Top Five Ways Professional Service Firms Should Use Twitter

You’ve heard that celebrities use Twitter to attract fans.  You suspect that its top users are ladies who log on to discuss their cats.  Most importantly, you doubt that sophisticated b2b thought leadership can ever be communicated in 140 characters or less. Why bother? You can just write another bylined article, right?

Wrong.  At the moment, Twitter is the easiest and most inexpensive way to test your traditional marketing messages with an engaging and easy to use social media tool.  And your competitors, by and large, are not using it.  What’s more, even fewer consulting firms and other professional services organizations are using it to build an effective dialogue.  Do a Twitter search and count how many firms merely blast out their company news.

For BigLaw attorneys, consultants or financial advisors, this is a rare opportunity to quickly test your emerging messages in a dialogue with a smart, engaged audience.  We recommend the following:

  1. Establish a firm account that is staffed by a lead person, possibly you.  The goal is to embody a helpful, responsive brand.  It’s too confusing to have multiple people staffing the account.  It may be that one marketer handles Twitter, while another coordinates the firm’s blog.  This account should offer news and insight on key issues and industry information that’s relevant to your clients.  Secondary mentions of consulting studies or firm cases are fine, but should not be more than 10-15% of your total tweets. See here for more details.
  2. Training required:  If you want satisfied consultants, consider starting with a best practices session.  Not everyone who wants a Twitter account should have one immediately.  Put a Twitter 101 training system into place, so that they have a set of standards to consider, similar to media training.  Hold a 60 minute class that gets everyone off to the right start. As a bonus, this effectively becomes a quick introduction to social media strategies and the art of b2b inbound marketing.  For enthusiastic and committed Twitter participants, put together an Advanced Twitter training session that highlights best practices.  Regularly assess individual firm Twitterers and emerging messaging opportunities.
  3. Divide and conquer: Reporters operate on a “beat” system, where each person covers different topics such as “leadership” or industries.  Start by carving out Twitter beats for your team.  First, identify a starting list of 5-10 attorneys and marketing staff who either already have a Twitter account or who should have one.  Once you have the right list in place, research and develop a customized follow list and messaging goals for each person.  For example, a law firm devoted to the Pharma industry might have one person focused on connecting with leading Pharma thought leaders while another colleague could reach out to the many legal resources on Twitter such as Lextweet.  By dividing subjects, it becomes easier to develop a growing following and less burdensome to maintain it.  Once the new system starts, don’t forget to feed links and relevant news to your followers in addition to your own thought leadership.
  4. Leverage Hash Tags:  Very few professional service firms are using the Hash Tag system effectively.  But it’s an easy way to create or join dialogues/groups that matter to your stakeholders. As you probably know, if you add a “#” accompanied by a group name, Twitter collects all Tweets related to that tag. These are often used to capture real-time feedback to conferences or longer term discussions on key subjects.  As a starting point, develop a conference calendar that selects several events where you plan to have your accountants “live tweet” observations.  Then, actively foster daily participation in hashtag groups. A complete list of current hashtags can be found here and more explanation on the Twitter Fan wiki.
  5. The Art of Conversation: Perhaps the most important aspect of Twitter is the ability to develop a dialogue with others, especially when there is nothing “in it for you.”  This is the single most important lesson to share with new users.  Participating in #followfriday, asking someone to explain their POV, linking to information that will help others (or even competitors) do their job better…these are the little gestures that leave communities with a positive impression. In short, if you are a nice and interested human being, other human beings are likely to pay attention to you…and your firm by extension.

What about the Return on Investment (ROI) for these activities? Measuring Twitter largely depends on identifying business goals and correlated marketing benchmarks.  For example, you might initially decide to measure the number of ReTweets in order to understand how often your messages are penetrating a broader “secondary” audience.  Or, you might evaluate the quality of your followers/community vs. competitors quarterly.  Other applications let you look at “signal to noise” ratio, velocity and influence. The point is, invest time to determine what you want to achieve. Here’s more information.

Over time, however, you’ll likely come to the conclusion that sharing thought leadership, building relationships and learning from others is its own reward.  Professional Services firms such as McKinsey are rising to the challenge. But, at this stage, it’s possible for others to quickly catch-up and enjoy the many benefits of the Twitter community.

(photo by Geek and Poke)

To reach Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow