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Can law firm CMO’s ignore becoming influential on Twitter?

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General Electric, SAP, Salesforce, General Mills, Cisco, Gap, and Dell are just some of the major companies whose CMO’s are taking a center stage on Twitter for the sake of their companies–and their personal brands.

This from Forbe’s Jennifer Rooney (@jenny_rooney) reporting on the most influential CMO’s on Twitter.

It turns out the most influential CMO’s on Twitter are with a “who’s who” of companies that large law firms are representing or want to represent.

But how many of these law firms have CMO’s who are equally influential on Twitter? Or use Twitter in an engaging and effective fashion on a regular basis? Or even use Twitter at all?

Why is it important for CMOs to be influential on Twitter? Per SAP’s CMO Jonathan Becher (@jbecher):

Your level of credibility can improve. As you establish your personal brand, that helps in entrepreneurship or building a business. If you’re a CMO of a large company, you’re in a pretty similar position because you are someone who can articulate the deeper values of a company, including its approach towards innovation, how it is dealing with social or tech change, or how it is handling environmental risks. You’re a leader of the company, and you’re representing the company and how it deals with key issues. And what you end up being able to do is present the company in a more human way because [you’re] a person’s face, not just a logo.

Broadcasting messages is not the measure of influence. As PeerIndex Founder’s Azeem Azhar (@azeem), whose company did the scoring explains, it’s engagement.

What matters is whether when Beth Comstock speaks, do other people engage with her, and who are the people engaging with her?” What’s valuable is the earned engagement that a person gets when active on Twitter, and that’s often predictive of the engagement they will get in the future. “We are measuring the fact that Beth is respected widely, and we can demonstrate that by the level of engagement.

Companies and brands have a difficult time being human because they’re not, per Azhar.

The point is, people like people. So if you’re a brand and you need to become more conversational in your interactions on social, you do that, but there’s a limit that you can’t get past. So Brand X coming out and saying, ‘Here’s our 30-year view on innovation’—that’s just a press release. If the CMO stands up and says, ‘Here’s how we’re going to adjust our company moving forward’—people can believe in that. There we can see a leader, we can see a champion. That’s where humans beat brands.

I understand law firms are limited in what they can discuss and who they may be able to engage on Twitter. But there is no limit in putting a human face and voice behind a law firm.

Social is not going away. You can not get away with “I don’t have the time, I don’t get it, or we’re a law firm, it’s different.” Heck, that sounds like ignorance to people, including your clients and prospective, who understand social.

If you’re like most law firms you have initiatives under way to empower the lawyers to use social. How do you lead such initiatives when you’re not even using social? You’re just undermining the credibility of less senior people in your department leading the charge on social.

Ignoring social, including Twitter, is turning off a means of communicating with clients, prospective clients, lawyers in your firm, and your team. Social is revolutionizing how we engage and connect others (who are heavily using social). Social is every bit as real and important as a cell phone.

Law firm CMO’s need not become influential on Twitter overnight. It takes time. It takes following and learning from other professionals and business leaders who are effectively using Twitter.

But law firm CMO’s ought to use Twitter to help put a voice behind the firm’s brand and to remain relevant and connected to clients, prospective clients, the firm’s lawyers, and the business community as a whole.

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