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.

  • Hi Kevin! I believe the two are social networking platforms and should be used as a communication/networking tool. Each platform has its good and bad points, however if used effectively both can have huge influence on your target market.

  • Hi Kevin: I agree that attorneys should use both if they are able to spend the time it takes to participate, listen, follow-up and engage their friends and followers. To listen passively with no involvement with others make for good education tools, but not Social Networking. To build the brand and the expertise you mention takes a bit of effort on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t have to take hours every day, but it does take a commitment to forgetting a bit about oneself and one’s messages every now and then, and focusing on how to converse with others.
    Also, I agree…don’t auto-feed any one site from another. It’s okay to share across multiple platforms at the same time when it makes sense, but not every bit of data you share on one should be fed to the others.

  • No question both are networking platforms, though Twitter can be much more of an information network. As an information network, Twitter is a fabulous tool for professional development – staying up to date and connecting with people who can be sources of knowledge.
    I wouldn’t scare lawyers away Nancy that Twitter and Facebook take a lot of time. I don’t average 5 minutes a day on Facebook over the course of the week and I’m learning a thing or two about it. For a lawyer learning a thing or two about Facebook allows them to connect with people they know and allows them to develop their own feel for Faecbook. You really can’t teach someone how to use something like Facebook, it’s something that becomes apparent with use.
    I’m not real big on engaging and and following up with followers on Twitter, something I’m fairly active on. I try to do my best replying when someone sends me a direct message or an ‘@ message’ asking me a question or pointing something out to me.
    But I don’t have the time for going back and forth with people on Twitter. I’m not even sure that would be a good use of my time if I had the time – it may turn people off. I use Twitter best as a way to share what I am reading elsewhere. I hear from clients and prospective clients that they really appreciate that and are learning a lot as a result.
    Also, sharing niche news allows me to further enhnace my reputation as an authority by transparently showing people I am staying up to speed in my niche. Lawyers doing this have found Twitter works quite well in enhancing their reputation by becoming a trusted source of news and info.
    If your trusted source of news and info started having a lot of side conversations with followers, which conversations did not add value to you, you would be turned off.
    So I’m not big on a lot of chat on Twitter. Maybe I’m all wet on this, but it’s working for me so far.
    On Facebook, I’ll reply to a comment on something I said when I see the comment — and it may be a day or two later even. It seems to be okay — we’re all busy and just connecting on Facebook with people we’ve come to know personally is a positive.

  • Bonnie Sashin

    Kevin, so glad you mentioned the fallacy of autofeeding content on Facebook and Twitter. Social media is about engaging the people with whom you want to build relationships. Autofeeds convey the message that the sender has all the savvy of a sound truck!

  • Bonnie Sashin

    Kevin, so glad you mentioned the fallacy of autofeeding content on Facebook and Twitter. Social media is about engaging the people with whom you want to build relationships. Autofeeds convey the message that the sender has all the savvy of a sound truck!