[Originally posted in The National Law Journal on January 27, 2014]
Five years ago, when Twitter had a mere 10 million users worldwide, I saw the potential for the service to take the world and the legal industry by storm. My prediction was partly correct. Twitter now has more than 500 million accounts and more than 200 million active users. It took three years for Twitter to hit 1 billion tweets, this same number now produced every 48 hours, according to the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph.
The part I got wrong was about acceptance of Twitter by lawyers. By my estimates, fewer than 5 percent of lawyers at major law firms have Twitter accounts. This situation doesn’t seem to be changing, either — last year I presented more than 40 talks about LinkedIn to thousands of lawyers across the world. Having written a book on Twitter for lawyers, I’m sad to admit I gave a total of two talks about Twitter.
This is messed up, and here’s why. LinkedIn is a great tool — a safe tool — but it is a closed network. This means you need an introduction or a clever strategy to connect with new people. There are groups, alumni networks and company pages that facilitate meeting new people on LinkedIn, but they are constrained by the closed network. Twitter, on the other hand, is almost 100 percent open, and because open networks are so powerful, executives, reporters and politicians have been joining Twitter in large numbers. You can’t be taken seriously in news or politics without having a Twitter account.
So where are the lawyers? Conspicuously absent.
I’m not saying that lawyers don’t have Twitter accounts, but their numbers are far too few. Lawyers should be on Twitter collecting great content and sharing it with their clients and prospects. They should be creating blogs and articles and sharing that information.
Twitter can help lawyers find new clients and new markets. There is no barrier to entry in this open network. “But there is so much junk on Twitter,” you might be thinking. Yet that is exactly why lawyers can make a killing using the social medium. People who really know how to use Twitter ignore the junk; they have created filters to specifically seek out the best information and the best providers of good articles, links to infographics and blogs. Lawyers are in a great position to create this content — they just need to get on Twitter and join the party.
LinkedIn is the safe play for law firms, but the safe play isn’t always the smart one. There is an adage in marketing: “Go where your competitors aren’t.” LinkedIn is Grand Central Terminal for lawyer bios — good luck standing out from the crowd. Twitter gives you a chance to shine, through the quality of what you have to say. Lawyers who really want to build an online reputation need to give Twitter a chance.