Web 2.0. Social networks. Social marketing. There’s lots of jargon – and hype – about it all. Most senior professionals will associate things such as Myspace and Facebook with their teenage kids and dismiss them from consideration as serious business tools. So here, in part one, I ask the question Why? Twitter for lawyers, accountants and surveyors. Part two shows you how
But some professional practices have really got their head around Twitter – the micoblogging site which is often mentioned in the media in connection with a host of celebrities (most famously Stephen Fry) whilst many remain sceptical. Although I am by no means an expert, I thought I’d try to explain some of the business benefits for partnerships getting involved in Twitter. In a subsequent post, I’ll attempt to provide a simple “getting started” guide so you can dip your toe in the water.
Whilst networks such as Facebook have enormous user bases (around 411m globally and 33m in the UK) you may be surprised that the average age of the users is 33 years. Most professionals are more familiar with LinkedIn – the leading professional network – with 2m users in the UK and a mature average age of 39! Interestingly, of the 45m global users of LinkedIn over 1m are lawyers! Twitter – with 58m users globally and 6m in the UK – is one of the fastest growing social networks and has an average age of 31.
Anyway. Why use Twitter for business? Here are 10 reasons you should explore the possibility:
1. It’s free – Unlike many marketing and PR tools, using Twitter is free. However, you do need to invest some time in learning a little about it and once you are up and running someone (or perhaps you could set up a rota) needs to set aside a little time on a regular basis to providing regular tweets (the 140 character messages). Some firms manage with just one or two tweets a week whilst others are more ambitious and have many going out on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be a partner though – a keen assistant can easily manage a modest Twitter account on behalf of a department or a small firm. And for more sophisticated users, you can even have automatic tweets generated when, for example, you update your web site or blog.
2. Raise your profile – By issuing regular tweets on your particular subjects you will become known as an expert. So your opinions and expertise is shared with a much wider audience and on a more regular basis than might be possible using other PR or marketing methods. Furthermore, Twitter is immediate. Yesterday’s tweets are old news – so you don’t need to spend hours fretting over what to say and how.
3. Communicate with clients – Knowing that many firms still struggle with developing a good database with the names and email addresses of their clients – and then even if they do manage that, find it almost impossible to produce regular newsletters or one-off alerts on topical issues to send to them, Twitter is a good alternative. You can quickly identify your client Twitter accounts and link to them (this is called Following them and the system regards them as your “friends”) which usually results in them following you in return (they then become your followers). You can be sure that your competitors are “following” your most well known clients – so Twitter could even be seen as a defensive move!
4. Communicate with referrers – Like your clients, referrers need to be reminded of your firm and its expertise and services and Twitter is an efficient method of keeping in touch with a lot of these people with very little cost and effort. Like on your web site, quality information (content) on your tweets can position you as an expert and the first port of call on particular subjects.
5. Reach new clients – Once you start tweeting quality information, you will find that a variety of potential new clients start to follow you. In time they may even start communicating with you direct through the various reply and direct message facilities. More likely, they may use the links that you provide in your tweets to visit your web site to learn more about your firm and its services.
6. Increase your web traffic – One of the most valuable things that Twitter does is to increase traffic to your firm’s web site and to any blogs that you might produce. You do this by including a link to the relevant section of your web site or blog in the tweet. More recent developments have been Google Real Time Search (which competes with Bing) which means people searching Google also see the latest material generated by networks such as Twitter.
7. Keep up with the news – There are many, many people using Twitter in the legal, accounting and property markets – and more specialist areas such as particular aspects of law or finance – and Twitter provides you with a simple way to keep your eye on the multitude of ideas and developments that are swirling around your market. The retweet facilitity in Twitter enables you to recirculate information that you think might be of interest to your followers and saves you the effort of producing all the content yourself. Retweeting other people’s material may also initiate a dialogue with those people.
8. Monitor your competitors – As long as they have public tweets and do not block you, it is also possible for you to follow your competitors to see what they are tweeting about. This helps you keep at the leading edge of developments in your sector. But remember that if you follow your competitors, they are likely to follow you!
9. Keep up with your clients – Some of your clients are likely to be using Twitter. By following them you can keep up with developments at their organisation and perhaps gain more insight into what they are doing in the market. Sometimes their tweets may trigger thoughts and ideas that you can provide to them – adding value to the relationship from their perspective and showing them that you are keen to provide real help.
10. Give some personality to your brand – Too often a firm’s web site and other marketing communications can come across as stilted and stuffy – and sometimes even long winded. Regular short tweets can be less formal, certainly more concise and you can even provide a glimmer of the personality of your firm and your people through Twitter. It adds a human dimension which is so very important for the relationships of a professional firm.