In working with a lot of mid-sized professional services firms, we often hear the following statement from the Marketing Director or Partner in charge of marketing:No one in our office, including myself, understands Twitter. Can a professional services firm like ours use Twitter effectively, and what are the benefits?First of all, the answer is yes in almost all cases. Professional services firms should be using Twitter in some form or fashion. Even if you think Twitter is a fad of some sort, it’s not going away anytime soon and the audience(s) you want to have conversations with are likely lurking on Twitter somewhere. There’s almost no downside to trying Twitter, other than someone on your internal or external staff spending a bit of time listening, learning, following and finally tweeting.Here are five relatively simple ways that a professional services firm can use Twitter:1. Expand the distribution of your content or thought leadership material.Almost every professional services firm already has content. Some even have good content. A few have great content.For instance, my financial advisor puts out a simple yet solid “State of the Markets” newsletter and posts it on the firm’s website. This type newsletter is an ideal piece to share with your Twitter followers. Blog posts, new white papers, interesting articles, links to podcasts…these all work as well. As long as you’re sharing with folks that have chosen to follow you and you’re not “spamming” your followers with irrelevant messages every 5 minutes, you’re in good shape.If nothing else, you gain additional distribution for your content. Can that be a bad thing?2. Break company or client news.Twitter breaks news faster than most sources and contains a built-in distribution list – your followers. Use it to announce a new partnership. Use it to tell folks about a new office location. Use it to remind followers about an upcoming event. You don’t always need a press release to break some news.And by all means, don’t forget about your clients. Assuming you’ve built up a nice client community, your followers may want to hear about each other’s news. You may even end up connecting two clients that didn’t know they were part of the same community or industry.3. Build the personal brands of your partners or executivesIn most professional services firms, the partners or executives in the firm represent not only the face of the firm but also serve as the primary thought leaders. After all, people come to professional services firms for counsel in a specific area, an area that your partners or executives are likely well-versed in.Create Twitter accounts for the partners in your firm if you have to, and prepare a one-sheeter on how they should use Twitter. Hell, go as far as providing example tweets that they might post. Teach them how to find people to follow and how to attract followers. Then let ’em loose.4. Connect with like-minded people or companies.This is the most obvious one. It’s what Twitter is built for. By sharing your content and viewpoints and allowing others to share with you, you will discover prospective clients, partners, employees, investors…the list goes on and on. Be yourself, either as a firm or as an individual that is part of that firm, and you’ll end up connecting with people you’d otherwise never meet.5. Find new business.I am leaving this for last as the firms or individuals that set out to use Twitter exclusively for this purpose usually end up annoying their followers and even non-followers. That being said, talk to anyone that has used Twitter in an honest, sharing way for an extended period of time and they will tell you about a new client or partnership that was initiated, nurtured or otherwise influenced via Twitter.Twitter is not Facebook. I mention that because some professional services firms tend to lump social media properties together. I can understand a professional services firm deciding to stay away from any organized Facebook activity. Twitter, on the other hand, is worth a spin.