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Big debate whether Twitter works for client development is much a do about nothing

It’s foolish to argue whether legal professionals can use a social media tool such as Twitter for effective client development when many lawyers and other legal professionals are already doing so. Twitter’s just a tool, among many other social media and networking tools.

If Twitter fits within your client development strategy, you’ve figured out how to use Twitter to brand yourself as an authority, and to engage your target audience so as to build relationships, that’s great. If Twitter doesn’t fit within your client development strategy, you don’t understand it, you think Twitter’s a waste of time, and other tools work better for your client development, that’s great too.

I practiced law in rural Wisconsin. I had a couple of lawyer friends who curled for fun, and for client development. Yes, shuffleboard on ice with team members, a rock, and brooms. They spent hours on weekends curling and even traveled to curling tournaments around the state and country.

These lawyer curlers built relationships with curling bankers, insurance adjustors, and business owners through curling. They told me how they got legal work from these relationships built through curling.

What’s the chance these two lawyers would quit curling for client development if I told them curling was a waste of time, that interest in curling was on the decline, that most people who started curling quit, it takes too much time, and that 80% of the conversation taking place while curling was mindless babble unrelated to the law and business?

I didn’t curl. Didn’t understand it as a client development tool. And couldn’t imagine ‘wasting that much time.’

But I sure didn’t call those two lawyers out for telling me and others that curling works for client development. I didn’t go on an anti-curling campaign to save any Wisconsin or Minnesota lawyers who were thinking of curling for fun and client development.

A couple years ago I was much like Larry Bodine. I saw little value in something called Twitter which allowed one to share ‘what they were doing now’ in short 140 character blurbs. ‘My cat just rolled over’ was not the makings of client development as I saw it.

In speaking engagements before legal professionals I wouldn’t even let on that I had a Twitter account for fear people would think less of me.

Two years later, like many business leaders, lawyers, reporters, publishers, and association leaders, I see Twitter as a powerful branding, relationship building, and research tool.

On the branding side, I agree with venture capitalist and author, Guy Kawasaki, that Twitter is the most powerful branding mechanism since television.

We’ve all been a witness to Twitter’s unparalleled growth.

  • Ranked as one of the 50 most popular websites worldwide.(Alexa)
  • Fastest-growing member community website, growing at six times the rate of Facebook in February. (Nielsen)
  • Third most used social network with six million unique monthly visitors. (Compete.com)

Many legal professionals and I discovered how to use Twitter for client development. We’re building meaningful relationships with our target audience of clients, prospective clients, referrals sources, and influencers of those three (bloggers, reporters, publishers, conference coordinators, and association leaders).

We’re not spending too much time on Twitter, we’re having fun using Twitter, we’re using Twitter for client development, and we’re getting clients as a result. See:

  • Blog post listing sample of Twitter client development success stories from lawyers and legal professionals.
  • Blog post on Twitter for client development for lawyers by being an intelligence agent.
  • Lance Godard’s Twitter interviews with practicing lawyers, many of whom use Twitter for practice and client development.

There’s no time here to detail how we use Twitter in a smart, strategic, and time effective fashion. I’ve regularly blogged, spoke, and done webinars on the ‘how to’s’ of Twitter for client development. Other seasoned lawyers and well respected legal professionals have done the same. (See Heather Milligan’s blog posts on Twitter as one example)

All of us sharing how Twitter works were driven by our desire to help other legal professionals, not by, if you buy the Bodine argument, a vast conspiracy to see that American lawyers waste their time on mindless babble.

What of the many lawyers and business people registering for Twitter who didn’t keep using Twitter? Welcome to the world of technology and Web 2.0 applications. Millions of people register for social networking websites and other Internet applications and stop using them.

Naysayers dissing technology is nothing new. It’s recognized sport in the legal profession which hangs on to the past like grim death.

Many lawyers believed the use of a phone in rendering legal services was unprofessional and, of course, unethical. A small group of radical lawyers decided to use the phone, probably for perceived mindless babble.

When I began to teach lawyers how they could use blogs for client development, you’d have thought I killed someone. ‘What a waste of time. No one reads them, especially a lawyer’s target audience. They take too much time. Over 50% of people who start blogging, stop blogging.’

I heard it all. Like many things, I knew I was onto something, if for no other reason, because of the resistance I was meeting.

I may have brought out the anti-Twitter crowd by championing Twitter’s use by lawyers. I may have provoked them further by pointing out what they didn’t understand when they dissed Twitter. By arguing the merits of Twitter for client development on an ongoing basis I may have even created a forum for the naysayers to draw attention to themselves.

I’m sorry. I was just trying to help lawyers the best way I knew how.

For now, can’t we agree that many lawyers and legal professionals are effectively using Twitter for client development? It makes no sense to tell others that’s not possible and that to learn to use Twitter like these professionals is a waste of time.

Note: A copy of this post is included in a thread at LegalOnramp began by OnRamp CEO, Paul Lippe, entitled ‘Bodine v. O’Keefe re Twitter and other Social Media.’ Legal OnRamp is social network for in-house counsel and invited outside lawyers and third party service providers.

  • http://blog.jparkhill.com Jay Parkhill

    Yup, Twitter is one tool among many. Works for some, not for others. That’s about all there is to it.

  • http://www.myrlandmarketing.com Nancy Myrland, Myrland Marketing

    Kevin, great post as always.
    Regarding those who have been, or currently are, skeptical…I’m hoping Larry Bodine soon blogs about our conversation at the LMA Midwest conference.
    At the opening reception, I was talking to Larry and another legal marketer about the business use of Twitter, which I can, and do, talk about for hours. Larry asked good questions about how one connects with those who are already having conversations. The next day he told me that, after our discussion, he had an epiphany about Twitter and its effectiveness in developing relationships. I’m not sure if “epiphany” was the exact word he used, but it was something similar if not. I keep hoping he will blog about our conversation, and about his revelation, in order to further the discussion with others who are seeking advice, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Larry?

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Interesting Nancy. Perhaps Larry believes in the mantra ‘There’s No Such Thing As Bad Press’ so long as you get your name in the news. If nothing else Larry sure has drawn attention to himself by incessantly bashing Twitter as a client development tool for lawyers.

  • http://twitter.com/DisabilityGuy Steve Butler

    Great post Kevin. In my opinion, it is important for attorneys to take advantage of any free marketing available to them. It is free to setup a Twitter account, and it only takes minimal time on a daily basis to have meaningful interactions with others. My use of Twitter has increased traffic to my website at least 25%, and Twitter is always among the highest direct referrer to my website.
    When comparing the cost of setting up profiles on Lawyers.com and Findlaw, to the time commitment of Twitter, I definitely believe the investment is worth it. The interactions I have on Twitter are much more valuable than any interaction that occurred from previous online advertising with Findlaw.
    The lesson that I think attorneys should take out of this, is that free exposure is good. Use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to increase your web exposure for free. Drive traffic to your website and build your reputation, and business will follow.

  • http://www.compliancebuilding.com Doug Cornelius

    Kevin -
    Good points, but have to say Twitter by itself is probably not very useful for client development. I think you should have a rich online bio, LinkedIn page and blog before you invest time in Twitter.
    But your curling analogy is a great one. I would guess that those lawyers were curling because they liked the sport and the people they played with. Client development was merely a by-product.
    My statement elsewhere that “Twitter is Toy” goes exactly to that point. You should use Twitter if you like the social interaction, the platform and the way it works. There are already too many Twitter accounts that merely spit out boring marketing pitches.
    Certainly, client development could come from using Twitter. But that should not be the main reason for using it. You’re likely to be very disappointed.

  • http://kevin.lexblog.com Kevin OKeefe

    Agree Doug, I’m not sure any one thing by itself is useful for client dvelopment. Even the phone and email fall into that category. ;)
    But like other things, Twitter can be an effective client development tool for those who understand how to use it.

  • http://blog.larrybodine.com Larry Bodine

    To Nancy Myrland:
    I noticed that you wanted me to blog about our conversation about Twitter at the LMA Midwest Conference.
    I did.
    ——————————
    “Lincoln v. Douglas I — Bodine v. O’Keefe re Twitter and other Social Media
    Sep 26 2009 16:01:29
    Nancy Myrland, a Twitter aficionado who tweets 20 times a day, explained how she meets people via Twitter. Nancy is a friend who is a professional marketing advisor in Indianapolis.
    She uses Tweetdeck to follow and isolate people whom she really wants to know, and segregates the time-wasters. Then she looks for conversations back-and-forth, and selectively joins one. Next she directly contacts one of the participants with the “@” reply feature or the direct message feature. That’s the start of the relationship, which then can be pursued via Twitter, email, telephone or in person.“
    ——————————
    I blogged this on Legal OnRamp, at http://legalonramp.com/index.php/Lincoln-v.-Douglas-I-Bodine-v.-O-Keefe-re-Twitter-and-other-Social-Media.html
    The “debate” on Twitter was taking place on Legal OnRamp. For the record — I didn’t start the debate. Paul Lippe created the topic and invited both Kevin and me to participate.
    I echo Kevin, “I’m sorry. I was just trying to help lawyers the best way I knew how.”
    Larry