It recently dawned on me that I’ve been on Twitter for over five years. Yes, as @PhilNugent, I’ve been tweeting since August 2008. While that’s an achievement shared by more than a few in the Twitterverse, it came as a bit of a shock. Has it really been that long?
In the bigger picture, I find it interesting that as much as Twitter has become part of our business culture and social fabric in the last few years, there are still many who think of it as a somewhat alien and frivolous activity that could have no possible value for their business and professional success.
With that in mind, I thought this might be a good time to take stock of what I’ve learned about the value of Twitter. Perhaps these lessons might help some lawyers and other professionals realize that the social media platform – while no silver bullet – just might hold a good amount of potential for them as a marketing, branding and business development tool.
So, here in Part I of Five Years on Twitter, I’ll take a high-level view of the platform, focusing on five reasons why skeptics may want to rethink their Twitter abstinence. Looking ahead, in Part II of this post I’ll describe best practices for attorneys who want to be successful on Twitter.
According to the most recent numbers, Twitter is the tenth most visited website in the world. In fact, Twitter has more than 500 million users globally, with 218 million considered “active” users, i.e., those who log in at least once a month. The U.S. currently has 49 million active users on Twitter, which works out to nearly one of every six Americans. Those are remarkable numbers.
But Twitter’s mass popularity is not sufficient reason for you to commit to spending your valuable time on the social networking site. There is a plethora of worthy marketing tactics and channels in which you can invest your time and money, so what makes Twitter special?
Here are my top five reasons why an attorney or law firm should be active on Twitter:
1. Twitter is a powerful tool that can help you become a thought leader in your practice area.
Some may claim that the term “thought leader” has become overused, but that doesn’t take away from its value. I believe it neatly encapsulates a worthy goal for every attorney: to be considered one of the leading lights of their profession, at least for their practice area in their geographic market. Wouldn’t it be great to be the attorney that most people think of when they think of an attorney in your market who does what you do?
Also, keep in mind one of the primary reasons why it’s in your interest to become a thought leader – and why Twitter is a great place to be that leader: The media has been all over Twitter since the early days because reporters quickly recognized that it provided a great pool of experts and sources on every possible topic.
If you see the value in being quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post or Law Week Colorado, you’ll immediately understand the opportunity that Twitter provides. There’s truly nothing like it in the world: a free platform that can put you directly in front of a vast and influential audience.
2. Individuals and companies that you are interested in – and those that might be interested in you – are on Twitter.
Yes, by now it’s safe to say that a good number of your clients and prospective clients are on Twitter. (And if not all of them are on today, there are likely more than enough for Twitter to be a productive marketing channel for you.)
Twitter is a great opportunity to get in front of prospective clients. Whatever types of individuals or companies you’re looking for, you can find them there. Additionally, it’s an excellent way for you to keep in front of your current clients, showing them that you’re right on top of changes in the law and other events that may affect them.
3. It’s a research tool: Twitter helps you discover who your competitors are – and what they are doing.
Did they win a big case, make a new hire, start a new practice group or open a new office? Chances are, all those things will make their Twitter feed. Additionally, you’ll see what topics they think are worthy of tweeting. Is there a particular attorney you’d like to know more about? Perhaps they have their own Twitter feed.
Equally interesting for you will be that you can see how your competitors communicate on Twitter. Do they use Twitter to educate or mainly to promote their business? Do they use it in a personal or an impersonal way? How do they relate to their Twitter followers? What do they do well – and what do you not want to emulate? You can learn a great deal from a firm’s Twitter feed.
4. Twitter will help you keep on top of professional and industry news and trends.
Through Twitter, you can be sure that you’ll find out what’s going on in the legal profession generally, and in your practice area in particular. It’s also a great source of information about your clients’ industries. Twitter is nirvana for news hounds, and you get to choose what news you want to hear about by carefully selecting who you follow.
In a nutshell, your Twitter “news net” can be cast as narrowly – or as widely – as you wish. And typically, you’ll find out about nearly everything sooner on Twitter than you will through other sources.
5. Active and strategic use of Twitter can get your website ranked higher on the search engines.
Let’s talk Search Engine Optimization: For some time Google (and the rest of the search engines) have considered a company’s social media presence to be an important factor in its page rank. What does that mean to you? It means that Google’s determination of how high your law firm’s website ranks in searches is increasingly related to your firm’s social media activity.
Does that seem unfair to you? No matter: Google always looks for relevance when it ranks websites, and it has determined that social media is a significant factor in one’s online relevance. Moreover, since Facebook doesn’t open its pages to Google searches, that means that Twitter is critical piece of the puzzle.
And the bonus: Twitter can be one of your most efficient marketing, branding and business development tools.
Ultimately, how much time and resources you spend on Twitter is up to you, but – despite what you may have heard and what you may see from a few nonstop users of the platform – Twitter doesn’t demand all your time in order to provide you with a positive return.
You see, even if you don’t make Twitter one of your very top marketing priorities, you can still benefit from being in the pool. The time has long since passed when it made sense to sit on a deck chair waiting for everyone else to come to their senses and realize that there was no good business reason to be on Twitter. That’s not happening, because businesses – including law firms – are finding that the water’s fine, and they don’t plan on leaving the Twitter pool anytime soon.
However, it’s not sufficient just to be on Twitter; you have to do and say the right things on Twitter if you want to be successful with it. We’ll discuss all that next time, in Part II.