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Legal tweeters respond to recent barbs at Twitter

Legal marketing guru Larry Bodine has ignited an online tempest with his criticism of Twitter, the popular social networking site. In an article on his blog late last month, Bodine, a Chicago-based legal marketing consultant, stated that Twitter is “not effective for law firm marketing.”

“After months of using Twitter, I’ve learned that it is a shouting post for relentless self-promoters, a dumping ground for press releases and advertising, a competition to amass followers, and a target for computer-automated Tweets.  It’s always been a good place to learn what sandwich someone had for lunch and when someone changed a baby’s diapers.  … But Twitter is supposed to be ‘all about the conversation,’ and I see few conversations that lead to new business,” Bodine wrote.

“For business development purposes, it’s time to give Twitter the bird,” he concluded.

Twitter supporters flew into a rage.

They tweeted their disagreement in short (140-character-limit) Twitter messages, flocked to Bodine’s blog with angry comments and squawked about it on Solosez, the ABA’s listserv for solo and small-firm practitioners.

Bodine was prepared for the screeches from Twitter-loving lawyers.

“I expected a complete flame storm, so I wasn’t surprised at all, because [Twitter] is so popular,” he said. “It’s kind of like criticizing the popular kid in high school.”

Several lawyers told Bodine that Twitter had helped them land clients.

“Well, bully for you, but most people don’t [see that],” Bodine responded.

Bodine said he merely compiled research showing Twitter’s ineffectiveness as a law firm business development tool. For example, he said that Twitter:

  • Has a “lackluster” retention rate of 40 percent, with 60 percent of Twitter users dropping out after a month, according to Nielsen Wire.
  • Is the least effective way to boost traffic to your website, according to Marketing Sherpa.
  • Can get lawyers and firms in a lot of trouble in the event of litigation. Click here to read a related article.

In addition, Bodine said, constantly updating Twitter distracts lawyers from proven marketing methods.
“It’s like this: If you’re a lawyer and you’re trying to develop business, you should be meeting people face to face,” he remarked. “You should have a website that’s generating leads, a blog that’s generating calls, all the marketing elements in place.

“If you’ve done all that, and you still have time left over, by all means, do Twitter,” he said.

‘Incredible marketing value’

Susan Cartier Liebel, a Connecticut-based legal coach and creator of Solo Practice University, called Bodine’s conclusions “profoundly ill-advised.”

“There is incredible marketing value on Twitter,” said Liebel. “This has been a boon for solo practitioners who use it effectively.

“Twitter is about conversations,” she said. “I write pieces on my blog. However, if I don’t get my blog out there to other conversations, it’s not going to have any activity. Twitter provides the next step. So, when I post something new, I post it on Twitter and draw traffic to my blog.”

Nancy Byerly Jones, a law practice consultant in Banner Elk, N.C., said that it’s “too early to tell” whether Twitter is effective as a business development tool.

But as a recent Twitter user (@LawBusinessTips), she finds it useful for staying on top of marketing trends and articles.

“The education I get from it, and the quick tips I get, are absolutely helping my marketing efforts because it’s part of my continuing education,” she said. “That in itself is making me more valuable to my clients.”

Great for a beer break

Jim Calloway, head of practice management at the Oklahoma Bar Association, also questioned Twitter’s effectiveness as a marketing tool for lawyers.

“I think you run the risk of a lawyer who is trying to market his practice spending too much time on Twitter because it’s fun, and not enough time speaking to groups and working on his website,” he said.

Although Calloway invites readers to follow him on Twitter @jimcalloway, he said in a recent article for the Oklahoma Bar that content on his blog will likely be more valuable because he can write in longer sentences.

But Liebel, who tweets @SCartierLiebel, said Twitter provides a more instantaneous connection than blogs or websites.

“Because [Twitter] has a personal aspect, you also can flesh out who you are as a human being,” she said.

For example, a lawyer who tweets about being exhausted after finishing a hearing brings “more personality” to Twitter than you would find on a website or blog.

“That’s what it’s all about,” she said. “It’s about getting your name out there, in a different way.

“You have to have a plan for it, and you have to use it effectively,” Liebel said. “I can tell you countless people who have had business from it, but it goes a more circuitous route.”

Despite his criticism, Bodine is on Twitter @LarryBodine. He agreed it has some helpful uses.

Twitter “is great if you want to send a tweet saying, ‘I’m all alone at the airport, and I want to find someone to have a beer with,'” he said. “However, if you want to get a client, Twitter is not going to get a client.”

Questions or comments can be directed to the writer at: nora.tooher@lawyersusaonline.com

2 comments

  1. Although I’m not an attorney, I am a small business owner using Twitter to help grow my business. In a way, I can understand someone coming to the conclusion that Mr. Bodine did. Especially if they are new to it and seldom log into their accounts. It wasn’t until I started monitoring Twitter using a client that let me check in on tweets regularly throughout the day that I began to recognize the power it had to help me grow my business through education and connections.
    Although I haven’t signed a client directly from Twitter, I have gained them from referrals from people I’ve connected with there.
    Twitter is a tool, not a magic wand. And like any other tool, it all depends on the way you use it, how well it works.

  2. Twitter is a great way to keep in touch with your clients/target market, but I agree that professionals in sensitive fields, like lawyers and myself–I’m a mortgage loan officer–have to be aware of every possible impact to what they write. I think in today’s more-and-more impersonal business world, it’s important to use tools like Twitter to lend a “human touch” to your internet image.