Twitter 101 For Lawyers

HiResIf you’re an attorney thinking of taking a dip into social media, then Twitter is definitely a platform worth considering. With over 300 million daily users, there are lots of potential connections to be made. But, as is the case no matter which social media platforms you choose to use, it’s important to determine your goals prior to doing so.

Twitter makes it easy to network with other lawyers across the country and the world while promoting your practice and your firm. You can also receive news updates relevant to your areas of practices and connect with potential clients or referral sources. In other words, Twitter can be a good use of time for attorneys who: 1) have potential clients who use Twitter, 2) who would like to network with other attorneys across the country who have similar practice areas, 3) are seeking to connect with members of the local and national media, or 4) who wish to obtain news and information that will be useful in their practice. For attorneys seeking to accomplish those goals, Twitter may very well be one of the social media platforms that you should consider using as part of your online communications arsenal.

But before we go any further, let’s start with the basics: what is Twitter? Twitter is a free, online platform that allows users to share information using text-based posts (“tweets”) that are up to 140 characters in length along with accompanying photos. To get started with Twitter, you need to first create an account at Twitter.com. I recommend choosing a username that is similar to your name, not your law firm’s. After all, Twitter is one of the more social platforms and people prefer to interact with other people, not business entities. So using your name as your moniker makes the most sense and will make it easier for you to accomplish your goals.

Next draft a brief Twitter biography that mentions your firm and one of two interests you have, whether it’s a sport, a hobby, or a particular passion of yours, such as a movie or book series. Draft a biography that sets you apart and shows that you’re more than just a lawyer: you’re a unique person with interests. And make sure to include your law firm’s website as the website link associated with your Twitter profile.

The next step is to locate people and organizations you’d like to follow, including people you already know, attorneys with similar practice areas, potential clients, and others on Twitter with similar personal interests. There are a number of ways to do this.

One way is to locate people you already know by plugging your e-mail address into Twitter when prompted to do so when you first sign up. Once you’ve connected with people you know, take a look at the people that they follow on Twitter and who follow them and “follow” anyone who interests you. Next, review the Twitter lists of your new connections to locate other people to follow. You can also run searches to locate local media on Twitter, along with other well-known people and companies on Twitter.

The next step is to set up an account with Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, both of which are tools that make the Twitter interface far more user-friendly and allow you to organize and keep track of your conversations on Twitter. You can also use these tools to create columns that will populate with tweets that include specific hashtags that interest you, whether it’s a practice area, company name, legal conference hashtag, or event.

Once you’ve set up an account and have connected with a few people, start Tweeting. You can include links to your firm’s latest blog post, news of interest to you and your followers, and any other topics that interest you. And make sure to engage in conversations with other users by responding to and re-tweeting their Tweets. To respond to a user simply type “@username,” then add your comment.

I would suggest following this formula as a rough guide:

  • 50% of your tweets should be links to other people’s content, such as articles and blog posts
  • 30% should be interactions with others, whether re-tweets or direct conversation
  • 20% should consist of promotional content, whether it’s links to your own blog posts or articles about your law firm.

Finally, always think before you tweet and make sure to be aware of maintaining attorney client confidentiality. Also avoid tweets that trigger attorney advertising rules or other ethical issues. Familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction’s ethical guidelines on these issues prior to using Twitter so that your communications will be ethical and won’t result in disciplinary action.

Now that you understand the basics of Twitter, there’s nothing holding you back. If using Twitter will help you accomplish the specific goals that you’ve set, then don’t delay. Set up a Twitter account and get started today! And make sure to check out the recordings of two of our past webinars for more tips on using Twitter and other social media platforms effectively: 1) Gyi Tsakalakis provides lots of great examples of lawyers using social media and 2) Kevin O’Keefe shares how lawyers can use blogging and social media to build relationships.

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