It is not unusual for attorneys to want to steer clear of Twitter because many do not understand it. Even though messages can now contain up to 280 characters (increased from 140), many still find this to be too restrictive. However, this is the wrong way to look at Twitter. Its most effective purpose is to serve as a platform for sharing content that resides elsewhere — on your blog, your website, a landing page with a free ebook offer — or content that is authored by someone else that will be of value to your followers.
For attorneys, the pros and cons of engaging on Twitter break down as follows:
Immediacy. With over 47 million Americans on Twitter, it is likely you will find both clients and colleagues there. While you hopefully already employ a monthly e-newsletter to stay in regular touch with your constituency, Twitter offers you the ability to jump on something newsworthy or current and tweet it out immediately, before the news is stale. Grabbing on to a news item that is meaningful to clients and prospects in your area of practice and adding your own spin on it helps you build your authority as an expert in your field and lets you stay in touch on a more regular basis.
Creates promotional opportunities. People following your firm on Twitter are already interested in your firm and what you have to say. This provides you with the opportunity to share news items about the firm — your pro bono work, new partners or associates, opening a new office, honors and awards, a big case you just won, etc.
Ties the personal with the professional. Contrary to popular opinion, most attorneys lead interesting lives and many are quite witty as well. Using your Twitter posts to occasionally showcase your personal side helps you build relationships that go beyond the professional when interests are shared.
Demonstrates leadership. Lawyers in leadership roles at law firms who use Twitter to provide greater transparency into the inner workings of the firm reap the benefits of deepening relationships with clients and colleagues. Using Twitter to engage followers in an ongoing conversation about a topic of interest to clients is thought leadership at its finest when you lead and curate the discussion.
Saying the wrong thing. We’re all human, and no matter how long you have been on Twitter or if you consider yourself a master of the medium, there is always the possibility you may post something that comes back to bite you in the butt. Whether you voice an opinion on a controversial topic that your followers vehemently disagree with, or let something sensitive slip, there is always the potential for putting your foot in your mouth if you aren’t careful.
Saying too much. With the longer character limit, law firm marketers may assume that longer tweets are just as interesting as shorter ones, but that is not usually the case. Many Twitter followers have hundreds of accounts they are following, so your tweets may not be seen. To master this medium, you will need to craft hard-to-resist “teaser” content with links to longer format content.