Bad News for Wannabe Twitter Trendsetters

I readily admit that I will never read Adrian Dayton’s ground-breaking, game-changing, paradigm-shifting book, “Social Media for Lawyers:Twitter Edition”. When I joined Twitter back in the summer of 2009, it really wasn’t difficult to open a Twitter account . In about  the time it takes Scott  Greenfield to write a blawg post, I quickly immersed myself in the 140 character Twitterverse. I don’t recall my first tweet, but it was probably embellished with an ornately rococo flourish like “I’m eating breakfast!”. The rest, as they say, is all a rich tapestry.

Perhaps there are some lawyers who just cannot grasp the most basic of user-friendly technologies, or they may have an unfortunate genetic abnormality such as a lack of opposable thumbs.

Yet, the social media law marketing movement marches forward as the Flawgosphere becomes saturated with the denizens of iPadism, The Starbucks Advocates and the Work/Life Balancers.

I’ve often wondered whether my cynicism regarding all this social media crap is simply a genetic predisposition, as one passive-aggressive, part-time “attorney” recently insinuated on Twitter:

@nikiblack: Explains a lot: RT @TheJuryExpert: Born miserable – some people genetically programmed to be negative

Could be. Life is a box of chocolates, not a Happy Meal. Or maybe life is suffering and unlike Mark W. Bennett, I am condemned to suffer fools gladly.

Rather than ask the inane question: Got Klout? Measuring Your Law Firm Social Media Efforts, thoughtful readers may be more interested in some more scientifically credible research on the “Power of Twitter (or lack thereof)”.

The bad news for Twitter trendsetters and social media gurus: tweeting and retweeting is fun but that’s pretty much it.

In a recent paper entitled,  Trends in Social Media: Persistence and Decay,  by Sitaram Asur, Bernardo A. Huberman  and Gabor Szabo (of the Social Computing Lab at Hewlett Packard at Palo Alto) and Chunyan Wang (of Stanford University – Department of Applied Physics) the authors undertake an empirical study on the impact of real-time content and creation of Twitter trends. I would have called it the “Bieberization Effect” but I don’t want a bunch of 12 year old girls cyberbullying me to death. Here’s the abstract:

Social media generates a prodigious wealth of real-time content at an incessant rate. From all the content that people create and share, only a few topics manage to attract enough attention to rise to the top and become temporal trends which are displayed to users. The question of what factors cause the formation and persistence of trends is an important one that has not been answered yet. In this paper, we conduct an intensive study of trending topics on Twitter and provide a theoretical basis for the formation, persistence and decay of trends. We also demonstrate empirically how factors such as user activity and number of followers do not contribute strongly to trend creation and its propagation. In fact, we find that the resonance of the content with the users of the social network plays a major role in causing trends.

So who are the trendsetters with the highest “domination-ratio“? Who cares. It should come as no surprise that Twitter trends are created by the main stream media outlets with Twitter accounts propagating and regurgitating their own content to drive traffic to their paywall websites. The result is not surprising, but it reinforces the general view shared by lawyers who utilize critical thinking skills.

The authors conclude:

“When we considered the impact of the users of the network, we discovered that the number of followers and tweet-rate of users are not the attributes that cause trends. What proves to be more important in determining trends is the retweets by other users, which is more related to the content that is being shared than the attributes of the users. Furthermore, we found that the content that trended was largely news from traditional media sources, which are then amplified by repeated retweets on Twitter to generate trends.”

Please tweet this post and get me into the top 20 Trendsetters. Thank you for your consideration.

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2 Responses to “Bad News for Wannabe Twitter Trendsetters”

  1. Carolyn Elefant Says:

    I think that your cite to this information about Twitter was interesting. But I would like to correct the accuracy of your offhand comment that:

    Yet, the social media law marketing movement marches forward as the Flawgosphere becomes saturated with the denizens of iPadism, The Starbucks Advocates and the Work/Life Balancers (the latter which refers to me).

    First, I did not saturate the blogosphere – I helped create it. I started blogging at the end of December 2002, long, long before you started this blog. Second, I have written about work-life balance. Sometimes, my posts have been critical of WLB advocates as this recent one was:

    I’ve also written about how the fact that there aren’t more women partners at biglaw isn’t indicative of inequality in the profession because biglaw is not the only barometer of success.

    I’ve written more than 1500 posts over the past 8 years (FYI, my earlier posts from Dec 2002 to Nov. 2004 are accessible at Twenty three of those posts ( deal with work life balance. 136 deal with ethics, 52 with client relations and 67 on LPM and the remainder on a scattering of topics. Yet you’ve nevertheless chosen to characterize me as a WLB blogger.

    If you want to criticize me, that is fine. But as I said on a few other posts, I don’t do subtext. If you think that my blog or that I am frivolous, just say so directly. But I would hope that you would give me the courtesy of actually reading my blog first.

  2. Antonin I. Pribetic Says:

    Thank you for your comment.

    I don’t normally allow links within comments, but I will make an exception in this instance.

    Firstly, I commend you for helping create the Blawgosphere. I know that your intent was not to sound like Al Gore taking credit for creating the internet.

    Secondly, I have read your blog a few times, but having practiced as a solo for 6 years earlier in my career, I realized that I would never develop as a trial lawyer in an isolated environment. Hence, I no longer find the solo practice discourse of interest. This does not mean that others will not benefit from your insights.

    Thirdly, since you insist on believing that anytime someone criticizes “work-life balance” when discussing law, they are criticizing you, then so be it.

    I have written before why Work-Life Balance is a fiction created by those who believe that practicing law is not a privilege but an entitlement: Work Life/Balance? Enough is Enough.

    Finally, there is no subtext, implication or insinuation involved here. You may have been an architect of the Blawgosphere in 2002, but either your design was flawed or you must at some point take some responsibility for its current state of disrepair. Whether you will return to your stewardship of the Blawgosphere or remain festooned between the legal tech and social media crowds is your choice.

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