Dear Boomers: Twitter Works, You’re Just Not Doing It Right

Young people these days are pretty tech savy.  It’s not hard for us, we grew up around this stuff.  It’s hard for us to understand life without it.  It’s also tough for us to understand why some people don’t get it.  There are two common misconceptions floating around in the legal profession about technology, and here they are:

1.  According to Larry Bodine, Twitter is not an effective marketing tool.
2.  According to Scott Greenfield, blogs don’t really bring in business for attorneys.

My simple reply to both posts is this:  if Twitter and Blogs are not working for you- you’re doing it wrong.

Lets start with Twitter.

Larry Bodine shared a bunch of Twitter statistics in his recent article: Twitter Not Effective for Law Firm Marketing.  Among them he shared that in April 2009 Twitter had more visitors than LinkedIn, Digg, or even NYTimes.com– but nobody really pays attention to that statistic.  The only statistic they pay attention to is this one: 60% of Twitter users drop out after one month, according to Neilsen Wire.

What does a 60% drop mean in practical terms?  It means that of the 10 million plus people in the US who joined Twitter since March, 2009- as few as 4 million new users are still twittering.  4 million in two months is still pretty significant growth- and the growth just continues, so what’s the problem?  What Larry Bodine is trying to suggest with this statistic is that Twitter is a fad that won’t be around in a few years.

So why are Facebook, LinkedIn, and Plaxo all trying to imitate the simplicity of the Twitter feed?  Twitter succeeds at one thing better than any of the other social networking sites- it encourages sharing good ideas, good questions, and good articles with people outside of your existing network.  This leads to building relationships with like minded people, and I have seen it first hand. Whether Twitter survives or not is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned, because the successful aspects of Twitter will survive in one form or another.

Larry Bodine said about Twitter, “I have seen few conversations that lead to new business.”  But Larry, Twitter is not about closing deals, its about building relationships.  Thanks to Twitter I have found half a dozen paying clients, made connections that led to real life conversations with thought leaders like Kevin O’Keefe, Ed Scanlan, Alexis Neeley, Gini Dietrich and even Scott Greenfield.  There have been so many amazing people that have become great friends- and I met them all through Twitter.  If it wasn’t for Twitter, I never would have been quoted by the the Wall Street Journal, ABA Journal, or Abovethelaw.com, nor would I have been invited to host Blawgreview.   So yeah, I think there is something to this whole “Twitter” thing.

Should Twitter be a large part of a firm’s marketing strategy?  Probably not. Should it be a part of the marketing mix?  Certainly. It has a unique ability to bring strangers together- and it costs nothing.

Now for misconception 2:  Blogs don’t bring in Business for Attorneys

Scott Greenfield, in competition for the Grumpiest Boomer on the Internet (“GBI”) has had great success in building a thriving blog.  He has a gigantic readership, and tons of online accolades.  But he has one small problem according to his site-it doesn’t bring him any business:

Have I gotten a ton of inquiries because of this blawg?  You betcha.  Have these inquiries turned into clients?  Nary a one.  I get disorderly conducts from Des Moines, whiners from Wisconsin and free-riders from Fredonia.  I can’t tell you how many people call to ask me to represent them for free because of this blawg.  Woo hoo!  You want a piece of that action?  Let me know and I’ll send them all over.

My message to Scott is a simple one- you might want to adjust your strategy.  You could easily build into your blog a referral service, a capture mechanism, or use any number of other tools to actually bring in business.  You just haven’t designed your site for that purpose.  Scott reports to have thousands of viewers to his blog each day, but NO buyers.  Can you imagine a WalMart that had thousands of people walk through the store- without ever buying anything?  That’s what happens on Scott’s blog, and why? He hasn’t designed it to bring in referrals or to convert traffic into clients. So don’t listen to him claiming online marketing doesn’t work just because he isn’t doing it right.

The most common misconception about blogs is that if you create original content and bring in traffic, then people will hire you.  Getting them to your site is only half of the equation.  Your site needs to hook them the moment they arrive.  Most websites or blogs fail to generate business because they have no hook.  The creators of the blogs are thinking like lawyers and not like prospective clients.

My generation sees technology like blogs and Twitter as just another tool.  Twitter brings in traffic, blogs provide the hook, and then talented professionals have an opportunity to close the deal.  Its not that complicated, but then again, I grew up with this stuff.

To read more details on why social media is so important for law firms, click here for a free copy of the Rainmaker Alert

Comments

22 Responses to “Dear Boomers: Twitter Works, You’re Just Not Doing It Right”

  1. Nicole Black says:

    Great post Adrian. And, great points–especially the idea that Twitter is just part of the evolution of social media. It’s not the end all and be all and something else will certainly follow.

    But smart lawyers will ride each new social media wave and take advantage of the opportunities that each platform offers. If you don’t take the time to comprehend and utilize the social media platforms now available, you’ll never have a good grasp of the platforms to come and you’ll be left behind.

    Ignoring technology and social media is not an option. And deriding social media platforms that you utilize to promote the very posts that attack the platform is befuddling at best and disingenuous at worst.

    Twitter is a precursor of things to come. Bottom line: lawyers need to understand it, even if they don’t use it.

  2. Adrian, excellent point about Twitter not being used to closed deals. It’s about building relationships and people still need to close deals, not technology. Love it.

  3. Adrian –

    I think you miss the point. These are communications tools. They don’t have to be about marketing. I think Scott Greenfield writes his blog because he likes to, not because it generates business for him. That is certainly why blog, tweet and use other online tools.

    Personally, I think online tools are oversold for lawyer marketing and undersold for connecting with peers. Most lawyers and legal professionals I talk to get much more enjoyment using these tools as ways to stay connected with other lawyers. Any marketing or business development is a side benefit.

    • admin says:

      Exactly, Twitter, blogs, and LinkedIn are communication tools. You can use them for all kinds of things. Scott doesn’t try to use his blog to bring in business, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work- or that he is unsuccessful. He is accomplishing exactly what he wants to with his blog.

      You want to use Twitter and technology to connect with peers? Great. I like to use it for building relationships that are essential to my business. These are all tools that can do a million things with, so lets not try to put an imaginary limits on them.

  4. I need to echo what Adrian puts down. My company uses Twitter and Facebook to market my brother Fernando Varela, who is a singer. However, we also do very traditional marketing for him as well. The point is that we have been able to craft our social media strategy to build relationships for Fernando, but to also sell his CDs and his iTunes music. I am absolutely convinced that Fernando’s #1 song on iTunes, “Por ti volaré,” has been #1 for 6 months running because of social media. In the end, everyone needs to find the right way to bring people to their corner of the Internet world. It cannot happen automatically and it takes months and months of trial and error. But once you find your way, social media marketing is the most cost-effective way to grow my company’s record label and I would never turn back.

    • admin says:

      It helps that your brother Fernando is an insanely talented singer. Social media only works when you have something powerful to offer. It needs to be quality, and the message spreads because people like to pass along the good stuff. From a cost stand point you are absolutely correct, it levels the playing field when anybody that produces quality can get attention.

  5. John Infante says:

    Doug,

    Why are connecting with peers and online marketing mutually exclusive? Go back to the archetypal small town general practicing lawyer. He has to join the Elks Club, sit on the Chamber of Commerce, be seen at the coffee shop or bar, etc. He’s not sitting there selling to everyone, but he has to make those connections to get business. The legal industry is still (at least partly) a referral-based industry, so building relationships is marketing.

    And to both Doug and Adrian, I think saying online marketing isn’t working for Scott Greenfield is wrong. It’s not that it’s not working at all, it’s just that he’s not getting the business he wants. His blog is really effective marketing . . . for a market he wants nothing to do with. That should lead to the conclusion that this could be tweaked to be better rather than it should be thrown out because it doesn’t work.

  6. shg says:

    While I’m not sure I deserve to be called Grumpiest Boomer on the Internet, I will graciously accept the accolade nonetheless. Thank you. Thank you very much.

  7. A successful lawyer constantly “markets.” Lawyers just do not want to call it that. It sounds cheap. Like ambulance chasers. The law is a profession and as such lawyers prefers terms like “referrals” because the referral process itself implies something more tasteful and dignified. But to have referrals, you need contacts with lawyers and non-lawyers. Regardless how long one has been practicing, the trick to rainmaking is quality contacts. So can Twitter generate referrals?

    Twitter is not free. It can (like surfing the web) consume a huge portion of a lawyer’s (non-billable) time. I believe Twitter has the potential to attract clients, but at what ROI? The first day I was on twitter I reached a potential client (practicing commercial law, I could not assist her with family law issue, so I referred her to someone I thought could). I don’t particularly care if there are billions of people twittering. Can twittering generate for me a quality audience not just a large audience? Useless are labels such as generation y or boomers. What is the socioeconomic demographic of a twitterer (or more important, those that follow me)? Do Twitterers have money? Are they entrepreneurs? Are they criminals in need of legal counsel? And can I attract them? Are they just interested in music or mindless banter? And do I attract them with my message (i.e., content)? Then, again, perhaps that does not matter either. The penniless Twitterer may know someone that needs a good lawyer.

    The real issue is what is twitter’s ROI?

    • admin says:

      I wish I could give you some substantial case studies and ROI data on Twitter, but it’s really too early to tell. The big question is, what will the online landscape be a year from now? Its really hard to tell, the marketing landscape has already changed substantially just from 6 months ago.

      I can’t imagine any reason to avoid the latest technology, and some may wait until all the quantitative data is out there, and that is their choice. I think there is an advantage to taking bold action and getting there first though. As Paul Lippe said, the firms that innovate first will be positioned as if they were the first law firm in Shanghai. Not a bad place to be.

  8. Kudos on this great post. At the risk of being redundant, it is about using it correctly – correctly as defined by your purpose for being on it in the first place. And it is just one tool of many to be considered when marketing. But many I know truly enjoy the connectivity and in large part with peers. I can’t tell you how many times I have referred business or been asked who I know to handle business and these lawyers are not even involved in social media. This is simply the blogosphere’s version of the Chamber of Commerce. Use it and enjoy it as such. And limit your time using it the same as you would limit your time at a Chamber meeting.

  9. Of course marketing and connecting with peers are not mutually exclusive. I focus on the motivation for using any tool.

    If a lawyer starts blogging or using twitter solely as a marketing tool, they will probably be disappointed. As David points out, there is a lot of time involved. As he and Admin point out, it is hard to calculate the ROI. You may be better off spending your valuable time and resources on other marketing efforts.

    However, if you love writing about your profession and connecting with others who do also, then these are wonderful tools. You get to think about your job for a little while each day instead of just doing your job. You get to find other thoughts on the subjects that interest you. This will help develop your expertise and help showcase your expertise. A by-product will be that you are marketing yourself. But that is the by-product, not the reason for doing it in the first place.

    The only person guaranteed to read your writing is you. So you have to make it interesting for yourself. Focus on your passion and your expertise for success.

  10. Ann Abell says:

    Adrian,
    I think your addressing of the benefits of using Social Media tools for lawyers is great. I have read both posts you refer too, among others, who all question the validity, professionalism, and usefulness of social media for the legal industry. I agree that social media can be an amazing tool for a law firm collectively and lawyers independently to use in a variety of ways. In fact I found my lawyer for business through the firms utilization of social media. I was awed and impressed with their forward thinking. http://www.hcmmlaw.com

    But….Your title of the post completely through me off. I disagree with numerous bloggers who argue any generation besides Gen X and Gen Y are social media savvy. That generalization is ALL wrong. In fact I am a Gen X who did not discover social media until 2 years ago though a Babyboomer boss. Several of my clients request training for their younger staff (Gen Y and Gen X) who don’t “get” social media. Meanwhile it’s the babyboomer bosses who are excited about social media uses. Most of the top Tweeps, bloggers are all Babyboomers or Gen. Jones. @chrisbrogan @thebrandbuilder @guykawasaki @neenz @gerardmclean @iron100

    None of these folks are of Gen Y or Gen X…..they are all accomplished Babyboomers who embrace social media everyday. Might want to rethink about who is using social media the most…..in fact, babyboomers are the fastest growing number of users.

  11. Strongly agreed.

    My nephew is in his twenties and is experiencing much success with social networking to attract and build relationships with prospects for his camp where he coaches athletes to get bigger, stronger and faster.

    Myself on the other hand is learning but at a much slower rate.

    It seems that boomers are having to go through a learning curve with the whole online marketing thing. I can certainly testify to it!

  12. I absolutely agree that social media offers many benefits. When I started my first blog, I intended to provide information about how to avoid disputes in home renovation projects as a public service. I was incredibly surprised when clients started contacting me because they found me through the blog. My second blog was created with the goal of being the one-stop shop for the Massachusetts construction industry. I want builders to view my blog as a great resource.

    I have formed some great relationships through Twitter and have used it to learn as much as I can about trends in green construction, value billing and law practice management. When a student was shot at my son’s university, Wesleyan, I used Twitter to keep apprised of what was happening. In addition, I provided updates from my son to others who were concerned about events at the campus. So, Twitter provided an incredibly supportive outlet as well.

    If you aren’t using social media you are depriving yourself of a number of different kinds of opportunities. Social media is making me a better lawyer because I am up to date on current issues (Chinese drywall for example), as well as trends in the practice of law.

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