February 2009 Archives

February 23, 2009

To Twitter or Not To Twitter? That Is the Question for Lawyers

Over the past nine months or so, Twitter, a micro-blogging service that enables users to communicate with each other in 140-character spurts has steadily gained traction with lawyers.  Some lawyers regard Twitter as a bit of time-sink in an age of information overload, while others revere its immediacy and use it largely for business purposes.  I'll admit that initially, I too was was skeptical of certain aspects of Twitter, though it's since grown on me as I've become a regular user.

But that's just me.  As for you, to Twitter or not to Twitter? That is the question that I'll address in this post.  But before I evaluate the pros and cons, I'll begin with a quick description of what Twitter is, how it works, and how lawyers are using it for marketing and other purposes.

1.  What is Twitter?

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is "a social neworking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length."  Users can find out what others are doing by signing up to "follow" their tweets and can comment by sending a reply.  You can keep messages private (by direct messaging) or posting them to all your followers (the default).  If you're interested in seeing what the Twitter interface looks like, take a look at this Legal Tech presentation by Chris Winfield.

Users employ Twitter in a variety of ways.  Lawyer Bob Ambrogi summarized sixteen "reasons to embrace the Tweet" -- which include sharing information (such as links to recent blog posts or news items of interest) -- like monitoring buzz by finding out what topics are of interest to lawyers, making introductions to lawyers whom you're following and would like to meet and even finding clients by responding to inquiries for legal assistance that sometimes crop up in the conversation.

More recently, Twitter has helped build communities of lawyers.  Two sites, LexTweet and Justia Legal Birds list lawyers with Twitter accounts along with information on where they're located and how many followers they have.  If you're ever heading out to a law-related conference, chances are it will feature a "tweet-up," i.e., a casual, in-person get together of fellow 'tweeps.

2.  Getting Started

The only way to get started on Twitter is to dive right in.  After registering for the site, you can check your email to determine whether you already know folks on Twitter -- because you can sign up to follow them.  After that, you may choose to follow some of their followers or identify other lawyers from LexTweet or Justia Legal Birds whom you might want to follow as well.  If you're interested in expanding your inner circle, use Twellow or Summize  to search for specific topics that interest you and find people within those groups to follow.  Feel free to introduce yourself, but thereafter, you can jump into a conversation.

You can use Twitter through the web, but most power users rely on applications like Tweetdeck to keep track of tweets and replies.

3.  So, is Twitter for me?

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February 8, 2009

A New Look At Newsletters for Lawyer Marketing

These days, blogs and social media are all the rage for lawyer marketing -- and I plan to discuss the pros and cons of these 21st century marketing activities in future columns.  But for today, l'm going to step back and take a new look at a more traditional form of lawyer marketing: the client newsletter.

So with Web 2.0 tools like blogs or Facebook or Twitter available to keep your clients up-to-date on the law or your firm's accomplishments, why should lawyers resort to something as old-fashioned or static as a client newsletter?  Well, believe it or not, newsletters offer several advantages that these other tools don't.  First, newsletters give you a chance to connect with existing clients and retain contact with former clients.  Since most lawyers report that client referrals account for their largest source of business, keeping in touch with clients ensures that they'll keep you in mind when a family member or friend asks for a referral.  Second, newsletters are a great way to build a mailing list for prospective clients -- for instance, you can have them sign up to subscribe at your blog or website. 

Newsletters also offer more flexibility over content than blogs or Twitter.  Twitter confines users to 140 characters per update -- barely enough to link to a news article or post of interest.  Blogs also tend to focus on a single topic and don't allow for digressions.  But many lawyers use newsletters to convey a variety of information to readers -- from articles on legal issues to profiles of clients to jokes or recipes.  Another drawback of blogs is that readers expect frequent updates, which leaves little time for busy lawyer-bloggers to really digest the news.  By contrast, because newsletters go out bi-weekly, there's time to develop more substantive or analytical pieces.

If I've convinced you to take a new look at client newsletters, below are the top five questions and answers on the nuts and bolts of getting started and equally, if not more challenging, keeping a newsletter going:

1.  How do I set up a newsletter?  There are many options for creating professional-looking client newsletters for minimal cost.  Desktop publishing packages such as those included in Word or Word Perfect are one option if you're comfortable with the software or have staff who can do it for you.  If you decide to send out your newsletter in hard copy, these packages work best.  Alternatively, you can also outsource newsletter production and printing to a virtual assistant or online company (just type terms like "client newsletter" and "newsletter preparation" into Google or your favorite search engine).

If you prefer an e-mail newsletter, consider services like Aweber or Constant Contact, among others, to automate newsletter preparation.  These services, which cost anywhere from $15 to $100 each month provide professional, customizable templates for e-mail newsletters and auto-response features that allow clients to register for the newsletter at your website.  Both services are simple to use; you can set up templates yourself or outsource the work to a virtual assistant.  The other benefit of an e-newsletter (as opposed to print) is that you can include URLs to sites or online articles of interest that readers can simply click through to access.

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