I understand using blogging as a form of business development for lawyers. I did it when I was in private practice. It produced the sorts of returns you might expect from the endeavor. And it makes sense that it might work: If you crank out basically a short article every day on one particular substantive area of law (and the piece is worth reading), you’ll develop an audience (and a reputation) over time, and that may yield opportunities.
You can’t exactly prove your expertise in 140 characters. You can’t prove that you can write with clarity or grace. And you can’t even summarize information on the web to which you’re linking. All you can really prove is that you follow a topic and aggregate an interesting collection of stuff; you recommend things that you believe are worth reading. If you’re aggregating the good stuff in a particular field, then your followers should be clicking through your links to read what you’ve recommended.
So that’s today’s question: Are they? Do people click through and read information that someone recommends on Twitter?
I’ve done my own little
navel-gazing empirical study, and I’ve concluded that Twitter doesn’t work: People don’t read what the Twitterers recommend.
Here’s my thinking: If Twitter causes people to click through and read original source materials, then I should notice that effect here at Above the Law. When lots of people share my posts on Twitter, I should have lots of readers. When no one tweets about my posts, I should have fewer readers. Now that I’ve posted more than fifty columns here, I can look to see what’s actually happened.
Start with the background: Above the Law gets a ton of traffic every day. People read the teasers, but then must decide whether to click on “continue reading” and keep looking. Naturally, only a fraction of visitors choose to click on “continue reading” or otherwise get directed to the entirety of any particular post (e.g., by receiving a link to that post by email).
You should recognize (if it’s not self-evident) that I’m not exactly an eyeball magnet here at ATL. I don’t link to pictures of naked judges. I don’t make fun of lawyers. I don’t make fun of clients. And my column appears only twice each week, so I can’t be a source of late-breaking news. Instead, I just type away, sharing whatever strikes my fancy about in-house life or the in-house perception of outside counsel. My readership numbers pale in comparison to the posts about naked judges and lawyerly lairs. (Come to think of it, why on earth did Lat and Mystal sign me up?)
But I digress. For today’s column, I looked at this question: As measured by my readership numbers, do more tweets yield more pageviews?
And the answer: They do not.
(For purposes of this column, I’m using the Twitter counts as they exist today and appear on my author page, and pageview data from Google Analytics. I understand that my research for this column has caused ATL to investigate whether the Twitter counter is working correctly, so it’s possible that some of these counts might be slightly off. But they should reflect, in broad outline, which of my columns were most popular on Twitter.)
Here’s the breakdown. First, these were my three most widely-read columns, by pageviews. (According to Lat, a strong column on ATL will generate more than 10,000 pageviews.)
“How To Be A Crappy Partner” drew more than 14,000 pageviews.
“Hire This Unemployed Chicago-Kent Editor-In-Chief” drew more than 13,000 pageviews.
And “Entering Time” drew more than 12,000 pageviews.
Because those were my most widely-read posts, you might expect them also to have been my most widely-tweeted posts, which would suggest that Twitter drives readership.
But they were not, and it does not. (Let the grammar police howl about those pronouns.)
Precisely three people bothered to tweet about “Crappy Partner.” (And I think that one of those tweets appeared on the ATL Twitter feed, where Lat tweets my posts. That leaves only two disinterested tweets.)
How about my second most viewed column, “Unemployed EIC“? It appears that zero — zero — people tweeted about that one. (Zero tweets? Lat must have taken the day off.)
And my third most widely viewed column, “Entering Time,” was shared on Twitter only 12 times. Thus, for my columns, high readership has not been related to wide distribution on Twitter.
That describes the most widely read columns. How about the converse? Were the most widely tweeted columns widely viewed?
My most widely tweeted column was “Business Development (Part 3),” which discussed using blogging to attract legal business. Forty-one folks shared that column on Twitter. (That’s proof that e-people like e-topics. Want to draw attention in the blogosphere? Blog about blogging; everyone will link to you! Want to get a lot of tweets? Write a silly column about the relationship between tweets and eyeballs on Above the Law, and watch the world tweet a path to your door!) (Or did I just shoot myself in the foot? Now that I typed that, will Twitterers feel that I’ve scammed them and refuse to tweet this column?)
Okay — 41 tweets of my column on blogging for business development. And how many pageviews? Not many; just over 4,000. Twitter sure isn’t driving readers my way. (Maybe that’s an aberration because the “blogging for business development post” went up on December 20, during Christmas week, when readership is always low. But still — the column drew 41 tweets, for heaven’s sake. Someone should have bothered clicking through to read the thing, and almost no one did.)
What was my second most highly-tweeted column? “Inside Straight: Hiring Law Firms Or Lawyers?” was shared 32 times on Twitter. But it attracted only about 4,500 pageviews. That’s not much bang for the tweeting buck.
My third most widely-tweeted column, “Social Media Policies,” was shared 30 times on Twitter. (“Social media policies” draws attention online! Yet more proof that e-people disproportionately tweet e-topics.) With all those tweets, did that column draw a ton of pageviews? To the contrary: That may have been my most lightly-viewed column ever, drawing fewer than 3,000 pageviews. Fat lot of good all those tweets did me.
So what do the data tell you?
The sample size is too small. There are too many uncontrolled variables. We’re not 100 percent certain of the accuracy of the Twitter counts. And on and on and on.
But, if you’re looking for a correlation between popularity on Twitter and readership on columns at Above the Law, you can’t find it here. “Followers” on Twitter do not seem to click through links very often to read original source materials. And that suggests that Twitter may not be a great tool for developing legal business. If I were still in private practice and trying to make a name for myself, I’d stick to blogging.
But I’m no longer in private practice and no longer trying to attract business. Maybe, some day, I’ll share with you why I choose to write this column even though it can no longer do me any good. I bet that column will draw
tweets and eyeballs galore yawns.
Mark Herrmann is the Vice President and Chief Counsel – Litigation at Aon, the world’s leading provider of risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human capital and management consulting. He is the author of The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law (affiliate link).
You can reach him by email at email@example.com.