Why lawyers can take breaks from Twitter

Twitter break in India
Watching the sun set rather than Tweeting when on holiday in India

My last post on ‘Tweeting less but meeting more‘ has generated some debate with Brian John Spencer posting ‘A letter to Inksters: just because it’s winter it doesn’t mean that you can put your Twitter into hibernation‘.

This is an interesting topic and one worthy of some debate and consideration. I do, however, think that the other Brian has got hold of the wrong end of the stick and is missing what social media for lawyers is really (or should be) all about.

I am often referred to as a pioneer in the use of social media by lawyers and almost 4 years later my enthusiasm for and interest in social media has not dwindled. The fact that so much is still being written on the topic sometimes bemuses me though. Whilst Brian John Spencer appears, on the face of it, to be knowledgeable about my tweeting pedigree he actually only started following @BrianInkster and @inksters this past week.

Inksters tweeting had apparently always impressed Brian John Spencer, despite the fact he was not a follower, but suddenly they have fallen out of favour as a result of taking a 16 day Twitter break in November. What the other Brian does not appear to appreciate is that this was not Inksters’ first Twitter break and, in fact, it is consistent in Inksters’ history of tweeting for breaks to be taken from time to time. Indeed Inksters have had longer breaks from Twitter over the years than 16 days. This year alone there have been breaks of 17 days and 24 days and several breaks of between 7 and 10 days (when Brian John Spencer considers “you’ve entered into “dormant” territory”). I see no harm in such breaks and if anything (like taking a holiday) they are possibly a healthy thing to do. Indeed the 24 day break I referred to coincided with my own 14 day holiday to India this year during which time I did not tweet personally at @BrianInkster. We all need to switch off sometime.

Brian John Spencer thinks that “when you don’t Tweet for a week or more you’re projecting an image of laziness”. Lawyers are, generally, very busy people with deadlines to meet and client work to complete. If a lawyer is not tweeting it is probably because they are having to concentrate on other matters of greater priority in their busy schedule and are far from being lazy. I was recently representing a crofter in a hearing before the Scottish Land Court for the best part of a week. I didn’t tweet once during that time. My week was fully taken up with doing the best job I could for my client. Tweeting was the last thing on my mind. That is how it should be.

The Intendance Report on Tweeting is cited by Brian John Spencer as an example of others saying why you should tweet regularly. Brian John Spencer might not appreciate the lack of credibility that Report actually has but long time readers of The Time Blawg will recall ‘Law Firm Twitteratigate – The Whole Story‘.

Brian John Spencer also cites other blog posts suggesting you should tweet every three hours if resources permit, no more than 10 times a day or hit the “sweet spot” of 4-5 tweets a day. What nonsense. You cannot define, limit or measure twitter usage in this way. Engagement on Twitter is the key to its success. You may tweet 20 times or more certain days because there is a lot to engage about and people to engage with. Does exceeding the “sweet spot” or the 10 a day limit mean you are not doing Twitter correctly?!

As Charon QC would say “there are no rules”. Different people use Twitter in different ways. Who is to say one way is the right way to do it and another is the wrong way. There are extremes where perhaps judgment can be made e.g. setting up a law firm Twitter Account and never tweeting from it at all. But taking breaks from Twitter from time to time does not mean you don’t get Twitter or have lost your way. As Miriam Said tweeted:-

Brian John Spencer suggested that I had not been too busy during the 16 day Twitter break at @inksters to prevent me from tweeting personally at @BrianInkster. That is not quite correct. A quick look at my personal timeline reveals a 9 day break during that same 16 day one. When I am tweeting from that personal account I am still tweeting as a solicitor from Inksters. That account or others within the Inksters portfolio of 12 Twitter accounts will possibly be tweeting when @inksters is sleeping. The battleship does not have to fire daily when the destroyers remain active as we all know from Jon Bloor’s seminal post on ‘Tweeting in Convoy‘. However, even the destroyers deserve a rest from time to time.

Previously on The Time Blawg I have referenced the post on Legal 2.0 (@legaltwo) by Amanda Bancroft (@_millymoo) on Twitter for lawyers…what is it good for? Her blog post gets to the root of what tweeting is about and how it can work for lawyers (if you ignore the marketeers):-

My advice? Ignore the marketeers, I have so far not found one who knows even the beginnings of what they are talking about regarding lawyers anyway. Stop thinking about Twitter ROI. See it as fun, carry on making friends, widening your circle, and enjoy the referral work which flows from that. Learn how to deal with clients who are outside the geographical range of your office on a remote basis.

A final thought. If you have been on Twitter a while and are not getting referrals, you are, I respectfully suggest, doing it wrong.

I have been exploring the use of social media for law firms first hand for almost four years as part of the continual growth of Inksters. I know what works for Inksters. I probably don’t always get it right. But I have seen Inksters obtain opportunities that would never otherwise have come the firm’s way had it not been for social media and the way Inksters use it. Inksters will continue, in the words of Brian John Spencer, to be “a vibrant, forward looking and an ever-classy Tweeting law firm”. Taking breaks from Twitter, as Inksters have always done, will not take that away from them.

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  1. Brian

    An excellent piece thanks. Brings a bit of common sense into the world of “social media”. I agree entirely that “there are no rules”. People need to find their own way and work with what they are comfortable with. Lawyers have a complex mix of communication and marketing tools. Meeting people is, as your post perhaps implies, one of the most important marketing and business development activities that a lawyer must do. So a bit of peace on twitter might just mean that the lawyer is off doing something else. Similarly if a lawyer just broadcasts, it will be seen as advertising and will be treated as such. But that doesn’t mean it is wrong.

    I am going to be at a conference tomorrow. The subject is of great interest to me. But for the first time I am going to try and post about the interesting things that are said. Old school conference meets new world social media…

  2. Thanks John

    One of the main problems is social media marketers creating rules and selling them to naive law firms.

    Social media is being peddled as some magic answer to law firms that are struggling in recessionary times. The truth is that most law firms should be directing their energies elsewhere before they turn it to social media.

    I do believe that there is a lot to be said for social media as a networking tool. One that can lead to face to face networking. Which, in turn, can lead to referrals and other business opportunities.

    It is not, however, the be all and end all. It also, to work well, requires a good online presence via a website and blogs. Many law firms are in their infancy where that is concerned and could do well to direct energies there before aiming for the ‘sweet spot’ of tweeting. There is also the question of keeping existing clients happy, most of whom are probably not Twitter junkies.

    Enjoy your conference tomorrow. I will look out for your tweets.

    1. Had to laugh on the Amanda Bancroft bit. If it is all about fun and frolics then why do lawyers suggest that we need social media policies and employment law training surrounding the use of social media in the workplace (and outside too!). Because there are inherent risks. These risks as well as the opportunities, need planning for. No? ;-P

      Anyways, I agree with you Brian. There is a swirling mass of SEO/social media agencies peddling wares to firms at the moment. Most of them arent professionally qualified marketers and come from web or programming backgrounds.

      Social media is one small element of the promotional wheel that can also be used to service customers or client needs in an operational sense.

      Marketing is like building a house of cards and all bases need to be covered – one is digital marketing, planning, research, environmental scanning of competitive forces, there are many more elements to the base. The better your base, the higher and more successful your house of cards is.

      Its very rare that marketing is ever practiced properly in firms. Thats no slant on anyone. It just doesnt happen.

      Read my opinion on marketing in law firms here: http://www.rokmanlaing.co.uk/index.php/blogs/item/7-minimal-marketing-the-law-firm-partnership

  3. Hi Brian,

    I totally agree with you.

    In my case where there’s only one of me it’s a way of getting out more without leaving the office, a great resource for keeping up to date and getting to meet interesting people both on and offline.

    The downside – there is only one of me and if I’m busy, engagement with Twitter isn’t really an option. It’s not possible to keep the conversation going whilst negotiating a contract. And I try to only tweet when I have something (ahem) meaningful to say.

    I try to enjoy, not to make it a millstone round my neck

    1. Thanks Jane

      It should indeed be fun and not a millstone. Keep treating it that way and it will serve you well.

      Hope to catch up IRL at a Twegals Tweetup in 2013.

  4. The idea of there being a ‘sweet spot’ or an ideal number of tweets that one should tweet in a day appears to, well, miss the point of twitter. Twitter is about engagement. The 140 character limit can be a bit of a pain at times (especially when the list of people in a particular conversation grows), but fundamentally it remains about engagement. What is one supposed to do if the magic 5 tweets is hit mid-conversation? Stop? Continue it the next day? That seems rather silly.

    These optimum figures smack of self-promotion PR spin that, personally, I ignore. If I can’t tweet a response and know that I’ll get one back I tend to view it as not worth reading. It misses the ‘social’ aspect of ‘social media’.

    Just my two cents.

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