Yes, I’m quitting Twitter. After 2.5 years, 2,154 followers, and 2,917 tweets, I have officially called it quits on Twitter. And I believe other professional services firms – - accountants, auditors, lawyers, engineers, etc. – - should do the same. Stop wasting your time on Twitter and get back to generating new business and goodwill with your existing clients.
What do I know about Twitter or web marketing?
Why should anyone listen to me? I’d like to think I’ve got a pretty good handle on using the web to generate new business and create professional relationships, at least in the professional services space. Accountants, auditors, and lawyers should listen to me because I know how to get results.
Here’s the proof: I’ve been a solo practitioner in a niche practice (fraud investigation and forensic accounting) for over 11 years. Today, my website is ranked third in traffic for forensic accounting firms. The two ahead of me (and several of the firms behind me) have hundreds of employees around the world.
I have a highly trafficked blog and my statistics for visitors (both repeat and new) are quite impressive (even excluding the fact that I’m a solo). I’ve figured out how to get internet traffic despite the relative small size of my firm (and therefore limited reach among professionals), and I have turned that into business.
How does Twitter fit in?
When I first got involved with Twitter, it was really an experiment of sorts. It was mid-2008 and professionals were very new to Twitter. I had good success blogging, and hoped this was a way to extend that success. I thought if I got in early, I could build a good following and reap some rewards.
Twitter made sense in the beginning. I get about 30% of my business from Google and at least 30% from writing articles in professional publications. My blogging has helped me gain good rankings for certain keywords and phrases, and that is how Google gets me business. By writing articles for the right trade publications, I’ve gotten in front of my target market and demonstrated my expertise. Since I was so successful with these two things, Twitter seemed to be a natural extension of that.
I thought that additional publicity via Twitter would drive more traffic to my website, resulting in more business. I thought Twitter would help me get quoted more often in online and print publications, and it would put me in front of potential clients. I was wrong on all accounts.
Zero results with Twitter
Twitter sends almost no additional traffic to my site. No client or potential client has ever mentioned seeing me on Twitter. No reporter has ever mentioned Twitter to me. A few colleagues (read: competitors) have found me via Twitter, but what good is that, really? None of this has turned into new clients or additional business. None of the statistics that can be measured and tracked have been impacted in any way by Twitter.
Why doesn’t Twitter work for professional service firms?
My goal with Twitter was to use it smartly. I never planned on Tweeting twenty to fifty times a day. I wanted to use it strategically, but not overwhelm my friends and colleagues with too much noise. And noise is exactly what Twitter is today.
Professional services firms are using Twitter to get their message out. The problem is that no one is listening. Everyone is too busy pushing out their message via Twitter, and they’re spending very little time listening to what others have to say.
Twitter can be a platform for engaging in conversation with other professionals. It can also be a way to get news or be pointed to interesting articles. You can learn a lot from Twitter. But do you need this outlet to learn or have conversations? No. If you want to learn, bookmark sites or add blogs to your RSS reader. If you want to have conversations, reach out to other professionals to have private, meaningful conversations. Don’t waste your time with a noisemaker like Twitter.
Not enough results to make Twitter worthwhile
Have some professionals like myself used Twitter successfully? Maybe. It depends on how you define success.
I know some accountants and lawyers have reaped some benefits from Twitter. I would argue, however, that those benefits were not worth the high cost of Twitter. Namely, the people I know who are “successful” with Twitter probably spend 1 to 3 hours per day using it. The limited volume of benefits (in the form of new business, goodwill with existing clients, speaking engagements, being quoted in industry publications, being invited to do a guest blog or column) were not worth this much of a time investment.
It’s true that the time investment for Twitter can be very low. I probably spent only two to ten minutes per day using Twitter. I tried not to overwhelm my followers, but have provided some links to good content and made relevant comments on content from others. But it wasn’t worth it because there was zero return. For any activity to be worthwhile (even one that only takes a little bit of time and effort) there has to be some sort of return on it. And for Twitter, there was none.
Look at Twitter over the long term. Even at two minutes per day, we’re talking about 12 hours per year. (And at ten minutes per day, it’s over 60 hours per year!) I can do a lot of things with that much time.
I’m not saying Twitter isn’t useful for other people, industries, or companies. Consumer products companies can use it to create brand loyalty. Certain professions might find it useful to generate new business. People might find jobs using Twitter. But if you’re an accountant, auditor, investigator, or lawyer, it is nearly useless.
The future of Twitter for professionals
Two or three years from now, the usefulness of Twitter might change for professional services people. A few years ago I wrote about how much I hated LinkedIn, and how I thought it was the equivalent of a chain letter or a scam. It has improved, and I’ve actually found it to be a useful tool for making professional connections. (Although I hate how headhunters and certain other professionals still abuse Linked In.)
My long-term experiment with Twitter has been a bust, and it’s time to stop the bleeding. No more time wasted posting things to Twitter.
I would rather spend that time developing new content for my blog. I think devoting my time to my own site, where I own the platform and control the content and the distribution, makes much more sense.
Now it’s time for you, dear accountant or lawyer, to stop wasting your time and money on Twitter. Find a better outlet for your thoughts, and by all means, don’t pay a “social media consultant” or marketer to develop or maintain a Twitter presence. Your time and money are best spent elsewhere, on tried and true methods of marketing your firm.
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