Have you heard of Twitter yet? Perhaps not. And hopefully not, as this post is intended to explain one of the latest web-tools on our collective horizon.
What you should know is this: Politicians in the current US election are levering it, news outlets like CNN & Canada’s CBC are offering headlines that can be mixed into your reading stream, and companies like Southwest airlines are using it to interact with customers & take feedback.
It’s widely considered the fastest growing tool of web influence, and will at some point have a trickle down effect for the legal industry.
Giving you a finite definition of Twitter is tricky. It’s use varies greatly, and depends a lot on the individual user. Technically, Twitter is considered a micro-blogging tool. It’s just like regular blogging, but with one significant rule change. After logging in, you are faced with the question “What are you doing?”, and just like a blog you can share exactly what you’re doing, feeling, thinking, reading – but all in less than 140 characters of entry space.
In terms of the options available for legal web marketing, Twitter – or micro-blogging tools generally – is the shortest method of discourse we’ve seen to date. If e-books & web-distribution of publications are at the longer discourse level, and regular blogs are sitting somewhere in the middle, then Twitter obviously at the far end (short-end?) of our continuum.
So what can you do in such a short space? Actually, quite a bit. Think: chat & discussion, link exchanges, debate, endorsement, or public critique. It’s a big dinner table conversation with peers that you get to choose. The format is also mobile friendly, which in my view, has had a substantial impact on the site’s growth.
With Twitter, like most forms of web marketing, the value is found in the big picture & the cumulative effect of using it as but one piece of the web-lawyer’s marketing toolbox. The selling point I regularly harp on – exposing one’s practice & expertise online – continues to have a big part to play, even though I don’t see Twitter as a replacement for the personal blog. Rather, when used together, the personal blog & twitter become a very powerful tandem.
The other point to get is this: Micro-blogging is as much akin to the discussion at the bar after the conference, as it is to seeing the presentation earlier in the day. Blogging success is predicated on having a strong social network (and please, when you hear SN, don’t think Facebook – think relationships!), and in turn, Twitter drives both interest in the ideas you write about, and extends exposure with an after-post discussion.
Putting my web marketer’s hat on for a moment, the value can also be seen in those exchanges leading to further blog-to-blog discussions, ensuing links, and ultimately, better rankings in the search engines because of authentic exchanges, information seeking behaviour, and discussion.
If you’ve looked at Twitter and just don’t get it? You’re not alone. Looking at any one author’s contributions, it’s tough not to call it drivel. The turning point for many is to recognize Twitter for what it truly is – pure personal reaction. That reaction can run the gamut, from academic & insightful, to casual & silly, and at times drivel.
However, I don’t think I’m alone in seeing marketing value in this type of personal reaction. At the very least for understanding & gauging reaction, and at the most, partaking in the process. Reaction is one of the most human elements possible within the online experience. That it exists, and is being documented, continues to have a huge impact for all types of marketing. Twitter is simply the latest example.
Some Quick Tips for Testing Twitter:
- First thing to do after signing up is to build a follow list.
- Check out the follow lists of of others. Chances are they already have done the work for you.
- Click on the follow button next to their profile picture, or at the top of their profile page.
- Can’t think of anyone? Feel free to follow me. I’m happy to reciprocate.
- Other legal-types on the twitter (b)leading edge: Kevin O’Keefe, David Lat, Carolyn Elefant, Dennis Kennedy, Brett Trout, Tom Mighell, Rick Klau, Connie Crosby, Simon Fodden, Denise Howell, Matt Homann, Rob Robinson, Grant Griffiths, Rob Hyndman, Doug Cornelius, Susan Cartier Liebel, and Rush Nigut, to name only a few.
- Use the @ symbol followed by the user name (as in @stevematthews) to respond to individual messages, or tweets.
- Smile and act like you’re having fun.