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Twitter: For Birds, Not Lawyers

By: Marshall R. Isaacs

Like The G-20 or Chelsea Lately, most of you have heard of Twitter but probably don’t know much about it.

Briefly, Twitter is a social networking website that enables users to send and read 140-character updates or “tweets.” Twitter is essentially Facebook without the photographs, games, emails, clubs/groups, videos or party invitations. In fact, you don’t even have friends on Twitter. You have followers. Anyone can follow you without your permission or approval and vice versa. Perhaps the only fun thing about Twitter is that various celebrities are on it and you can follow everything they do and say. For example:

Celebrity X: I just farted.

However, even this element of Twitter has been called into question. It is widely reported that many celebs hire others to “ghost tweet” for them. So, in the foregoing example, it might actually have been Celebrity X’s summer intern who passed wind and not Celebrity X herself.

If you want a more comprehensive lesson on Twitter, read, The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here.


TWITTER HITS THE BAR

Recently, the National Law Journal chimed in on Twitter. Author Gina Rubel’s headline posed the question: Is Twitter a valuable networking tool or just for the birds? Curiously, Ms. Rubel never really answered her own question. So I will.

For the most part, Twitter is for the birds.

At this stage of its development, Twitter is only potentially useful for a tiny percentage of all practicing lawyers. That is, small firms or solo practitioners with blogs.


MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

If you haven’t tried Twitter yet, Twitter makes you feel like you are trying to talk during a rock concert. If you want to be heard, you’d better have something important to say. Unlike Celebrity X, no one cares if you have stomach issues unless, perhaps, there is a gastroenterologist on Twitter.

On the other hand, Twitter is a decent way for a lawyer to publicize a blog. For example, I might tweet:

MarshallRIsaacs: Twitter: For lawyers or birds? Definitely birds!

I would then add a link to my article. My tweet would get a lot of attention. Why? Because Twitter is a religion and its followers are fanatics. I mean, fanatics in the Jonestown sense. Saying “Twitter is for the birds” is not much different than saying “The Pope sucks.”


HELLO. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Even if you have something important to say, you need someone to say it to. Unless you are a celebrity, gathering followers on Twitter is a Herculean task. The easiest way to have someone follow you is, well, to follow them. (Unfortunately, this does not apply to celebrities.)

There’s a caveat. If you follow too many people too quickly, you will be deemed a “spammer” and very few people will return your follow.

I have been on Twitter every day for two months and I have amassed roughly 600 followers by following five here, five there, ten here, ten there. It’s the same way I manage to stock up on sugar packets for my office coffee machine without getting arrested at the local deli.


15 SECONDS OF FAME

If 600 followers sounds like a lot, it isn’t. Some of my followers follow thousands, even tens of thousands of “tweople”. This creates a whole new problem for the messenger. That is, even the best tweets are short-lived. Twitter only displays twenty tweets at a time. With thousands of people tweeting, those twenty tweets will disappear from the monitor as soon as it is refreshed. Thus, successful tweeting is in periodically repeating. Eat your heart out, Dr. Seuss!


WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Now that you have a few hundred followers, a blog and a clever pitch, you’re on your way, right? Wrong. The most significant problem for lawyers on Twitter is that the vast majority of your followers are neither potential clients nor potential referrers.

Clearly, the largest contingent on Twitter are the small business marketing "gurus". Alas, I'm being too gentle. Twitter is infested with them. I am followed by more marketing gurus than lawyers. My guru-followers tweet incessantly and insatiably. They rarely go out of their way to interact with me even when I initiate conversation.

I recently came across an article which mirrored my experiences. In Twitter & Stupid Internet Marketing Gurus, Tim Brownson directly solicited on-line marketing help from his 300-plus followers, many of whom were self-professed marketing gurus or who presumably knew of one. He set a full hour aside in order to review the multitude of responses he anticipated receiving. To his surprise, Brownson did not receive a single reply. These "gurus" were so busy tweeting advice, they never even noticed Brownson's cry for their help.

If you are like me, the remainder of your followers will be attorneys, legal publications, law schools and other law-related businesses from all fifty states, Canada, Australia and England. How many of these will have cases to refer to you? The answer: When was the last time you referred a case to an out-of-state or out-of-country attorney?


REDEMPTION

Before I am unfollowed, blocked or drawn and quartered by my fellow tweople, permit me to extend an olive branch. Twitter is not without its redeeming qualities. While Twitter probably won’t increase your caseload, it will allow you to share your expertise and opinions with the media and other professionals with an ease not previously possible outside of a dirty chat room. After all, it was Twitter that brought the New York State Bar Association to my personal blog and to subsequently offer me this honorable position writing Smallfirmville.

Comments (3)

I thought this was an entertaining post. I largely agree with you. We come away thinking that Twitter is a waste of time....but then we do always have something redeeming to show for it. In your case you got the bigger blog platform.

I guess it's all about balance - how much time should people put into it?

Robert:

Very insightful. To twitter or not to twitter. I think the author really drives home good points helpful to someone trying to survive as a small or solo practictioner...thanks Mr. Isaacs for your clever and helpful blog!

You seem to misunderstand Twitter. Check out Adrian Dayton's "Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition" and see if it changes your mind.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 6, 2009 10:06 AM.

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