I Won’t Be Using Twitter Any Time Soon (I Think)

[Update: You might want to read the comments.]

You may have heard of Twitter. It’s a free social-networking service that allows users to send updates and read other users’ updates. Updates are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length; they’re commonly referred to as “tweets.” Twitter describes itself as “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

It’s easy to find people waxing lyrical about Twitter. The lead evangelist in the legal community is Kevin O’Keefe; see for example this LexBlog post.

But I have no plans to start using Twitter. With my book, seminars, articles, and blog, it’s not as if I’m wanting for outlets. If anyone is interested in what I do, they can browse my website, subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed, or sign up to be notified by email whenever I post new items on my blog.

Conceivably I could post on Twitter drastically boiled-down versions of some of my blog posts, or stray observations that wouldn’t warrant a blog post. But who would be reading my tweets? Presumably a technophile subset of those who read my blog—I’d be preaching to the converted. I’d be better off instead working to spread the word to the 99% who know little or nothing about what I do.

As for my reading tweets, they’re an unlikely medium for discussing something as gnarly as use and abuse of contract language. And if anything potentially of interest to me should make its way onto Twitter, it’s a safe bet that it would make its way to other channels in very short order.

I’m not suggesting that Twitter isn’t of use—plenty of lawyers evidently find it of value. That Twitter’s home page refers to use by “friends, family, and co–workers” suggests that the developers anticipate that it would be used primarily for ongoing back-and-forth communication between peers. And it’s good for speedy dissemination of time-sensitive information. (For one take on what Twitter is useful for, see this post by a blogger at the Telegraph.)

But the information flow between a specialist and consumers of analyses produced by that specialist is a different matter. It tends to be mostly one way, sporadic, and detailed—in other words, not conducive to Twitter. For the time being, I’m wearing my specialist hat. For other kinds of information, I find that email, blog comments, and the telephone are more than adequate for my purposes. If and when the nature of my information flow changes, I’ll consider anew whether I could make good use of Twitter.

So if you’re wondering what all the Twitter hype is about and you’re bemused as to how you might use it, it might simply be that your information flow isn’t of a sort that could sensibly be handled by Twitter.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.

9 thoughts on “I Won’t Be Using Twitter Any Time Soon (I Think)”

  1. I felt this way too, but then discovered twitterfeed.com, a free service that connects my blog to Twitter. Now, every time I post on the blog (www.jhandel.com), a tweet gets generated automatically with a headline and link to the blog post. No effort required on my part.

    This is recent, but, for the past 10 days, people have been signing up to “follow” me on Twitter at the rate of 1-2 per day. Really, it’s just an alternative to subscribing to the blog via email and RSS. When it’s this easy, why wouldn’t you want to do it? If that’s how some people want to subscribe, and it takes no effort, why would I deny them the option?

    Plus, for someone who does public appearances, you can do an occasional manual Tweet as well – “Preparing to give a seminar in Boston on drafting biotech contracts” or whatever. I don’t think people mind that sort of fairly blatant advertising as long as its couched in “what I’m doing” terms and doesn’t overwhelm the more neutral informational stuff.

  2. Jonathan: Thank you for the twitterfeed.com suggestion. It might indeed make sense to offer it as an alternative way of tracking my blog. But such content-free use would seem a long way from the this-changes-everything rhetoric you get from Twitter’s more ardent fans. Ken

  3. Agreed.

    BTW, you can also connect Twitter to Facebook, and your blog updates will flow via Twitterfeed onto your Facebook update feed, again automatically. Just another way to get the word out.

  4. You are missing out on an opportunity to garner new readers. For instance, you could have done a tweet like the following:

    Why I Won’t be Using Twitter Any Time Soon: http://bit.ly/ma7B

    This would have brought interested readers and some would have stuck.

    It would also be a good way for you to pose questions and get back quick answers. I do that all the time, but more for travel than legal questions.


  5. Not sure that it’s a ‘type of information flow’ thing Ken. Twitter seems to just be a good learning, branding, and networking tool. In the professional services business, those are real winners. Like anything how to use Twitter effectively from a time and what applications to use to harness its power are the key.

    I thought Twitter was a big time waster for me at first, but I have met some wonderful people through Twitter. People who have enriched my life both on a personal and professional level.

  6. Following up on Jonathan’s suggestion (and I think Dan made the same point), I’ve created an account on twitterfeed.com to send out tweets notifying the world of new blog posts. My Twitter username is AdamsDrafting. In the next few days I’ll figure out exactly what’s involved.

    But taking this step seems no more profound than sending out email updates. I’ll keep an open mind regarding actually writing Twitter updates, but for the reasons outlined in the post I currently have no urge to do so.

    Kevin’s business is very different from mine. That would be enough to explain our differing views.

    But who knows: the future might find me twittering away.

  7. People explain me with my business being what it is. However, one of the single biggest influencers on me as to twitter was a young business lawyer in Milwaukee (not silicon valley or seattle) who landed 5 good business clients on Twitter in 6 weeks. Clients that that others would envy.

    Twitter works for client development for those who choose to learn how to use it. It’s simply a preference thing – where do you like spending your time? Some lawyers like fishing for ‘innovative go-getting’ clients who are looking for like minded lawyers on Twitter.

  8. I couldn’t really figure it out either and so have been experimenting with it. I have two observations on that:

    First, for whatever reason, a substantial number of users prefer it to RSS or email syndication. I love my Google Reader but, truth be told, a huge number of people, including many who are extremely computer literate, simply don’t like RSS and don’t use it. Twitter is generally easier to operate and, given the nature of it, encourages readers to let a ton of information pass them by, as contrasted to watching their “unread” number continue to grow.

    That’s a completely psychological issue, one that on the face of it should not make too big a difference. But it does. There are literally thousands of people who are far happier to “follow” on Twitter than to subscribe via RSS.

    Second, twitter does allow a greater degree of interactivity than a blog. Via Twitter, I’ve chatted briefly who a number of people I’d otherwise probably never communicate with. How useful is that? I can’t answer quantitatively, but I’ve felt enriched by it and I think I’ve helped out the blog by developing some of these connections, as these same people have been more inclined to read and link to my blog.

    So, I see the use. Do I think it changes everything? Absolutely not. But I can see the valued added, particularly once you get comfortable with it and limit your time/energy appropriately.


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