For most attorneys, Twitter is not that useful. I’m hardly a Luddite, nor am I an attorney frightened of technology and change. And I also don’t think Twitter is a morass of mindless blather. It is useful, fun, and has vast distributive power. But I’ve concluded that Twitter is not productive for most attorneys – and may actually take time away from more useful activities. Here’s why:
It takes you out of your relevant jurisdiction. For many attorneys— particularly those in small firms or solo practices– the practice of law will remain jurisdictionally-based for years to come. Despite interesting chatter these days about establishing a “national jurisdiction” the relevant jurisdiction for most attorneys remains local. And to establish a national online presence through Twitter may ultimately lead to a national online presence – on Twitter. But it’s unlikely to bring in business in Minneapolis or build your reputation in Redwood Falls. Friends, fans and followers in Cleveland do not necessarily equate to clients in St. Paul. As with anything, though, there are exceptions, but I’ve generally found those exceptions relate to building a reputation as an attorney who understands social media, not building a reputation as an attorney who understands Minnesota probate law. For that, there currently remain better choices: your local bar association, a blog, networking groups, social gatherings, CLEs. Sure, Twitter may be fun and it may be useful to facilitate broader networking. But you still need to get out and get personally involved in your jurisdiction.
It has a limited relevant audience. Attorneys typically depend on other attorneys for referrals. There are, at last count, about 27,000 attorneys admitted to practice in Minnesota. From what we can gather in the last year, less than 200 Minnesota attorneys regularly use Twitter, or at least use it professionally. So, of the 27,000 attorneys in the state, our best estimate today is about ½ of one percent may use Twitter. Twitter is not so new anymore, having been around since 2006. In social media time, it’s getting into its young adulthood. Having failed to attract sufficient numbers of attorneys by this time, I’m doubtful that it ever will. Rather, it’s more likely that Twitter is serving as a transition to a different way of communicating, and I predict its useful value as a professional networking tool will diminish over time, perhaps rapidly. Where it goes, though, is anyone’s guess, so if you want to jump in to be part of that ride before it peters out, go for it.
It’s self-referential and repetitive. Every day there are hundreds of tweets and retweets attempting to persuade attorneys that Twitter is useful as a social media tool (and this post is no different, except it is one of hundreds on the other side of the equation). There is so much activity on this topic, and so much self-convincing of Twitter’s worth or non-worth, that at times you wonder if Twitter is just about Twitter. I finally commented to one social media consultant that “maybe the intensity of the effort to convince us that it is useful is reflective of the fact that it really is not that useful.” That is, by now, so few attorneys have embraced Twitter that the lack of interest and lack of its adoption is its own particularly telling statement: it just ain’t that useful, at least professionally. Unless, of course, you are in the business of social media and in convincing people that it is useful. Did I mention the problem of circularity?
It takes (too much) time. Sure, at 140 characters, posting a tweet might not take much time. But making it worthwhile by keeping up a viable following, following links, and filtering out the wheat from the chaff does take a lot of time. Plus, maintaining Twitter along with other social media can be distracting and inefficient, even for the multitasking generation. After all, what are you being paid to do? If Twitter keeps you up to date on your practice area, maybe it’s beneficial, but this goes back to the jurisdictional issue and whether you actually get information on Twitter specifically worthwhile to your practice (hey, no fair including the gazillion daily posts you get about marketing your practice, those are a dime a dozen). Plus, blogs and other media are likely better resources for information and do not have the redundancy of all the Twitter retweets. Don’t believe me? Track your time to see how much time you actually spend with Twitter to make it worthwhile, keeping a focus on what you hope to get out of it.
Is Twitter useless? No, it can be incredibly useful, depending on your practice and your needs. Are you marketing a national practice? Are you an attorney providing advice on how to market or structure a legal practice? These are a couple of examples where Twitter, for attorneys, may be a good fit. Next week, we’ll explore which attorneys may benefit most from Twitter and which ones likely won’t, and how to put your Twitter use on a healthy diet.
Posted by: Gregory Luce
Next Week: Twitter on a Diet