Stephen Fairley: Attorney Twitter Group

stephenfairleyStephen Fairley is a Law Firm Marketing expert. His company, The Rain Maker Institute (see also The Rain Maker Blog) helps attorneys make the most of social media. In this interview, Stephen describes how his Attorney Twitter group fits in to a holistic social media platform and describes his blueprint for connecting with customers online.

Stephen Fairley:

My business is law firm marketing, and the Rainmaker Institute is the nation’s largest law firm marketing company that specializes in small and solo law firms. We’ve worked with over 6,000 attorneys all across the country and well over 90% of them are small or solo. The way that we define that is anywhere from one to 25 attorneys in the law firm.

So almost all of our clients are small business owners, and they’re all looking for more effective ways to generate more referrals, build their practice, increase their revenues, and so on. I think social media, to me, is a tool and the tool needs to be put in to the right perspective. It’s not the only tool and it’s not even, necessarily, the best tool for lawyers, but it is a tool.

I do think social media, as a whole, is a fundamental shift in the way that we communicate. I’m not talking about the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, but it goes much, much deeper than that. Social media is about influence. It’s about communicating directly with prospects, leads, and referral sources and your clients, but the one, and perhaps biggest, thing that scares attorneys, my clients, away from social media, is that they can’t control it.

Attorneys are, they have – I’m speaking in generalities here — but as a profession they have a great need to be able to control things and you can’t control social media. You have no idea what someone is going to say about you or what someone is not going to say about you. It’s impossible to tell.

And it’s impossible to control, but you can influence it. The way that I talk about social media to my clients, it says, "Look, think of social media as a tidal wave. It is a fundamental shift in how we communicate online. You can either ride the wave or be crushed by it."

Adam Loving:

[laughs] Right.


Your choice. The tidal wave is coming and you can’t stop it. When you talk about things like, I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube video "Social Revolution," great video. In there it gives some fascinating statistics and one of those statistics is it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, 38 years.

It took DVDs, or CDs, one or the other, 12 years, I think it was CDs, to reach 50 million users. Facebook garnered 100 million users in six months. [laughs] The astronomical size of these social media outlets is just mind-boggling. It just is. But you were asking me about Twitter and what do we do. One of the things that a lot of people, who don’t follow us closely, what they don’t know is that we actually have five different Twitter accounts.




So we target them. We have completely different followers. The one that people are probably most familiar with is Stephen Fairley, because I personally go in and do that account. If you see something on there, chances are, 99% of the time, I’ve personally typed that in..

And thank God for iPhones. When I’m traveling, the number of tweets that I do per day go way up, whereas if I’m just here at the office working, typically I’ll send out two or three a day, but it can be five or ten a day, if I’m traveling. Just things that I’m thinking about. I do a high percentage of linking strategies. I try to do probably at least half or more of the tweets that I send out have a link, either a website or a blog post or a re-tweet of someone else that has a link in it.

So we’ve got, I think we’re getting close to, 30,000 followers on Twitter, scattered among all of the various five accounts. Right now, as I’m looking at this, probably in the next few days here, I’ll break 8,000 thousand followers on Twitter for just my account, Stephen, Fairley. But we have four other accounts that are anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 followers as well.

Our primary goal is to have attorneys follow us. I don’t really care about individual consumers. Of course, you can’t really stop people from following you, as you know. I don’t really care about consumers, because nine out of ten tweets that we do are directly targeted towards our target market. Now I might put one in there that relates directly to small business owners in general, versus just lawyers, but most of our target market are small business owners, who just happen to practice law. Make sense?




The way that we do it with our social, we’ve got an internal social media blueprint that we’ve created for our purposes. We use our blog to drive information. For me, social media is fundamentally, at the core, is about one thing, building your platform.

Your platform is how many people know who you are, what you do, and who you help. Who you are, what you do, and who you help, and you might even add a fourth one, how you’re different.

Because, whether you’re a software developer or a lawyer, there are thousands of other people who do exactly what you do, so how are you different? So, for me, what we’ve seen is that there’s a direct correlation between the size of your platform and the size of your bank account. The bigger your platform, the bigger your bank account.

If you want to grow your business, you need to increase the size of your platform. Many small business owners, like many lawyers, are trapped in the old, broken, model of marketing one-to-one. What we try to do is to break them out of the mold of marketing one-to-one and start showing them, and giving them the tools, of how to market one-to-many.

That’s exactly what social media is all about. It’s about getting the word out there about who you are, who you help, why you’re different, what you do and it’s education-based marketing. I’m a huge proponent of education-based marketing. It’s all about the education.

Lawyers, they almost have an – I don’t know if it’s a moral or an ethical, whatever you want to call it – obligation to educate the public. There’s a lot of myths and misconceptions about the field of law. There really is. For example, if you were to ask the average person, "What does a lawyer do?" They have the preconceived notion that most of us spend all their day in court, because they saw it on "Boston Legal." They watched it in a movie, right?


Sure, yeah.


Or saw it on "The Practice." Well, they gather in a conference room and then they go to court.


Giant books, right? Carrying giant books.


What’s that?


Carrying giant books, right?


Yes, carrying giant books. Well, the thing is most lawyers in fact, I would say well over 95% of lawyers, never step foot in court, ever. There are lawyers who have never stepped foot in court their entire lives. That’s one of those preconceived notions. Does that make sense?


Yeah, yeah, it makes perfect sense.


So part of the lawyers job is to educate the public about what they do. For example, we work with a lot of estate planning attorneys. They do wills, trusts, and estates. Do you have a will, trust, or estate, Adam?


I don’t, no.


You personally.




Yes you do. It’s actually a trick question, because every single state in the entire US, as part of their bylines and guidelines for their particular state, have actually given every single citizen of that state a will. It actually lays out exactly, in the event of their death, exactly how their estate will be divided. Who gets to decide where their kids go for care? What happens to them? What happens to their estate? What the taxation is.

Now if you don’t like that, then it’s up to you to change that and you can do that by hiring a lawyer who creates a will, trust, estate plan that fits your needs versus the states needs. Because what does the state do? Well, they send your kids – if you were married, both you and your wife, something happened to both of you and you had children, a judge would get to decide who watches over your kid and who gets to raise them.

A judge would decide how your property is divided. And oh, by the way, you’d also have to go through probate, which would take you about two years and would cost you, hmm, $10,000 to $30,000.

Now if you don’t like that — because every single member or citizen of that state is automatically opted in, in Internet speak — then you’ve got to change it.

Well, that’s part of the education that lawyers have to put out there. So I look at social media as probably the best tool that’s come along for marketing one to many, and educating them about what you do, who you are, and how you help and how you’re different.

So what we do, we use our blog, and this is part of our social media blueprint, we use our blog to drive everything. One of the things that we do with our Twitter account is every single time we post a blog, we post a link to it and a shortened title of it on all of our Twitter accounts. Which also updates — and we use Hoot Suite for this, we also update our LinkedIn status, our Plaxo status, our Facebook status and all of our fan pages on Facebook.

And what I did, I set up Tweet Deck and I have a separate column specifically for each of my Twibes. So I have one for attorneys, and I also have one for lawfirm marketing, the other Twibe that I have which isn’t doing nearly as well as attorneys.



I think we have like 35 or36 members on law firm marketing, because I don’t push it that much. But about once every other day, I push out an email and I set up a separate column that every single time someone tweets, "Just joined the Twibe, visit to join," I’ll randomly pick a person and re-tweet that.

Like today or in the last24 hours, I’ve had one, two, three, four, five people join the Twibe, and so I’ll just pick one of them and I will push it out to my list to tell them that hey, that’s around.

And I heard one Twitter expert, he said — and I don’t know if this really applies — but he said his goal, and based on his tracking mechanism, is that when ever he sends out a link, about 2% of his followers will click on the link. And I don’t know how well that translates, but basically that means for every thousand followers that you have, you’ll get about 20 people clicking the link.

So if you’ve got 10,000 followers, that’s 200 people clicking the link and then a small percentage of them will actually take action based on whatever that link is. Whether it’s read the blog post, sign up for free special report, or whatever. Is that what you’ve seen?


Yeah. Actually I was just doing the math in my head, so on my main Twibes account, which has between 60,000 and 70,000 followers, depending on how urgent and topical the tweet is. Yeah, I’ve seen up to 800 or 1,000 people click through it,.


How many followers do you have?


Between 60 and 70, so that’s roughly one in 60, which would be 2%.


Yeah, there you go.


Yeah, that’s great. And I really like that particular tip of just retweeting what people are saying, because you’re both supporting them and validating your own message at the same time. So someone else has joined the Twibe, therefore, they must see the value and here’s a little bit of link to let you know – here’s a retweet for them, which is a vote of credibility for them, in return.


And I think, if you’re going to push your Twibe, you need to use Tweet Deck to set up a separate column just for your Twibe. Why? Because it keeps it in front of your face. You know, Tweet Deck, you only get a limited number of columns. I don’t remember if it’s nine, or ten or something like that, but that’s valuable real estate.

So you want to keep the most important things in front of your face. If my goal is to build my Twibe, and that’s one of my goals for social media, is that I’ve got to keep it in front of my face, and so when I scroll across Tweet Deck, I come across the Twibe and someone joins it and boom, I push it out.

Now one of the things — and I know you guys are expanding, the different ways to take that Twibe offline,, and we’ve just started experimenting with that. I’m not sure when you came out with it, I think it was rather recently.


Yeah, it’s just been about a week I think.


Yeah, so when we started — it hasn’t worked 100% of the time on our case, especially with like470-plus members, but I’ve had one of my staff people go in and manually follow every single person on our Twibe, and follow them on all five of our Twitter accounts. To me, it’s about multiple connections.

If a person only has one connection with me, let’s say they’re reading my monthly newsletter, and they decide for whatever reason that they want to opt out, then I’ve lost all ability to influence that person or to have a relationship with that person. So the very first thing, the very first thing that I do when someone sends me a connection on Twitter is that I use an Auto-DM — yes, I am one of those people that uses an Auto-DM, direct message.

But here’s what it says: "Thanks for following me, please follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn, here’s the links." I don’t sell them anything, I don’t pitch them anything, I don’t even drive them to my blog. All I do, is use the Auto-DM to send them to my Facebook account and to my LinkedIn account.

Why do I do that? Because at some point, if the stats are right, that a large percentage of people who start using Twitter fade out after the first 30, 60, 90 days, I want to make sure that I stay connected with them, and the way to do that is Facebook.

So 11 million people a day log in into their Facebook account, 11 million people a day. That’s actually much higher than LinkedIn. LinkedIn people, they typically only visit their profile once or twice a month.

Now, we also have several groups — you can’t create multiple profiles on LinkedIn like you can Twitter, but you can have groups. And so we’ve got about eight to ten groups on LinkedIn and each one has attorneys that anywhere from 50 to 500 or 600 attorneys on each one of our LinkedIn groups. And so, we push our groups in LinkedIn, and we also push our groups through our Twitter accounts. And we also have multiple fan pages.

So we’ve got 2,000 or 3,000 lawyers now that are following us on our various fan pages on Facebook and we push our Facebook pages on Twitter. So what we’re trying to do is to get people to connect with us multiple ways, so if that they choose- for whatever reason to disconnect or pull the plug on one way, then we’ve still got three or four other ways than we can stay connected to them.

And we also try to get everyone on our all of our social media to sign up for our free monthly newsletter. So it’s a great tool if you know how to do it right. And now I’m not saying we have all the answers, right, I certainly know that there are people out there that are doing, I think, a heck of a lot better job that we probably are. But in the legal community, I don’t think anyone’s doing even close to what we are.


You know, it strikes me that certainly you’ve gotten more of a thing, a blueprint, a plan, that’s more thought-out, more intentional what you’re doing. Whereas the average person is just, even if they are intending to use these technologies, they’re just trying to stay caught up. You know, create random groups here and there.

I like your approach for how thought out it is. You have the blog at the center. You have these multiple channels of communications, and you just basically have pools, eddies, where people collect, wherever they prefer to interact with you, that’s where you find them there.


So the golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Well, there’s a person out there. There’s a couple of people who claim that this is their own.

One person, Jay Foonberg, is a giant in the legal community. He said his rule is the platinum rule. He said the golden rule is do until others as you would have them do unto you, but he said the platinum rule is do unto others as they would have them do unto them.

So in other words, where I take this from is that you use the tools that allow you to communicate to people the way that they want to be communicated to. Don’t force them into this preconceived funnel because they might not fit the funnel. So in sales and marketing it’s all about the funnel, the funnel system. It’s kind of like the philosophy, get them in cheap, sell them deep, so you get them in and you just sell them through the funnel.

What we found with social media is that people don’t want to be in a funnel. They want to come in from all different places. Some people want to come in at the top, and some want to come in at the middle, and some people want to come in at the bottom and they’re buyers. So you have to communicate them on the way that they want to be communicated to.

Well, they want to use the tools to extrapolate on this. You need to use the tools that they want to use. So, some people, they use LinkedIn all the time. Other people may check it once or twice a month, if that. Some people are on Twitter multiple times a day. Other people, they like Facebook.

The only way you’re going to be able to have an influence, to be able to influence the conversation and join in on the conversation that’s already existing, that’s already happening is to be everywhere at once. Now, fortunately we’re in a position where we can do that.

We have a dedicated full-time social media person on staff plus I’m involved with social media just much more part-time, but, you know, I probably dedicate three, four hours a week to it if you were to add it all up. And then, we also have another person that does some social media for us as well.

It’s probably a lot more than the typical solo practitioner or small business owner can do, but again, we look at it as platform. We’re building our platform and, of course, the consistent call that Twitters demise is near, I think that’s foolhardy. When you look at it, Twitter, they just secured $100 million in venture capital.

Now I’ve known some VC people. They’re not stupid. The only way that they’re going to get their money back is either if Twitter goes public or if they get bought out by a larger group. Twitter has already rebuffed a couple of very large groups, I think, Facebook and Google. They each had a turn at them, and they turned them down.

I don’t think that Twitter has still figured out what their business model is. That Biz Stone, the founder of Twitter, he said, "You know, we don’t really need to make any money". Well, I’m not sure how that went over with his investors, but I’m sure he’s a pretty bright guy and he said they’ve still got a big chunk of their $50 million VC first round funding still in the bank. You know, that’s great, good for them.

It looks like they’re being smart on it, but I’ve got to tell you there’s some very smart people that are investing in Twitter. Now, could it be all a fad, and could it all come crashing down? Yeah, it could. I mean, we saw that in the dot-com bomb around 2001 where a lot of companies were completely overvalued.

So, is it hype? I don’t know. I don’t know enough about that stuff, but I do know it’s a tool. My clients and my targets are using it faster than ever. There’s a growing number of them. I want to be out in front of this, and I want to lead the charge.


Great. Well, thank you, Stephen. This has been really, really useful. And I’d just like to encourage you to get in touch directly with me if there is anything that I can do in my little Twibe’s microcosm to support you or our clients as they come into Twitter as well.

Do you have any other questions or suggestions for me at this stage?


No, just keep up the good work. I’m sure you’ve got new stuff coming out. I’d love to be in the loop as much or as little as you feel comfortable with that. If you are looking for a beta or you’re looking for a feedback, I’d love to be a part of that.

I think it’s amazing what people are doing to customize their own experience with Twitter and with other forms of social media, but if you take a look at it from a philosophical standpoint it’s about connection and community. As a whole, Americans are so individualistic and we’re so disconnected, and I think that’s one of the reasons why you have found Twibes to taking off.

Of course, there was a book written by Seth Godin about building your tribe not Twibe, correct?


I’ve got it sitting right here. It was part of the inspiration of Twibe, in fact.


I wondered if it was part of the inspiration.


Certainly, the domain name, if nothing else.


Absolutely. But if you look on it at a macro level, it’s that Americans as a whole, we’re feeling so disconnected from each other. We’re very mobile. People move every three to five years whereas 20 years ago they would three times in their lifetime. Now, they’re moving 10, 20 times in their lifetime, and we don’t have those connections.

I remember one of my friends, I was out boating with him this weekend and he said, "You know, my wife and I have been married 14 years". They just celebrated their 14-year anniversary, and they were high school sweethearts and I was shocked. I, maybe, know one other couple that knew each other before college, you know, BC.

It’s just so rare for people to have those long-term relationships over decades, and I think that’s part of what social media is all about. It’s the yearning that the human spirit has for connection and a sense of community. And we’re trying to devise a technological way that we can be connected with other people around us, around certain groups or certain interests and common interests, and I think that’s where social media is coming to the forefront. It’s feeding off of this hunger in the human spirit for a sense of community, a sense of connection with a piece of the larger whole.

How do I fit in with this, and where do I belong? I know that’s, maybe, a little bit of an esoteric question, but I think it’s part of the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, where people are hungering for that sense of community and that sense of connection. And I think that’s where social media comes in.

I loved immediately, when I saw the play on words, the Twibe. I thought of Seth Godin’s book, and then I thought I want to get in on the ground floor on this. I just think it’s a fascinating social experiment, but I also think for a small business owner it’s a tool that you can use. Make sure it’s in the right place.

I don’t think it’s the only thing that you should be doing for marketing nor do I necessarily believe that every single person needs to be on Twitter and everybody needs to have a Twibe. But I do think that it certainly has its place, and it’s probably a lot bigger than a lot of cynics give it credit for. And it’s probably a lot smaller and less of an impact than a lot of these social media gurus think it has. The truth lies somewhere in between.

I would just invite — I hope you don’t mind this – -but I would just invite the people who are, especially the lawyers and the attorneys who are listening to this, I would invite you to connect with me on Twitter. Visit my blog at, and you can find me on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and I’d love to be connected with every single attorney out there.

So, thank you, Adam, for the chance to talk with you, and I’m looking forward to seeing when this is posted.


Thank you very much.

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