Twitter for Lawyers: 10 Under-Reported Secrets of Success

While eminently true, the most frequent, obvious and least useful “tip” on how lawyers can succeed on Twitter is “Post great content,” followed closely by some variation on:

  • Choose a focus and become an authority (aka “thought leadership”);
  • Transparency is key in building and maintaining a strong reputation (aka “authenticity”); and
  • Humility and kindness (aka “Follow The Golden Rule” aka “Be nice”).

It reminds me of the SNL retro training film spoof from 2005 featuring Tom Brady as the model for how to appropriately approach female coworkers for a date:

  • Be Handsome…
  • Be Attractive…
  • and Don’t Be Unattractive.

(At one point the video was available on YouTube, but alas, no more).

Given the vagueness of this type of guidance, it’s not particularly surprising that there’s been so much debate lately about whether lawyers should incorporate Twitter into their marketing mix.

The Shorthand Version of My “The Untold Story of How to Succeed on Twitter: Lawyers Edition” Presentation

Background:

Twitter was designed for and works best as a platform for broadcasting short messages to both mass audiences and specialized communities of interest. While it can be adapted for marketing purposes, IT IS NOT NOW NOR EVER WAS PRIMARILY A LEAD GENERATION PLATFORM. For professionals like lawyers, Twitter works best for 1) professional networking and 2) reconnaissance and research.

Put another way, don’t dog Twitter if you’re not getting as many new business inquiries as from your blog or other sources; you’re using it wrong.

If you get some business leads out of your Twitter activity, consider it a bonus.

Step 1: Based on your overall marketing objectives, decide what types of people you want to engage with and — most importantly — what topics you want to follow and conversations you want to participate in. This will inform and shape your following and follower acquisition strategy, as well as your content strategy.

Step 2:Create a complete profile before sending a single tweet. The first thing tweeps check out when considering whether to follow you is your profile. Samantha Collier’s recent post is an excellent primer on writing an effective Twitter bio. Even if it’s lame, include an avatar; you can always change it. No one will take you seriously if you’re operating under the default “egg” graphic.

Step 3:Create an inventory of useful/interesting tweets before you start following anyone. Right after potential followers read your bio, they check out your tweet stream. Even if you don’t have many — or any — followers yet, tweeps that you try to engage with are more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and follow you back if you demonstrate you’re serious about Twitter.

Step 4: Maintain an average of at least two tweets a day. Several services that rank the “quality” of Twitter accounts use two per day as their benchmark for serious engagement.

Step 5: Approach follower acquisition methodically. Identify one or two “influentials” — individuals with high authority/followship in your target segment — and go through the inventory of who they follow and their “lists” to identify prospects.

Step 6: If you want someone to follow you, first let them know you’re listening to them. Retweet one of their posts with your comments added, then follow them right on the heels of that retweet.

Step 7: Don’t continue to follow people who don’t follow you back. Give them a few days to deliberate after you’ve started following them, then unfollow. Don’t extend the courtesy of following to the ungrateful, the uninterested or the lazy. The few exceptions would be news feeds — which don’t follow anyone back — and some “influentials” who tweet content useful to you.

Step 8: Don’t accept every follow request. Block the obvious spammers, and ignore the off-topic “experts” and vendors. A well-curated list of followers makes you more interesting and valuable to potential followers.

Step 9: As your follower and tweet inventory grows, go back to the “influentials” who didn’t reciprocate your initial follow. They might look at you in a different light.

Step 10: Evaluate and adjust your strategy and tactics quarterly. That’s enough time to see what is/isn’t working. Waiting longer means you’re missing opportunities for improvement.

What practical advice do you have for Twitter success?

Comments

  1. Excellent post Jay. I admit, I’ve never put that much thought into my follow strategy but it certainly makes sense.

    I think you hit the nail on the head about the usefulness and expectations for Twitter — there’s simply not enough content in a Tweet to convey a whole heck of a lot of substance, but on the other hand, it’s a heck of a lot easier to rapid fire out several Tweets of short simple ideas than it is to post a blog about everything that comes to your mind! In other words, in my view, Tweets are for simple conversation like cocktail party talk, blogs, LinkedIn, etc. are for more “sit down and visit” kinds of conversation. All in all, each are tools designed for a specific purposes and each having their own strengths and weaknesses, but to be used in an overall system of social media presence. I’ve only been on Twitter since February and I love it as I have already developed some very good relationships through it that have carried over into other areas.

    Now, having said all of that, I think there is something else that everyone needs to keep in mind: their own personality. As I said, to me Twitter is like cocktail party talk — short, quick, intriguing oftentimes, and engaging — which some people aren’t worth a damn at whether in Twitterverse or in a real live social setting. If you just happen to be the kind of person who can’t manage to say anything without offending half the room, even when you’re not trying, I’m not so sure it’s in your best interest to be out interacting even more with people! I’m just sayin’ …

  2. Jay Pinkert says:

    Thanks, Shawn,

    You’re a great example of successful Twitter engagement — You listen, and you share. Curation is a big part of Twitter success. We can’t constantly monitor our RSS feeds, nor seek out and follow everything. So retweets by the people we follow that contain links to long-form content become invaluable.

    You’re right about the toxic tweeters. There are a few bloggers who have successfully extended their troll franchise into Twitter, but they are very few, and not worthy of emulation.

  3. Great post Jay! Your suggestion about being proactive when finding others to follow is important. People often sit back and wait to be followed, then say “This Twitter thing isn’t working for us. We don’t have many followers.”

    I would add:

    Watch the conversations your target markets are having, then follow those with whom they are conversing if they are also of interest to you.

    Find out what the hashtags (#) are for upcoming conferences or online discussions that interest you, and set up columns for them in TweetDeck, or your Twitter management tool of choice. Then RT, converse with the others Tweeting using that hashtag, follow those that make sense, and share when it makes sense.

    One of the practices I started almost immediately when I started in 2008 was to create lists and columns of types of people that appear in their own space in TweetDeck. Then I can prioritize my communication and education. If I only have a certain amount of time to spend, then I head to two specific columns to see what’s going on as they are my priority. If I want to connect locally, I head over to my Indiana and Indianapolis columns….and so on.

    Thanks for sharing, and for allowing me to share.

    Take care.

  4. Jay Pinkert says:

    Nancy,

    I’m so glad you emphasized the “listening” aspect of Twitter. Even if you don’t participate in conversations, there is still great value in monitoring them — an all-in-one real-time competitive intelligence, legal research and early warning system, if you will.

    Dashboard systems like TweetDeck are a HUGE productivity tool, deserving their own treatment. Want to work on a joint post?

  5. This is one of the most useful posts I’ve seen on how lawyers can use Twitter I’ve seen in a long time! Thank you for mentioning me in your post as well. I 100% agree that Twitter should not be your main source of incoming work – that would just be crazy! It should compliment your current strategy.

    One of my favorite uses of Twitter is keeping up to date in my field and networking with like individuals (such as yourself!).

    • Jay Pinkert says:

      Samantha,

      You’re very kind to say that!

      I don’t think we can overemphasize the importance of reconnaissance and networking. The more informed and engaged with issues and people we are, the more valuable we are to colleagues and clients.

  6. Re step 7 don’t forget that following is not the be all and end all. Use of lists may in fact be better than a follow. If you are in a list for a particular category, not only the person who put on on that list will be watching your tweets, but also however many other people follow that list. Better still it may highlight what you are better than being a generic follow back.

    • Jay Pinkert says:

      Thanks your perspectives!

      Fair enough; being listed is an elevated level of approbation/distinction (which I address in Step 5). But why would someone add you to one of their lists but not extend the courtesy of a basic follow?

      If someone won’t shake your hand when you extend it, what’s the basis to believe that the same person is endorsing you through other channels?

  7. Great post, and helpful. I disagree with your timef frame for ‘unfollowing’ people who don’t follow back. If someone is interesting enough to follow in the first place, I’m in for the long term. At some point, perhaps more than a couple of days, they’ll follow back- OR I will get some other benefit from the connection. I’m unaware of any negative affect that comes from following someone who doesn’t follow back. If I’m wrong about that, please let me know.

    Thanks for the excellent post!
    Lucinda Vette

    • Jay Pinkert says:

      Lucinda,

      Thanks for you kind words.

      Bear in mind, none of these rules are hard and fast. This post was meant as a customizable template, not gospel truth 🙂

      I admire your fidelity 🙂 As a statistical/practical matter, if they don’t follow you back within the first few days they likely never will. The chief downside of not periodically culling the non-follow-backs is that your Twitter rankings suffer if you are following significantly more people than are following you back.

  8. Jay,

    Excellent post. I particularly like the 10th suggestion. the fact is that after 3 months you have learned some things and should test some new ideas that you may have picked up from peers or read online. When you have success it is easy to forget to mix it up. I would also like to emphasize that what might work for one personality may not work for another. I know people who spend 80% of there time on Twitter just listening and collecting data. They are not as comfortable as others with the interaction side of it. To each his own.

    • Jay Pinkert says:

      Tom,

      Thanks for your kind words and additional insights.

      I think “Step 1” is the only thing I would regard as prescriptive. As with any marketing tactic, you really have to have a clear plan before you invest time, thought and energy into it. Otherwise, what I tried to articulate was “a” path, not necessarily “the” path. I have great respect for the listeners/collectors. There’s a lot of useful intel to be gleaned from a well-designed hashtag monitoring strategy, for example.

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  1. […] longer, I might reconsider. If you want to learn more about using Twitter as a lawyer, read Twitter for Lawyers: 10 Under-Reported Secrets of Success. I think you will find some valuable ideas […]

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