A new scandal has rocked the blogosphere, Tracy Coenen, long time blogger and Twitter user has quit Twitter forever. She has decreed that Twitter is no good for business development in her recent post “Why I’m quitting Twitter (and you should too)”. The facts are these: over the last two years she has sent over 2,154 tweets, has 2,154 followers and although she brings in substantial business from her blog, she has yet to land a single client directly from Twitter. What’s more, everyone she knows (except for one lawyer) hasn’t brought in much business through Twitter.
In response, Samantha Collier shares her insights at “In Response To: Twitter is a Failure for Law Firm Marketing” where she shares her experience that has been much different. Â Her firm has brought in clients through Twitter and has been able to build strategic relationships as a result. Her firm focuses on IP law, and frankly it may be a much better fit for Twitter than Tracy’s practice. I’m not sure, but one thing is clear- Twitter is not for everyone, in fact in a couple of years we may realize it has far better uses than for marketing (most of us already realize this.)
The two uses of Twitter that strike me are (1) Twitter’s utility to connect people that would never have met otherwise, and (2) the insights that anybody can gain by listening on Twitter and paying attention to the metrics. Â Twitter users realize very quickly that any post that is self-promotional falls flat. Â The information that really gets passed on is information that is true worthwhile. It may be funny, interesting, insightful or just helpful- but good information gets passed along through re-tweets.
A similar pattern is true about email and blogging and any number of forms of electronic communication- but none of them are as transparent as Twitter. Â I don’t Tweet nearly as much as I used to (although I do have over 21,000 tweets), partly because I have discovered that good articles get passed around because they resonate- not because they are shared on Twitter. Tweeting the same article multiple times during the day will effect total click-throughs in a measurable way, but it pales in comparison to what happens when you simply create great content. Â Mark Herrmann demonstrates this far better than I can.
In his recent piece “Empirical Proof that Twitter Doesn’t Work,” Mark shares metrics from his most successful articles. Those articles that had 12,000, 13,000 and 14,000 unique visitors had no measurable help from Twitter. Â While those most “re-tweeted” had far less traffic with around 4,000 hits each. Mark’s conclusion from this is that Twitter is not the engine that drives posts going viral. Â The argument however is faulty logic. Â If you read between the lines, what Mark’s article really proves is that posts that really go viral don’t need the help of Twitter. Â They get passed on the old fashioned way, through email. This makes sense though, doesn’t it? Â Don’t far more lawyers use email than Twitter? (Let’s be honest, 99.9% of lawyers use email) This is evidence of the power of networks to share information, but doesn’t clearly show that Twitter (a tool that by some estimates is used by less than 5% of US lawyers) is not good for generating traffic. Â That’s not to say that Twitter can’t help things along and help very influential people read about it, but email is still the most powerful tool there is in the social media world. (Annoying isn’t it? Like hearing that radio is still the most popular way to listen to music.)
I’m not suggesting lawyers abandon Twitter for email. Lawyers can lean a lot from Twitter. Â Lessons that can really help them with their clients. Â 1. Listen first. 2. Its more important to be interested than interesting (I learned that one yesterday at the CMO Conference from Tara Weintritt) 3. Nobody cares what you had for lunch. 4. Nobody reads boring content 5. The only way to receive on Twitter is by giving and 6. Criminal defense lawyers are much more friendly in real life.
In some ways Twitter has failed to live up to my expectations for it. Â There is no clear formula for success. Twitter requires more than just mechanics, it also requires personality, a sense of humor and the willingness to put yourself out there and start conversations. Â These are not behaviors that come naturally for lawyers. Â Twitter has been a powerful tool for me because I am a natural marketer but also because I am extremely extroverted. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people, and those of you that have met me at conferences see that I sincerely love networking. Â Twitter has just been an amplifier for me of who I am. Rowdy Roddy Piper was once asked if in real life he would break cans on his head and act like his WWF character to which he replied with something along the lines of, I’m still myself, but with the volume turned up. Twitter helps me turn the volume up, if people don’t like it, they can simply un-follow. In my experience it has been an unbelievable tool.
As for Tracy’s experience, I’m not sure she will ever be able to quantify the effect that Twitter has had on her career. Â Her blog has been named one of the Best Accounting Blogs and she is rankedÂ highly in the Google searches. I don’t think she can discount the effect Twitter has had on either of those accomplishments. In addition, she’s been around long enough to know that her headline “Why I’m Quitting Twitter” would be sensational and would be re-tweeted all over the Internet. She may have also predicted that multiple influential bloggers linking to her blog post would raise her blog in the search result rankings. Search engine traffic is something she claims is responsible for 30% of her business, so Twitter may be suddenly having a measurable impact for Tracy. It’s ironic that she may get more traffic from her “Anti-Twitter” post than any other post in recent memory. Why so much attention? Useless old Twitter. Tracy’s breakthrough moment on Twitter, the time when it really pays off for her is just as she shares her last and final post.
Adrian Dayton is the author of the book, Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition and although he is a big fan of Twitter, he will be the first to admit that it’s not for everyone. Â If you decide to stick it out on Twitter, you can find him there @adriandayton
The headline and the article were not meant to be sensational or to create any kind of buzz. The article was done for one reason only: To help all those lawyers and accountants who are struggling with whether or not they should be on Twitter. Nearly every lawyer or accountant I talk to has seen no measurable business results from Twitter, yet feels obligated to stay on it because they might miss out on the big payoff or maybe just a little more time is all they need.
I’ve been in those shoes, so why not short-circuit things and tell them NOW, so they can save themselves a whole lot of time.
It’s also important to note that my measuring stick wasn’t whether Twitter “brought in a client” for me. I was much more generous. I would have settled for Twitter being remotely correlated to any sort of business (with a new or existing relationship). I purposely set the bar low, and would have considered any measurable business impact to be a plus for Twitter.
My Google rankings have NOTHING to do with Twitter, and everything to do with content. I had great rankings prior to Twitter, and the little bit of Twitter activity that has sent people to my site certainly didn’t influence Google. I don’t dispute that Google “considers” Twitter somewhere in its algorithm, I just know it’s not a major factor, especially for my own site.
In closing, even if the traffic to this particular blog post helped me with Google rankings, it would be for search terms that don’t matter to my business. The article is simply informational, for those who care to listen.
Whoa, that was fast.
Thanks for the comment Tracy. My point was not that tweets would help in the Google algorithm, but that people in your industry writing about similar issues would help your search ranking by linking directly to your blog posts. Often these people may have found your blog posts via Twitter. How can you be sure that hasn’t happened?
I keep a good eye on my website statistics, and the lack of traffic originating from Twitter was a big part of my decision to abandon it.
That’s one of my points though, you can’t really tell what traffic comes directly from Twitter or who you influence. If you create a bit.ly or ow.ly link then it doesn’t show that it originated from Twitter.
When I analyzed my traffic, I included all traffic from any URL shorteners as if those were Twitter referrals. Even with those referrals included, the amount of traffic from Twitter was shamefully low.
Great article Adrian. I agree it is hard to quantify what effect Twitter has on rankings/search/etc. And it’s a very good point that a headline like that will increase traffic dramatically!
Writing good headlines, that’s another essential skill for lawyers to learn and Twitter certainly helps teach that as well.
Thanks for the comment and the blog post on the topic Sam.
Great post Adrian. I appreciate that it may not be right for Tracey but I think if used correctly social media can reap powerful rewards.
As for analytics, I know that when I post a link through my @GavWard Twitter account to my website or to a client’s website, there are usually around 30-40 click-throughs within 5 minutes, never mind over the rest of the day. Despite this, my Google analytics account will report only a fraction of this as showing from twitter – to be honest, I think there’s something wrong with the traffic sources section of Google Analytics.
Given that social signals are impacting Google results more and more, I’d strongly recommend that marketing teams from law firms INCREASE not decrease their social media efforts. Nevertheless, even without the blog owner’s own twitter feed, others can still retweet the blog posts, so some of the benefits should still feed through.
Its the same for me Gavin, Twitter always sends a noticeable amount of traffic to my site. My posts are often extremely relevant to social media users, so that may be one difference.
Your conclusion is in many ways the most interesting part of this whole faux controversy. Tracy’s post was textbook red meat link baiting, and she has played it expertly.
Social Media 101 advises bloggers to be controversial from time to time, and all the elements are there in Tracy’s original post, her repost/discussion thread on LinkedIn, and the various comment threads about it seemingly wherever you look this week. She lit the fuse and fanned the flames — Truth teller. Protector of hapless lawyers and accountants from the futility of short-form content and real-time networking. Victim of social media “cool kids.” She even had a chance to slip in a few humblebrags.
A close reading of the original post doesn’t make a very convincing argument against Twitter — not empirical, mostly polemical — and it certainly isn’t the stuff of “thought leadership” — but I don’t think that was really the point.
Tracy’s too accomplished a social media marketer to credibly deny that the headline was not designed to be provocative, and that she didn’t expect the subsequent kerfuffle to generate buzz-driven SEO goodness for her site, and that the involvement of Twitter and its partisans would not play a signifcant role in that. And if she truly didn’t plan for or at least anticipate those outcomes, then she’s not as savvy a social media marketer as she purports to be.
From the original blog post, to the way she merchandized it on LinkedIn, to chiming in wherever it was mentioned on other blogs, this has been a campaign calculated for effect to drive awareness and traffic to her blog. And it worked.
Well done Tracy, and thank you Adrian for calling it out.
Thanks Jay, I’m not sure that it was anything sinister on Tracy’s part- but it was clearly going to bring attention.
I think Tracy’s point is a good one, although it may bring her tons of traffic in the short term, bring her Google traffic in the long run- it isn’t likely to bring her very much targeted traffic. Perhaps that has been her real issue all along, not being able to attract the right type of traffic through Twitter. This is altogether possible, especially if she isn’t following and engaging on Twitter with people that are good potential referral sources for her.
Kirby Tennent said to me on Twitter, “it it sounds like she just went to twitter and did the bare minimum to use it. And got minimum results.” That sounds about right, considering the fact that in the time I have tweeted 20,000 times, she has had only 2,000 tweets.
It will be interesting to hear see if she ends up getting business she can directly measure from this specific post.
That’s my point. That headline and post was clearly going to bring attention, and so it’s either disingenuous or dishonest of an accomplished social media marketer to act surprised or affronted when challenged by informed opinion.
As for Tracy’s original point, I can’t agree that it’s a good one. In fact, it’s a very poor one. Twitter was not designed as a lead gerneration platform — it is first and foremost a short-form social networking platform. While it has been adapted for lead generation purposes — with greater and lesser levels of success — that’s a user-generated modification and not a flaw in the platform’s design. Further, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a massively useful tool for marketing when used as designed. Phillips head screwdrivers are seriously deficient for pounding nails. “Remains of the Day” was a lousy action flick. Twitter is a poor lead generator for professional services, but it’s a massively useful listening and engagement tool. As you say on your website, Adrian, the “secret sauce” of social media is serendipity, and Twitter generates that in spadefuls.
To summarily dismiss Twitter, as Tracy does, as useless for whole professions because it doesn’t do something it wasn’t designed to do demonstrates an unsubtle analysis at best, and willful ignorance at worst.
I’ll give you another example of Tracy’s sloppiness with facts. In her comment above she states, “My Google rankings have NOTHING to do with Twitter, and everything to do with content.” Anyone who has a Google alert set up for their brand name, website or blog can attest that recent tweets frequently feature in those feeds.
Notwithstanding, Tracy’s done professional services marketing a great serivce by surfacing the issue of how wrongheaded and provocative commentary can generate interesting and insightful discussion.
As always, thanks for a thoughtful presentation of your analysis and POV.
I knew you’d speak up for Twitter, Adrian! Well said.
As you know, I love Twitter for the rich professional relationships it has brought to my life (ours included) and the way the people I follow curate the web’s vast informational pool into a lucid, relevant daily information digest. I am totally on top of my legal/business development/social media professional interests for one reason: Twitter and the amazing people I follow on it.
I smile as I read Tracy’s protests that she wasn’t trying to pull an SEO marketing stunt with her article and it’s title — reminds me of a similar post by Larry Bodine a year or so ago about “Twitter is worse than a toy — it’s a waste of time.” This from a man who tweets prolifically (and with considerable value) today.
Thanks Amy, I think marketing and business development people get more out of Twitter than anybody else- but anybody can learn from Twitter.
Larry Bodine has admitted he miscalculated originally and now he is one of the biggest proponents of Twitter.
I’m not going to spend my time trying to convince Jay that I’m not sinister, dumb or both. My original post was not linkbaiting, nor was my posting to LinkedIn. I have participated on LinkedIn and on some blogs because the conversation was interesting. I guess it’s hard for some to believe that I was sharing my experience with lawyers and accountants to help them.
I wonder…. would anyone who wrote a blog post called “Why lawyers and accountants NEED to be on Twitter” be accuse of just trying to get attention, or be called evil, or be called stupid, or be told that it’s wrong of them to share that viewpoint? I doubt it.
Whoa… nobody is calling you evil, but your headline is sensational.
You aren’t being called stupid either, I think Jay’s point was that if you were trying to put together a smart strategy to create a lot of attention your post title would have been a good option. Larry Bodine had a very similar article about 18 months ago as Amy points out. It got him attention because it was sensational. If his article had been, “Why Twitter is Good For Law Firms” it would have likely been read by those who agreed with the premise.
Your article title appeared to be designed to stir up conflict. I trust you when you say that wasn’t your intention, but I can see why others might think you were looking to get traffic from your post and not purely to help out the legal community.