It recently dawned on me that I’ve been on Twitter for over five years. Yes, as @PhilNugent, I’ve been tweeting since August 2008. While that’s an achievement shared by more than a few in the Twitterverse, it came as a bit of a shock. Has it really been that long?
In the bigger picture, I find it interesting that as much as Twitter has become part of our business culture and social fabric in the last few years, there are still many who think of it as a somewhat alien and frivolous activity that could have no possible value for their business and professional success.
With that in mind, I thought this might be a good time to take stock of what I’ve learned about the value of Twitter. Perhaps these lessons might help some lawyers and other professionals realize that the social media platform – while no silver bullet – just might hold a good amount of potential for them as a marketing, branding and business development tool.
So, here in Part I of Five Years on Twitter, I’ll take a high-level view of the platform, focusing on five reasons why skeptics may want to rethink their Twitter abstinence. Looking ahead, in Part II of this post I’ll describe best practices for attorneys who want to be successful on Twitter.
If you’re a football fan, there are many reasons to like Peyton Manning. The four-time NFL Most Valuable Player is unarguably one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game, and more than a few fans and others make the case that he’s the very best ever.
We won’t go down that road here, but the future Hall of Famer’s famous work ethic and surprising longevity provide valuable lessons to those attorneys and other professionals who are closer to retirement than to their college days. Manning’s nearly 30 years of playing organized football hold the key to finding success in an incredibly competitive field – and to performing at the highest level when you’re no longer the new kid on the block.
In fact, the survey, which asked how significantly each of ten occupations contributed to the well being of society, found that lawyers came in last place, right after business executives. Just 18% of respondents indicated that attorneys contribute “a lot” to society’s well being.
Interestingly, looking back to 2009, the last time this survey was taken, lawyers had been up a notch, in ninth place, but they flipped places with business executives this year. Perhaps this is an indication that the Great Recession has faded into history and business executives are on the rebound? Whatever the reason, lawyers slipped a spot just in the last four years.
Far too often I come across yet another law firm website that obviously took lots of time and money to design and develop, but which, for one or more reasons, was never graced with search engine optimization (SEO). Whenever I see one of these SEO-challenged websites, I always feel bad for those who paid good money for it because they likely have no idea why it doesn’t seem to be bringing in any new business. And I typically can guess why one of these websites lacks SEO: The business didn’t understand its value, and neither did the web designer brought on to build the site. Ultimately, neither the law firm nor the web designer raised the issue, and SEO never had a chance.
Which is a shame, because I see each of these non-SEO’d websites as a virtual cry for help, with each one loudly proclaiming that as good looking as it may be, it’s actually been a huge waste of time and money. Now I’ll admit that these websites may not have been a total waste of money; sure enough, as promised, they’re right there on the web whenever the law firm’s attorneys provide the web address to someone they’ve already met. And the firm’s current clients can visit the site and appreciate the web design or the Unique Lawyering Proposition of the law firm with which they’re already doing business.
It seems that a week doesn’t go by that I’m not urging an attorney that they should let their hair down a bit in their online and offline communications. Show some personality. Demonstrate that they have a sense of humor and that they’re not too full of themselves. Or as I sometimes put it, allow yourself to be human.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because the world is filled with far too many attorneys who are afraid to pull back the professional curtain or take off the all-business mask. And it’s hurting them – even if they don’t know it. It’s hurting them because it violates the time-tested troika of business development success: People do business with those they Know, Like and Trust. And yes, that’s true even when it comes to hiring lawyers. Note that “Like” is the bridge to get prospective clients from “Know” to “Trust.” And if you don’t think this applies to attorneys, consider this age-old axiom: “People hire lawyers, not law firms.” Is that true in every case? No, but it’s certainly an important – and neglected – bit of wisdom.
One very well known individual who has difficulty talking about himself is a non-practicing attorney named Mitt Romney. He just had a bit of a coming-out party down in Tampa. The lead-up to Romney’s acceptance speech – and one of the main goals for the Republican National Convention – was that Romney and various family members and friends were going to showcase his character, his personality and his private side that thus far he had been unwilling to share. Republican pollsters were very concerned because Romney’s likeabiity factor was far below Obama’s. And as any politico can tell you, that matters a lot on Election Day.
Why is this important to you? Because you have your own Election Day every time that you meet with a prospective client. And because the unwillingness or inability to talk about oneself in a personal or humble or compelling way is epidemic among attorneys all across this great land of ours – and it’s hurting their careers, just as the political pollsters have found that it’s hurt Romney thus far in the presidential race.
What would you like people to say about you when you retire? Here’s the test to see if you’re on the right track: Would they say all those nice things about you today? If so, relax: You’re doing well. If not, you need to get busy making whatever behavioral changes are necessary before you plan your retirement party.
Just a few days ago, on June 26, Joe Sakic was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. This honor was no surprise to any hockey fan, as the former Colorado Avalanche forward ranks ninth on the list of players who have scored the most regular-season points (goals and assists) in NHL history.
Additionally, Sakic was one of the best clutch players of all time. As proof of that, he holds the NHL record for the most overtime goals in the playoffs, with eight. These goals – and Sakic’s leadership as the team’s captain – helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups, in 1996 and 2001. (Having the unflappable Patrick Roy in goal and the dangerous Peter Forsberg on the second line also helped immeasurably, of course, but our focus here is on the team’s captain, who tirelessly worked to bring all the pieces of the Avalanche together into a cohesive, successful whole.)
For those of us who felt we knew Sakic – even if only from news stories – we always knew that there was much more than “just” his 625 career NHL goals that made him so special.
Indeed, there was the man behind the scoring machine. When Joe Sakic said, “I never grew up wanting to be in the spotlight, I just wanted to be a hockey player,” you believed him. Of course, nobody makes it into the Hall of Fame without being competitive, so you also believed ESPN hockey analyst Darren Pang, when he said of Sakic, “He’s one of the most likeable athletes of our generation, but when he gets on the ice, he wants to win.”
The words of no-nonsense Denver Post hockey reporter Adrian Dater are also meaningful. Earlier this week, Dater wrote, “I’ve known Sakic for 17 years now myself, and it’ll always be a great privilege to say I covered his best years as a player. Just to say I know the guy is a great privilege.” I would guess that in two decades of sports reporting, Dater has rarely said that about an athlete.
In this age where even high school star athletes all too often act like they’re entitled, “Super Joe” provides four great lessons for everyone in how a leader can be a true superstar:
“Why not upset the apple cart? If you don’t, the apples will rot anyway.”
~ Frank Howard Clark
Have you seen the following video from a few weeks ago? It features a guerrilla marketing strategy of organizing a faux flash mob in Belgium to promote the launch of Turner Network Television’s TNT Benelux network. This video of the live event has seen incredible viral success; in fact, it has been viewed over 30 million times and it’s the second-most shared ad ever. I’m guessing that the Turner Network got what it wanted out of it. Thirty million people across the world now wholeheartedly believe that “TNT Knows Drama.”
Yes, But My Business is Different…
It’s a pretty phenomenal video, isn’t it? But, of course, it’s not for every business. Still, it came to mind as a counterweight to an issue that I’ve seen again and again: The failure of too many businesspeople, lawyers and other professionals to understand that Bland is a Bad Brand.
In fact, some whom I speak with seem especially proud of their stodgy brands. It’s almost as if the blandness is a point of honor for them, as if it conveys the importance and the gravitas of what they do. (“You won’t see me playing around with Twitter or Facebook,” they say.) Forget about flash mobs and guerrilla marketing; these businesspeople are hesitant to engage in any marketing activities that someone, somewhere, might possibly see having too much risk. I’m talking about fairly standard marketing tactics such as writing a blog, giving social media a try, putting some personality in their bios and posts, that type of thing.
“It’s unbelievable how much you don’t know about the game you’ve been playing all your life.”— Mickey Mantle
With the first week of April comes a treasured ritual for many: Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. And in fact, ten years ago this spring, a man named Billy Beane changed baseball forever.
The Real Billy Beane
Do you know Billy Beane? If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that there’s a good chance you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated movie, Moneyball, and maybe you’ve even read the book. I saw the film recently, and it offers a stimulating look at the revolutionary change that Billy Beane brought to the Oakland A’s a decade ago. But more importantly, Moneyball is a compelling metaphor for the change that’s happening all around us and is affecting our lives and our careers in ways large and small.
The nutshell version of Moneyball is this: In 2002, the general manager of the Oakland A’s, Billy Beane, substituted the statistical theory of the eccentric Bill James for conventional wisdom and the intuition of the team’s baseball scouts. Amid much gnashing of teeth, this new system helped the team find and sign overlooked players who could be had for bargain-basement prices. This in turn allowed the A’s, which had one of the smallest payrolls in baseball, to compete with the very best teams in baseball and break an all-time American League record with 20 consecutive wins during the season.
While they did not become World Series champions, the A’s did make the playoffs, which in itself was an astounding achievement from where they were earlier in the season after losing three of their top players. And more significantly, Beane’s statistical strategy was immediately adapted by the Boston Red Sox, which two years later used it to win their first World Series since 1918. The Red Sox followed this up in 2007 by winning their second World Series in four years, and by that time the entire baseball world had been won over by statisticians from the Ivy League.
Writers such as Jason Fell have already done a good job of describing the lessons that Moneyball holds for business people in any industry. He finds the following three lessons: 1) Make change when it’s needed, 2) Stand by your decisions, and 3) Set realistic goals. Fell’s first lesson strikes me as the most important one to come out of Moneyball, and it’s worth a closer look.
“Make change when it’s needed” sounds straightforward and easy, doesn’t it? Yet, this may be the most difficult lesson to enact in real life. How can any of us say for certain when change is needed? Reasonable people disagree all the time about this, whether it’s in the baseball clubhouse or the executive lunchroom. In fact, change is guaranteed to be the one constant in our lives and careers. All of us are surrounded by so much change on an ongoing basis, how are we to make sense of it all? A popular axiom would have us “embrace change,” but if we were to do so indiscriminately, we would have no time for anything else. Luckily for us, Moneyball offers a way to work through these questions.
Are you still practicing law the way they did back in the 20th century, or are you taking advantage of all the changes in technology that have been sweeping the profession? Would you call yourself a digital lawyer, or an analog attorney in a digital world?
From document automation to the use of technology in the courtroom, to the rise of virtual law offices, the practice of law has been changing dramatically over the last few years. If you’re one of the many who feel as if it’s been impossible to keep up with many of these changes, you might be interested in an upcoming online course offered by CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction.
CALI is a nonprofit that’s been helping law students for 30 years, and they have put together a nine-week introduction to the many ways in which technology is changing the profession. Entitled Topics in Digital Law Practice, the web course starts on February 10 and will feature a different guest lecturer on Fridays at 2:00 Eastern time. Each class is just an hour, and if students are unable to make it to a particular class, a recording will be available later on the website. While the course is primarily geared to law students and law professors, all interested parties are invited to register. And while there is homework, there are no final exams, grades or CLE credits. Oh, and by the way, it’s free.
What does the future hold? To quote Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” And given all the ongoing change in both the legal profession and the marketing world, it must take a certain level of foolhardiness to attempt to tackle the subject of the future of legal marketing. And yet, there are sufficiently strong indications of where things are going that I felt I was on solid ground in my recent presentation, “The Future of Law Firm Marketing and Business Development.” Of course, I wasn’t predicting the imminent end of the world, or even The End of Lawyers (although I did mention Richard Susskind’s excellent and thought-provoking book of the same name).
The theme for the June 9 presentations at the Denver Bar Association was The Future of the Law, and the format was in the style of the tech-industry’s fast-paced, five-minute Ignite presentations. Obviously, it’s absurd to try to address such a complex topic in such a superficial way. But it did make it fun. And even given the mandated 15-second limit for each slide, and the speaker slip-ups and the lack of time to correct misstatements, some points worth considering can nonetheless emerge within the Ignite format. But don’t just take my word for it; see what you think and share your thoughts.