yet another social media tool but when deployed properly, it provides useful extendibility. For example, if you have a Facebook account, you can have tweets from your twitter account feed into your facebook account. You can also easily tweet from your mobile phone and blackberries as well. For those of you who actively use Facebook, you may be wondering why you would want to tell people what you are doing on Twitter when you can do the same thing in Facebook. The difference between the two is that the only people who can follow you on Facebook are those people who are granted permission to do so by you. On Twitter, anybody can access your Tweets. For example, you may have a lawsuit filed against Southwest airlines but nothing prevents you from following their tweets about which flights are offering WiFi service today. Who knows, maybe one day they’ll even tell you what’s for breakfast…what a novel idea!

All valuable technologies are understandable, measureable and sustainable

Running a law practice is also running a business and decisions that impact the growth of your practice should be based on a cost benefit analysis. To account for your practice, everything you utilize can be classified as either an asset or liability. For those of us who skipped accounting 101, this is a pretty simple understanding: assets provide incremental cash flow while liabilities require a cash outflow to maintain. In order the measure cash flow, you must be able to measure it from the source. Ultimately an asset will provide value to your practice and your best value is provided by products and services that provide understandable, measurable and sustainable returns on your time and money. Since your time comes at a cost, this must be considered when it comes to using any automation tools – including Twitter.

Twitter has a high abandon rate for a reason

Over 60% of people who create Twitter accounts never come back. Just take a look at many Twitter accounts online today and you will see what I mean. People will typically tweet a couple of times for maybe a day or a week and then all of a sudden, they must have stopped eating breakfast right? What typically happens to most of us is as explained above – the value provided to that user through the use of twitter was not understandable, measureable and sustainable. For example, how many cabbage patch doll hand-me-downs have you seen floating around lately? I think you get my point.

Don’t use Twitter as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy

If you plan on adding links from your Twitter account to your website in hopes of increasing your website rankings, don’t bother – Google won’t count them. Twitter uses a little trick in their system called "nofollow" which basically tells search engines not to count any link value from your Twitter account to somewhere else like your website. This is not to say that linking to your website, blog, news, etc. is not important to drive traffic to these web properties. Just understand that the links are only good for directing traffic, not creating inbound link value.

Some lawyers could find Twitter useful

If you are a practicing lawyer, your time is your money. Twitter is offered as a free service but there is nothing free about your lost time. If you bill at say $250/hour for your services and you tweet for 1 hour a week, Twitter has cost you around $1000/month in opportunity costs. So can you substantiate this? The following are a list of common reasons why a lawyer may find Twitter useful as an asset to their practice:

· Do people REALLY want to know what you are doing (pure narcissism doesn’t count here)?
· Are you frequently on TV?
· Are you considered an authority in your practice area?
· Do people want to see you in action in court?
· Do you appear in the newspapers?
· Are you handling high-profile cases?
· Are you well known and/or considered a celebrity in your work?
· Do you actively network online and want to research/follow clients?

Most lawyers who should not be using Twitter

The reality is most lawyers are not prepared to successfully use Twitter. If you do not find the common criteria listed above as useful to you, then all you are left with is broadcasting what you had for breakfast – if anybody really cares. The simple fact of the matter is that unless you are doing something that others find truly interesting and useful, then you will not have followers and will ultimately become yet another billboard in a cornfield of Twitter. Oh course the system is free – until you commit your time to it.

Measuring your success on Twitter

If you decide to try out Twitter and make a go of it, here are a few ways you can help promote and measure your success:

- Count your followers on Twitter. Are they increasing overtime? Who are they – anybody you recognize? If you do TV, radio and media appearances, are there media contacts and PR agents following you on Twitter? Are there other attorneys who specialize in your field of work following you?

- Promote your twitter account in your email signatures, on your website, in your blogs, newsletters, on facebook, in LinkedIn, etc. and see who responds. If people see that you have a Twitter account and decide not to follow you, then this might tell you right away how useful this information really isn’t to others.

- Ask your new clients if they actively use Twitter and if so, provide them with a link to your account and see if they follow.

- Look before you jump – don’t waste your time unless you have defined goals BEFORE you begin to use Twitter. If your goals are not met and it proves to be a liability for you, let me go – you and your cabbage patch doll will be happy you did.

SEO Consultant Firm - The Search Engine Optimization Experts

9 comments:

  1. Twitter is very popular these days.. and is used by everyone those who are connected with world wide web.

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  2. Indeed tweeter is popular and globally used. But i think lawyers should see which to follow in order for them to get the benefits.

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