To tweet or not tweet

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and mid-sized law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs.  Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

That really is the question. I’ve been asked it numerous times by curious lawyers.

The answer? Well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know. Twitter is a curious platform, one that is analyzed and considered by many people who are unsure of whether or how tweeting can benefit them and/or their firms. Twitter does not guarantee an increase in business development, although it has fostered business relationships in certain cases. Twitter does not guarantee an increase in media coverage or you or your firm, although the platform itself, as well as especially interesting or witty accounts, has been covered extensively in the media.

If you’re considering Twitter and are debating whether to take the plunge into 140-character updates, first consider the following questions.

Do I have the time?

As with all social media applications, making time for updates is mandatory. One tweet a month will reflect poorly on you or your firm’s image to your social media-minded followers and overall, will not be beneficial. Being on Twitter for the sake of being on Twitter is not a good idea, so you need to evaluate how much time you have to tweet. And not only the time you have when you sign up, but time down the road – consistency is key when it comes to tweeting.

Do I have the resources?

Twitter is about speed. It enables firms and attorneys to update their followers in real-time with firm announcements, case rulings and courtroom developments (well, maybe not in every courtroom). It is the most effective for attorneys who have a mobile device equipped with the Internet, so they are able to update followers as they are on a quick break, walking out of the courtroom or receiving case updates themselves. THAT is the true meaning of “breaking news.” I would say if you don’t have a way to “tweet on the go” with a mobile device, think twice about tweeting breaking news, and in the meantime, stick to the web-based Twitter.

Do I have the tweets?

Would you read a book with nothing on the pages? No. Understand that no one will follow you on Twitter if you have nothing to tweet about. Think about the kinds of things you would like to announce regarding cases and firm news. Consider creating a Twitter account for your firm that will deliver announcements and news, and perhaps an account specifically for a specific practice area, such as @ILtradesecrets. A targeted Twitter account will entice a targeted group of followers with a vested interest in the practice area, and gives you the opportunity to show expertise in a specific area of law and the cases that arise in this sector.

Do I have realistic expectations?

If you do decide to join the masses on Twitter, you must begin with an understanding that tweeting everyday does not guarantee more clients. What does it guarantee? For starters, it guarantees additional online exposure. In the world of online communications and search engine optimization, the more you and your firm’s brand are involved and active online, the better. Twitter does not guarantee that everyone interested in law will follow you. But it does guarantee the chance to demonstrate legal expertise, thought leadership and a snapshot of the personality of your firm – in your own words. But these words better be concise – you only have 140-characters.

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