Monthly Archives: October 2011

Lawyer successfully leverages Twitter

by Kirsten Hodgson

There are examples of lawyers in the USA and the UK who have generated work from social media, but are there any in New Zealand?

Rick Shera, Partner at Lowndes Jordan is a start-up, internet and IP lawyer and occasional blogger, who has tweeted under the moniker lawgeeknz since February 2009. Over the past 2 ½ years he’s built up over 1,500 followers and is one of the most active New Zealand lawyers on the network that I’ve come across.


I interviewed him about tweeting, how it’s helped him in his practice, and what advice he’d give to other lawyers thinking about using Twitter.




Why did you initially start using Twitter?


I found twitter hashtags (#[subject]) and people putting weird @ signs in front of nicknames, turning up in email discussions, lists and general conversation amongst the early adopters who I deal with.  I was then at a conference where there was heavy use and almost had to get onboard or miss out on the conversations.  So, there was no conscious plan.



But I quickly realised two great advantages to me of twitter.  First off, it is an excellent way of following the start-up, IP and internet industries that I work with.  Legal and business model developments in those areas anywhere in the world will impact us here in New Zealand and many of my clients are internet based, global or going global.  I’ve now unsubscribed from most email and hardcopy newsletters and rely on twitter as almost my sole information feed.


The second thing which surprised me is how great a “trust engine” twitter is.  People make a conscious choice to follow you and see what you are tweeting.  If they don’t like it, or you miss the mark with the content or tone, they will unfollow you or just not pay any attention.  That’s quite different from email newsletters and the clunkiness of unsubscribing or anything else I can think of.  Even beyond that, if you are saying something that has value, they can reinforce that value by retweeting your message to their followers.  In doing so, they are effectively saying to all their followers (who may number in the thousands) “hey, this guy has said something that I think you might like to see”.  Professional services are generally obtained via word of mouth referral. Retweeting is online word of mouth referral.

How, if at all, have your objectives changed during the time in which you've used Twitter?


My objectives haven’t really changed – they remain information feed and direct engagement with people in the industries within which I work.  If anything, they have strengthened.  What I have done though is used twitter more to promote my blog, which adds profile.

What would you say have been your biggest social media successes to date?


Writing a blog post and having over 16,000 separate visits to read it.  That was largely driven by twitter.  Over 100 people tweeted the link to their followers, generating an instant targeted audience far greater than I could reach any other way.


That and the fact that I have had significant work flows from people I have initially met only via twitter.

Is there anything you've done that really didn't work?


Sometimes I post something and tweet about it but it just does not get any traction.  That can be a bit disheartening but there is a definite rhythm to twitter I think.  Before work and towards the end of a work day can get pretty active.  Not using hashtags tends to mean things get lost too.


The other thing to be careful of is time.  You need to take care not to blow out your time with all the interesting material that is on twitter.  Focus helps and, conversely, you can quickly dip in and out of twitter because it is so easy to use.

If there was only one piece of advice you could give to other lawyers/firms thinking of using Twitter, what would it be?


Don’t be scared.  As lawyers we tend to think that we must deliver pristine, legally perfect, pearls of wisdom every time.  If you are using twitter in a professional context then you need to take that into account of course. But, equally, in 140 characters, you’re not going to get a full blown legal opinion across, so if you’re trying for that then you’ll #fail.  People don’t expect it anyway – they just want to know that you’re an actual person and to understand your point of view.

And if you could provide any further helpful tips what would they be?


Keep your twitter name short.  If you use up 25 of someone’s 140 characters with your name then they are less likely to retweet your message, which means you don’t get the advantage of referral to all their followers. 


In the same vein, make your tweets memorable and short enough that others can retweet the whole thing.  It’s a skill I still have difficulty with. Maybe that’s a lawyer thing – we can be a bit wordy ;-)   The 140 character limit is interesting.  It’s actually made me a better writer generally because I tend to get rid of superfluous cruft now.


Plus make sure your profile tells something about you.  I never follow people if I can’t see who they are or what they’re about.


One more piece of advice – have fun!  #lawyersFTW! [that's 'Lawyers for the Win' for those unfamiliar with this particular hashtag, i.e. me!]


What do you think of Rick’s advice?


What other tips would you share?


Are you a lawyer using social media effectively? If so, and you’d like to be profiled,  I’d love to hear from you. 

Individual versus firm Twitter accounts for lawyers, accountants and engineers

A number of clients have asked me how they should use Twitter. Typically they're on there but aren't doing much more than broadcasting a variety of disparate messages to their followers. While I still consider myself a Twitter novice I do find it a great source of valuable content, a way to engage with those I want to, and a driver of traffic to my blog/website. 

I think fundamentally there are three routes that lawyers, accountants and engineers can go down when setting up a twitter account: 

  1. Individual accounts
  2. Practice group or industry specific accounts
  3. Firm accounts 

Individual accounts

Individuals setting up their own accounts is, in my view, the optimal way to go. That's because:

  • Twitter, like other social media tools, is about engagement and building relationships and it's very difficult to do that as a firm. 
  • People do business with people they like and so it's important for your personality to come through in your tweets – that's not to say you should share what you had a for breakfast but it is okay to tweet about things outside of work you're interested in. I tend to apply the 80/20 rule here (i.e. tweet about business-related issues 80% of the time and personal interests 20%). 
  • Research shows that 83% of clients of professional services firms hire the individual rather than the firm. 
  • This is a way to build your personal profile and expertise. 

Practice group or industry specific accounts 

One of the biggest objections I hear to setting up individual accounts is "I don't have the time/inclination". While I don't believe the time excuse has much merit given that, by following the right people, Twitter is a bit like reading the latest industry magazine (only it's a lot quicker to do) and it's a lot quicker and easier to share content than via email, the lack of inclination is a factor. If you are simply not ready to set up your own account then you might want to consider setting up specific practice group or industry sector accounts. These should be maintained by those working in these areas and should be set up with the audience in mind – is there a specific group of people who will want to engage in this area? For example, you may set up an employment law or an energy sector account.

If you go down this route I recommend: 

  • Sharing the responsibility for tweeting around the team and ensuring you engage with your followers/others by sharing (retweeting) their info, asking them questions, sending direct messages etc. 
  • Sharing relevant tweets from those in your firm who do have individual accounts through these accounts. Inksters in Scotland do this well – take a look at their account to see how it works. 
  • Being consistent – try not to share 5 tweets one day and then do nothing for another week.
  • Avoiding the temptation to use this as a broadcasting tool. While there's nothing wrong with doing so you really won't be harnessing the power of Twitter and are unlikely to build engagement this way. 

Firm accounts

There are a couple of instances where I think firm accounts can work (as set out below). However, in the majority of cases I find them less than ideal. As a prospective client, I don't want to follow you if too many of your messages are totally irrelevant to me. One thing I do on Twitter is look out for those people who regularly share valuable content and read their Tweets. I don't do this with those who occasionally share good stuff. Having a Twitter account designed to appeal to a broad range of people may mean those you want to see certain content don't because they're not looking out for it. 

The other reason I personally dislike firm-wide accounts is that there's no personality coming through. I don't feel as inclined to retweet (share) an organisation's tweets as I do an individual's. One tactic some smaller firms use is to have the tweeter's initials at the end of the post – but again, people don't connect with initials. 

I do think firm accounts can work in the following situations: 

  • For graduate or other recruitment purposes
  • For niche firms i.e. those with a focus in a particular area such as intellectual property

But again, the reason they work is that they are appealing to a specific group of people. 

If you're looking at setting up Twitter accounts for yourself or your firm do bear those you want to engage with in mind. Make it easy for them to follow you and look to engage people one on one as that's where the real power of Twitter lies: it's a two way communications/engagement/relationship building tool NOT simply an email substitute. It's not a silver bullet, takes time to build up an engaged following and to engage, and its effects are cumulative. Give it time, be consistent and help others first. 

What's your view? 

6 reasons for professionals to use social media

Despite the wealth of evidence that actively engaging with others via social media can, and does, help lawyers, accountants and engineers to position themselves in their area(s) of expertise (and ultimately generate more work) I still meet so many professionals who are skeptical about social media. Usually they're either not convinced their clients use it, they think it's a huge waste of time or they are simply too busy.

While I agree that you can waste a lot of time online, this is only really the case if you aren't clear about why you are using social media, how you will use it and the results you want to achieve. If you think about how using social media can help you achieve your marketing goals, and use it in this way, it can be a really effective component of the marketing mix. 

Here are 6 key reasons why I believe professionals should use social media as part of their marketing mix: 

  1. Many of your clients will be using social media to target their customers - if you are following/monitoring them, you will have a much better understanding of their business drivers. You may also be able to identify issues relevant to your client as well as key people within the client organisation you need to meet.  
  2. SEO – there are increasingly more reports about social sharing and social influence being linked to search engine optimisation. What this means is that those articles that are widely shared and those people who are viewed as influencers will appear more highly in search engine results. 
  3. As an amplifier - social media allows you to increase your reach and engagement. It's not a silver bullet and takes time, consistency and commitment. At first it feels like no-one is listening but gradually you will notice more and more traction. The key is to remember that it is about engagement and so asking questions of others, and sharing and commenting on their comment and discussions are key. 
  4. To engage with your clients, target clients, referrers, colleagues etc in a place where they are rather than expecting them to come to you. Using newsletters/alerts as an example, some clients still say they like receiving these but an increasing number don't – usually because they get these from several firms. Sharing this content via social media means people can choose whether they wish to view it. 
  5. Increase the number of touchpoints with existing clients and contacts.
  6. Reduce barriers to working with you. Engaging through social media is a way to start building relationships with others. If they see value in what you do/share then they may follow or connect with you. Even coming across you frequently can mean people already feel they know you. It's then easier for them to pick up the phone to you, rather than your competitors, when they do have an issue with which they need help. 

Why else do you think professionals should consider using social media for business development/marketing purposes? 

Related articles you may be interested in: 

6 ways to use Infographics in Professional Services Marketing

If you're anything like me then you're a sucker for a good Infographic. There's nothing like being able to absorb information visually, in a way that's easy (and quick) to understand. 

Gareth Case, a marketing professional in the UK, shared his CV with a LinkedIn group, which he's produced as an Infographic and it got me thinking, how can law firms, accounting firms, and engineering firms use Infographics in their businesses? 

I can see Infographics being useful to share the following information:  

  1. Business plans (including industry, client and practice group plans) – wouldn't it be great to be able to put your plans up on the wall for all to see (and understand)? Imagine how much more traction you would get and how many more people in your firm would think about you if an opportunity arose when they were talking to their clients. Infographics would be a great way to share this information across the firm in an appealing way. 
  2. How to guides or updates about the impact of legislative or other changes – again, a departure from the norm and an easy way for your audience to understand the key messages. 
  3. Vision and values - rather than just having a list of values and your vision written on a piece of paper somewhere, put these into an Infographic. This would be great to display prominently, give to new staff and would support other methods you're using (such as names of your meeting rooms, words on your walls etc). 
  4. Credential statements – I would love to put together a credential statement as an Infometric as it would force brevity and ensure the key messages come through clearly. 
  5. Professional bios - much as Gareth Case has done. These would be great on a website and, providing the info can be easily tailored, would be good to include in CVs to go into tenders and proposals. 
  6. Policies and procedures – imagine starting a new job and not having to wade through a mass of policy/procedures info. If you want people to understand and follow these, they need to be simple anyway, so why not make your policies/procedures visually appealing too? 
  7. Graduate/other recruitment info – Infographics could tie in nicely with other components of a campaign and could be used to communicate key messages. 

The possibilities are endless. I look forward to the day when I walk into a professional services firm's reception area and see some relevant Infographics on the wall. 

How else do you think firms could use Infographics? 

Have you seen any good examples of Infographics being used by law firms, accounting firms and engineering firms?