Thursday, July 21, 2011
Lots of firms have Twitter accounts but few use them and even less use them well. If you're thinking about starting a Twitter account, first ask yourself "who is my audience and what is my goal?"
Level 1: The firm Twitter account
"Our firm has a Twitter account! Follow us to learn all of the great things our firm is doing."
If your Twitter account is self-congratulatory, it will be of little use to anyone. If it equally covers all of the firm's practice areas, you will have a similar problem. Opening a single Twitter account for your firm is taking step into the world of social media, but it is a tiny step with little chance of bringing positive or negative exposure. It is, however, a completely safe play, and represents progress of a sort. (Click here for the complete list of AmLaw 100 Firm Twitter accounts.) If we missed your Twitter account, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Level 2: Practice area (or industry group) Twitter accounts
"Our firm now has separate Twitter accounts to discuss our immigration practice, M&A, environmental and e-discovery practices. Follow these account for specific articles and information relevant to your industry."
Level 2 represents a definite improvement over Level 1. You have created a valuable source of information for others in the industry. You also begin to brand your firm as having expertise in those areas — if, of course, the information you share is timely, relevant and insightful. This helps to build the big firm brand as well, because it shows the firm has multiple areas of excellence.
The downside here is two-fold. First, who wants to talk to a practice group Twitter feed? A key element to social media — as the very phrase implies — is engagement. It is unlikely that anybody will strike up a conversation with an industry-specific Twitter account. Second, who will do the updating? Is this the job of the marketing or knowledge management departments? Do they know the industry well enough to be collecting and sharing the best articles? Wouldn't it be better to have the information updated by the experts within the firm?
Level 3: Attorney Twitter accounts
"You can observe the depth and breadth of knowledge within our law firm by observing the articles and blogs posts shared on the Twitter accounts of our lawyers."
It often is said that social media shouldn't be 100% of one person's job, but rather should be 1% of 100 people's job. This takes coordination and it takes training, but it has the potential to be the most effective use of Twitter by law firms. As lawyers tweet out news and links to articles, they are personally engaging with their audience. This opens opportunities for the individual attorneys to speak at events, write articles and provide comments for major publications. Most importantly, this helps the lawyer build new relationships that she may not have encountered any other way.
The downside is that it requires a high level of trust by the law firm in its lawyers. Some firms allow only partner-level attorneys or those with approval to tweet. My advice to firms is to properly train lawyers to engage appropriately online and then trust them. You trust them to attend cocktail parties without inadvertently revealing client confidences; start trusting them to tweet.
Twitter is only one of many tools available to law firms online. It may not make sense for firms to use it for every practice area, but for certain areas of law it can be a great fit. Areas in which I have seen great results include IP law, e-discovery, venture capital, private equity, start-up and business formation, entertainment law and employment law.
When deciding if a Twitter account makes sense for you, ask these questions
• Are there influential people in my industry using Twitter?
• What about reporters who cover my industry? Reporters from every major publication are using Twitter to find sources for their stories. If your lawyers are already blogging and writing, I highly recommend that they create Twitter accounts to share this material. Twitter presents one more platform to build your reputation.
For more advice about making effective use of Twitter for lawyers, click here.