Originally posted in The National Law Journal on July 30, 2012
I tried out Twitter; I’m just not sold on how useful it is,” a lawyer told me recently.
“Well, how much effort have you put into it?” I wondered.
“I created my profile, uploaded a couple of pictures, followed a bunch of people and tweeted every day for a month.”
And you haven’t gotten any business from that?, I wanted to ask sarcastically.
I have, essentially, this same conversation almost every day. Most lawyers use Twitter like a billboard, and while some post more informative links to their online billboards than do others, they remain just billboards.
It’s easy to identify a lawyer using Twitter like a billboard — just scan through his or her most recent tweets and you will see nothing but headlines and links to articles. You even can set up applications to automatically tweet out links like that.
Whether you use such a program or tweet out headlines and links on your Twitter yourself, the result is the same: You appear robotic. And nobody wants to hire a robot. There is no engagement, no conversation — only self-promotion.
Can you imagine someone at a cocktail party walking around handing his new white paper to total strangers? How well would that go over? Yet this is how most lawyers are using Twitter.
Twitter is a great site for sharing and finding information, but that isn’t its real power. Its real power is the connection it affords to fascinating people who are eager to engage in conversation. Lawyers trying to find success using Twitter shouldn’t merely be looking for clients — they should be looking for conversation, for meaningful engagement, because only through real engagement can we build new relationships.
Not everyone agrees with this. Some attorneys argue that their ideal clients aren’t looking for conversation on Twitter — they don’t have time for it. These lawyers are missing the bigger picture. This is not a simple equation — “Tweet X and land client Y.” Purchasers of legal services go through a complex decision-making process. You may need to stay on the radar of a prospective client for years before he or she hires you. Understanding that these things take time is essential to developing business on Twitter.
And the conversation shouldn’t be limited to Twitter. A whole universe of news reporters, potential clients and referral sources use Twitter. Every one of them is looking to learn, solve problems and make connections. Start a Twitter conversation with them and it may lead to phone calls, lunches and coffee appointments. These connections don’t come about by chance, though; you have to work to make them happen.
We get out of Twitter what we put into it. If you aren’t willing to put yourself out there — to start conversations and move those conversations offline — Twitter might not be worth your time after all.