I noticed this morning that it was three months ago today that I wrote my first blog post about exploring social networking website/tool Twitter. At the time I expressed what I have come to learn is an almost universal initial reaction to the service: “I don’t get it.” (with an implied side helping of “and I don’t think I want to get it either.”)
Flash forward three months and I continue to be amazed that a service with such a seemingly built-in negative initial reaction can be exploding in popularity the way it has. But catch on it has, both with me and an awfully large number of others, both within and beyond the legal community.
A brief refresher for the uninitiated: Twitter is a service that lies in some new netherworld in between blogs and text messages. The heart of the service is a simple text box that allows you to write brief text-only messages of a maximum 140 characters. You can do it from a website. You can do it from your cellphone/blackberry/iphone. You use it to tell others in your Twitter network what you are working on, what you are currently up to, to pass along links to stories or sites that you think your “followers” might be interested in. When you log onto Twitter, you can see a simple reverse chronological listing of the various entries (called “tweets”) posted by the other people you have chosen to include in your Twitter network. It looks like this:
And that’s it. No more, no less. And yet that incredibly simple premise is proving incredibly popular – so popular in fact that Twitter has reportedly rejected a recent half-billion (yes you read that correctly) dollar offer from Facebook to acquire the service. Nielsen online has reported that Twitter was the fastest growing Social Network in the United States for September 2008, with year over year growth of 343%. Clearly, something is happening here.
That rapid growth is also being reflected in the legal space. Last month the Legal Marketing Association’s Listserv was abuzz with debate amongst legal marketers over the importance of Twitter and other social networking services. Some see it as a distraction and the latest trendy topic du jour, while others think it’s an important new development that needs to be better understood and taken seriously. I find myself squarely in the latter camp.
I would say that the negative aspect of my Twitter experience is that it has been in one sense what I feared at the outset – yet another piece of digital management in my already overly crowded workday. However, this negative has been overshadowed for me by the many positives I’ve also encountered – first off Twitter is EASY. It does not require the same kind of time commitment that maintaining a blog does for example. Additionally, it is not mandatory – If I miss a day, or a week, on Twitter the world will definitely not come to an end. And yet, it is also very powerful because the type of communication it fosters is a different one than we see in other contexts – there is a blend of personal and professional identities within Twitter communication that fosters a more personal, more informal tone than many of us are familiar with in the business context. The result is that I get a better sense for the people in my business network as people, and the relationships cement themselves a little bit deeper than they otherwise would. I’ve also found it to be an incredible source for breaking news and useful links to information relevant to my business that I would not otherwise have been exposed to. I think many lawyers will eventually embrace Twitter for some of these very reasons: it’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s informative. Lawyers are – to borrow a phrase from my friend Kevin O’Keefe – Power Users of Information and Twitter is going to become one more arrow in their quiver.
For those interested in learning more, a couple of key links:
2. JD Supra’s list of lawyers and legal professionals to follow on Twitter (This is a great place to start for building your network of people to “follow” on Twitter and continues to grow at a rapid pace).
3. Twitter.com – What are you waiting for?