I’m regularly asked by lawyers during strategy calls ‘Should I use Facebook, I’m already on Twitter?’ Of course others ask ‘I have a Facebook account, is there any value to my using Twitter?

Both allow you to share short firm comments and links with friends and followers. But as Benjamin Siscovick, a venture capitalist with IA Ventures, explains, Twitter and Facebook are very different. Each serve unique purposes and provide distinct benefits to their users.

Facebook is all about sharing with friends. Everything about Facebook is oriented around replicating the real-world social graph. In fact, it was Facebook’s early focus on creating ‘trust-communities’ of people who know each other (in it’s formative days at the University level) that distinguished Facebook from other early social networks and set it ahead of the pack. As a result of this focus, when you share and consume content on Facebook you are deliberately doing so with and from a select and contained group of trustworthy friends.

In contrast, Twitter is all about shared interest. Unlike Facebook, the Twitter social graph is not rooted in real-world relationships but rather in real-world interests. I follow people and people follow me because we are interested in similar subjects and we share content that is thoughtful, informative and relevant to each others lives.

Twitter is wide open for me. I follow people who share information of interest to me or whom I want to get to get to know. The result is a personalized information network which I follow for relevant news and commentary as well as a powerful knowledge base I can tap into by asking questions. Doesn’t matter if I personally know the people I follow or not. The value is still there.

It’s the same on the distribution side. Twitter is wide open (not limited to people you already know), something that provides distinct advantages to a lawyer looking to enhance their reputation in a niche area of the law. Per Siscovick:

…Twitter allows one to share content which is personally interesting and relevant with anyone in the world who cares to listen. Compounding its distributive power is Twitter’s Retweet feature which exponentially expands the distribution capacity of a given tweet by allowing anyone to instantaneously share content created by others. In this capacity, Twitter serves as a mechanism through which to form and cultivate ones (increasingly important) digital identify and is a pipeline to plug-in and actively participate in the global online conversation.

I’ve been using Twitter for a few years. By sharing news, information, and commentary on marketing and client development through blogging and social media for lawyers, I have built a good following of lawyers and professionals interested in the subject. The result is an enhanced reputation and relationships with lawyers and other business professionals I could have never dreamed of getting to know.

I’ve been slow to use Facebook, perhaps because I can’t slow down enough to use the Internet for other than business communication. But I’m beginning to enjoy using Facebook to re-connect with friends from school days and relatives. I also enjoy getting to know personally the people I got to know first in a professional business setting – whether we’ve met face to face or not.

Bottom line, there’s value for lawyers in using both Twitter and Facebook. Just make sure you learn how to use them and understand their differences.

Caveat: It goes without saying to those lawyers who understand social media, but neither Twitter nor Facebook should be used to autofeed your content. No one joins Twitter or Facebook to receive that sort of abuse. By doing so, you’re apt to embarrass yourself.