The Problem with Twitter

TechCrunch published an important post yesterday about the amount of time we invest in Twitter. Using Robert Scoble as an example, this post demonstrates a valuable lesson for everyone. There’s a risk involved when we disproportionately web-publish to another company’s service. The cost is that we increasingly ignore our personal web-publishing efforts.

While this may seem strange coming from the guy who penned Lawyer Marketing with Twitter, the issue is not about twitter, facebook, linkedin or friendfeed. The issue is our ability to create a balanced approach.

Earlier this year, D’Arcy Norman wrote about social network sharecropping. The idea that we are dumping our thoughts, pictures, notable links and relationships into the hands of others. And let’s make no bones about it, that’s what’s happening. When we publish to servers that are not ours, we are giving away control. But at what price?

The issue as I see it, is not that we’re using these services. But rather, that we are participating in an unbalanced way. In the legal sphere, my big concern is for those lawyers are engaging these tools without first having a personal web presence. That’s right, a blog!

Using social networks and social media without a blog to tie these services together, is simply a bad move. Especially for lawyers, who may be starting late in the game, you cannot skip steps. Guess what Connie Crosby did last year when her twitter account was accidentally cancelled? She blogged about it, and more important, she got results! Not having a blog means you are not a player. If you lack that personal publishing presence, that means you don’t have a voice on the modern web. It’s a position of web marketing weakness.

The other problem I see is the ‘no follow’ trend of the big social networks. Most of these services, including Twitter, have cut off the outbound link value of their links, including individual profile pages. That means, while many believe they are contributing quality content to these services and getting a valuable link back to their firm or company website, this is increasingly not the case.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the ‘nofollow’ attribute or link popularity was intended to work. Link popularity is supposed to reward quality content & the people who create it.  Similarly, the ‘no follow’ attribute was created to prevent blog comment spam. But now combined, these two features are used by the big social networks to create black holes of link value. Draw you’re own conclusions here, but either way, the loss of publishing control puts the content creator at a disadvantage. At the whim of a third party, who may delete your account at a moment’s notice, and without recourse.

Now what all this adds up to, is that web publishers should own their own land (ie. websites & blogs). This is an extremely important point for lawyers & law firms. You wouldn’t let an outside company own your firm domain name, right? You protect it! It’s the same lesson here.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t participate in these communities. You should participate! But in a balanced way, and not at the expense of establishing a personal blog. Frankly, twitter without a blog is just playing around. If you are using social media to participate and build a reputation, you need to back it up with some substance. And though some may disagree, my take is that substance frequently requires more that 140 characters.

I understand that blogs are hard work, and that twitter is easier. So what? If you’re going to put hours into this, the last thing you want to do is take the easy way out. As the TechCrunch post says, blogging  delivers those memorable pieces that you (and others!) will refer to for years to come.

It’s an easy equation really. Blog something of value first, and then go chat with your friends about it.


  1. Ryan said:

    You are so correct I see how easy it is to get wound up in twittering and so forth that the real meat of the equation lacks sustenance. Not creating an entire platform to store your hard work, talent and such is an utter waste of time.

    Thank you for the valuable input I will remember these words of wisdom for my entire online career.

    @ 6:17 pm
  2. Great argument, Steve. To prove your point I find that, when someone new follows me on Twitter, I immediately look for a blog link in the profile and look to read that blog for some insight into what that person is all about. Surprisingly, the majority do have blogs, or at least personal or business sites that they link back to. I look for a blog or other website that tells me something about who they are, what they do, and why I would want to connect to them.

    Nobody really develops “thought leadership” in Twitter, but it certainly can be accomplished with a blog.

    @ 7:20 pm
  3. Scott said:

    Very well argued Steve . Had not thought about this much but I agree with connie’s comment

    @ 7:37 am
  4. B.L Ochman said:

    you are so right about not being able to develop a brand on twitter. same as you can’t develop a brand only with a blog. it needs to be a matter of value. and you need to be where the conversation is happening. that means participating not only on twitter, facebook, etc, but also doing what i’m doing now – commenting on blog posts, getting involved in conversations that last more than 140 characters.

    ok, now i gotta go twitter about this post :>)

    @ 7:38 am
  5. @Connie Ditto. No blog, no follow.

    A Twitter tweets allows you to put a headline out there and a blog post allows you to flesh out an idea. Without a blog post, you are playing a big game of “gossip” where your second tweet to clarify your first tweet and your third tweet to clarify your second quickly gets out of hand. Having a blog allows you to engage in a conversation rather than a “shouting match in a crowded bar.”

    Mixing metaphors above, but if you want to get a complete picture of me before responding to this comment or any tweet you may run across from me, visit my blog first. Your retort will appear much more informed and you will appear smarter :-) @gerardmclean

    @ 7:46 am
  6. I agree that the concept of “stop blogging, start Twittering” is bogus. If one really has something to say, ephemeral 140 character posts aren’t a good medium. And while a big Twitter following has value, so does a permanent, well-linked piece of Web real estate like a branded blog.

    Twitter is fun and can create business value, but it’s certainly not the ultimate mechanism for that purpose.


    @ 7:50 am
  7. Rahaf said:

    Great article it. Reminds me of the facebook account cancellation policies where people got locked out and couldn’t do anything about it. We are a generation of content producers and we are only beginning to understand the legal implications of putting those ideas in places we don’t own. I like the point of producing content that balances the distribution channels.

    Happy holidays!


    @ 8:02 am
  8. Max Kalehoff said:

    You make some great points, especially the no follow. On that topic, there’s a huge black hole which must be dealt with: that of comments. In my experience, the comments are worth as much if not more than the root of any discussion thread. However, comments are still in a chaotic, stealth state — many with no follow as well as no elegant way to share or interact. (Companies like Disqus and Intense Debate are addressing this.) Chances are, I’ll leave a comment here and anything subsequent builds on this thread will go forever unnoticed by me, others who may comment here, as well as search engines. I think the core of the issue is about portable profiles that work across all platforms or networks. Open standards to enable basic interoperability are probably part of the solution.

    On the issue of content ownership, I think that a growing savvy Internet-using population will demand that individual content creators are the owners. Platforms and services will be expected to honor this fundamental principle, and to ignore it will become competitive disadvantage on an open Web.

    Me? I’m a believer in the Web workhorse we call blog. It’s so simple and elegant and is so synchronous with our culture’s declining attention span. We like streams of content, and we like to discover, via search engines. I’m also a believer in email. Why does every single social network default to email? Because email is the ultimate social network.

    @ 8:05 am
  9. Great post, totally agree. Reminds me of a recent Chris Brogan post: Of Streams and Stopping Points. Same reason that musicians are encouraged to have their own websites, not only a presence on MySpace.

    @ 10:09 am
  10. Vikram Rajan said:

    Exactly. As we celebrate another bLAWg 100, it’s great to see more attorneys join us in the Web 2.0 world… however, twittering (or facebooking, or linkedin-ing – which sounds as bad as it is boring) is just a means to an end.

    In fact, as professionals put up blogs to promote their expertise – they wonder how to drive traffic to what amounts to another form of attorney advertising. This is when the “cart” of social networks follows the “horse” of a web-blog. Obviously, it shouldn’t be the other way around.

    However, to see it from the opposite degree — most professionals, including attorneys, get introduced to what will become their “on-line presence” by an invitation to one of these networks. So we can’t blame their starting point… we need to help them to put the cart in its rightful place. Great post.

    ~ Vikram Rajan

    @ 7:30 am
  11. Dube said:

    What a great post! It’s so true that Twitter is more “icing on the cake” and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a personal blog to tie everything together. Great lesson to keep in mind!

    @ 3:25 pm
  12. Kevin OKeefe said:

    There’s ups and downs to everything Steve. Twitter has some, but I’d rather go without my cell phone than Twitter. I am finding it’s the single best way for me to develop a brand for my company.

    It would be nice to pass link value with a tweet, but just imagine the shit we’d see in spam on twitter then.

    Plus I am rather liking catching what bubbles up on Twitter. People will find things on search and via social media – what their friends say to follow. Who’s to say the latter is not the preferred way to find things?

    I’d agree twittering to build a brand without a blog would be tough. Need a home base as well as a place to say more than 140 words covers.

    @ 4:50 pm
  13. Love your post! I had a Twitter account first and a blog second. Then I thought – WAIT I have it all wrong! I should blog first, then Twitter second. But I must admit, it is much easier to Tweet, than it is to come up with a great blog article. :)

    Great post!!!
    Twitter Name – Kgrantcareers

    @ 5:31 pm
  14. Dan said:

    Way to put it all in perspective. I concur.


    @ 2:31 pm
  15. […] Steve Matthews – “I understand that blogs are hard work, and that twitter is easier. So what? If you’re going to put hours into this, the last thing you want to do is take the easy way out. As the TechCrunch post says, blogging delivers those memorable pieces that you (and others!) will refer to for years to come.” Posted in Uncategorized | | Top Of Page […]

    @ 10:23 am
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