Twitter’s growth is continuing at last year’s super-linear rate. The number of unique visitors using Twitter has grown from 40 Million in May of 2009 to over 80 Million in May of this year.

Growth Twitter in Unique Vistors

Lawyers holding on to the belief that Twitter is not a powerful professional and business development tool are misguided. Twitter is ubiquitous among the influencers of your clients and prospective clients — bloggers, publishers, reporters, association leaders, and conference coordinators.

And though it doesn’t matter if your clients ever use Twitter for Twitter use to lead to business development success, Lawyers will find innovative clients and prospective clients among regular Twitter users — executives, in-house counsel, venture capitalists, and local business people.

Lawyers can use Twitter in multiple ways (I’m missing many).

  • Share news of interest with your target audience (clients, prospective clients, referral sources, and the influencers of those three). Read how lawyers can serve as an intelligent agent on Twitter.
  • Following leaders in the law, media, academia, business, and finance on Twitter is tremendous for professional development. I was told to follow advance sheets and bar publications when I began practicing. Twitter gives you better info in a more timely fashion. Social media and the Internet are not all about marketing, they’re powerful learning tools for lawyers looking to get better at what they do.
  • Building relationships with clients, prospective clients, and their influencers. Sharing what you’re learning from news and commentary in blogs and mainstream media and re-sharing what influencers are sharing on Twitter reinforces your client’s belief that you’re the right lawyer and builds an intimate relationship between you and people you may have never met.
  • Builds trust. People who follow what you share on Twitter and those who see what you share because it is re-tweeted view you as a trusted news source. It’s a small step from being trusted for legal insight and commentary to being called when someone has a legal need, a reporter needs to talk to an expert, or a conference coordinator is looking for a speaker.
  • Building a network to call upon. There’s no way I could have found five or six social media policies in 15 minutes while sitting in a coffee shop in Rockefeller Center without asking my Twitter network.

Larry Bodine recently blogged that Twitter may be unlikely to go ‘mass market’ as only 7% of people use Twitter. If his point was that Twitter does not offer significant business development value for lawyers and law firms, he’s misguided.

Lawyers and law firms have spent billions of dollars in public relations and business development efforts to reach a select group of people — often influencers.

No one found it alarming that only a fraction of a percent of the public had AP subscriptions, had a printing press, or put on Industry conferences. You built relationships with the people who did as they helped build the reputation of you and your firm.

I’d be more apt to follow the counsel of Betsy Munnell, a large firm attorney of 25 years and now business development coach. Munnell explained why a senior lawyer ought to use Twitter, including how Twitter’s unsurpassed as learning tool.

…Twitter is an unparalleled filter for the massive, unwieldy worldwide web, vastly superior to Google Alerts, blog composites and the like. So I get all my news, and a lot of good ideas, off Hootsuite [Twitter web app] and the reliable links my super bright Twitter friends provide.

It’s easy as a lawyer to discount those things you don’t understand and have not used effectively. Don’t do it to Twitter, it’ll be your loss.

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  • Kevin, I agree. Twitter might evolve in to a completely different tool in years to come, but what is important is the act of becoming informed enough to use it in the manner you suggested above. I have learned more in the past few years because of the information, articles, posts and comments posted on Twitter than I had in the previous 5.
    Another great use is to track your clients’ and potential clients’ activity. When I started with a new law firm client the week before last, I immediately set up a search column in TweetDeck to watch any mentions about them. I also have a Social Mention alert set up that will email once a day to let me know where they are mentioned in Social Media. This allows me to stay much more informed about what they are doing, as well as to help make informed comments and decisions on their behalf. I can also made recommendations to them about what they are saying, and how they are saying it, in Social Media, which is what they expect me to do.
    Nice post…thanks.

  • Good catch Nancy, missed that one — following people, firms, and subjects by Twitter search. Easy to do on Tweetdeck or Twitter mobile edition on iPhone etc.
    Lawyers/business development professionals can set up searches for key clients’, prospective clients’, and key influencers’ names. You’ll see them being mentioned even if they are not using Twitter.

  • Great content, thanks for sharing

  • Interesting and timely topic. My colleague, Jason Milch was just quoted in Chicago Lawyer about this very subject. It’s a great read:
    I think attorneys consider Twitter a Catch-22. They know they should be tweeting, yet at the same time, recognize that there are risks involved. However, Twitter is constantly evolving. At this point, I almost consider it a wire service and Nancy is right about suggesting it be used as a tool. Attorneys should be following organizations, competing firms and attorneys, clients and potential clients…even if they aren’t tweeting themselves.

  • Everything’s a risk Shannon. To concede to a lawyer’s fears that there is risk in Twitter is short sighted on the part of anyone advising lawyers on the use of Twitter.
    Phones have risk. Letters have risk. Email has risk. Cars have risk. Yet no one goes around talking about the rsiks and dangers of these things used by lawyers as professional and business development tools.
    Rather than cater to lawyers’ fears, usually as a means of getting work from the lawyers, why not tell the lawyers to wake up and get over it?
    The world is changing and is not going to wait for lawyers who don’t want to educate themselves so as to realize that things like Twitter are not that scary or dangerous.

  • Kevin, I completely agree with you. I just think it may take a little longer for the legal community to latch on. But I do recommend Twitter and advise that by not being a part of the conversation in any regard, you are missing the boat. I was merely stating my opinion on how I think Twitter is perceived by attorneys. But I 100% agree that they should be using it.