I've been spending more and more time lately working with attorneys on how to use Twitter for business development.
Why should attorneys use Twitter?
- Stay up on trends in the legal industry and in their clients’ industries
- Push out alerts and other publications
- Curate / aggregate information related to their practice area
- Get noticed as a thought leader
- Get on journalists' and conference organizers' radar
- Follow clients in the news (and in the zeitgeist)
It is not often an easy "aha moment" kind of thing for most attorneys, partly because lawyers never say something in 140 characters (I think the snark punch line goes something like "...they get paid by the word"). So I encourage new Twitter users to start by using it as simply a listening platform.
Here is a brief version of my Twitter tutorial for lawyers:
- Crawl, walk, run. Stop worrying that you need to have something earth-shattering to say. Just start by establishing a basic profile, and getting comfortable with the medium. Follow your clients and prospective clients. Listen to what is being said, and note how they are saying it.
- Get to know the players. Follow journalists and thought leaders in your area of law. Not sure who they are, or how they are listed on Twitter? Take a look at your competitors' profiles. Who are they following? You won't find everyone in one sitting, but if you keep your eyes open, you will quickly start gathering up a good set of handles to follow.
- Identify your space. A few months in, you've been listening and taking note of what this new beast is, and have some ideas on how to use it to your advantage. Now comes the time to decide who you want to be (on Twitter) when you grow up. "An insurance coverage lawyer" is too broad a swipe; why not "an insurance coverage lawyer focused on cyber security coverage"? Or, rather than "an IP lawyer" you might say you are "a patent litigation attorney". I've seen great success by attorneys who follow a specific area of government (e.g., the FDA). The important thing is to hone in on what you are passionate about.
- Start sharing. Lawyers new to Twitter are often worried they will spill something they shouldn't - so I suggest you start tweeting by simply sharing news items that you find interesting. Unless you have a hankering to start posting ill-conceived selfies, or your name is Weiner, it is pretty tough to get into trouble by posting a link to a business news story or supreme court decision.
- Be human. We all know that people hire people, not automatons. Don't be so stiff in your tweets that no one can tell who you are. I love seeing weekend tweets from a high powered litigator who gets excited about his son's little league win. If you support a charitable cause in your community, why not give them a little love by tweeting a link to their donations page? Caveat: don't be too human and share personal data such as phone numbers or email addresses on Twitter (unless you want the world to have access to this content). A lesson celebrity chef Bobby Flay learned the hard way.
- Play well with others. Twitter is about connecting with people and sharing value -- not about using it simply as a megaphone through which to broadcast your brilliance. I'm not saying an attorney should never send out a tweet linking to something they wrote; what I am saying is that simply tweeting "I was quoted in this article" adds no value to any conversation. Tell people why they should care about that quote.
- Leverage your channels. Once you have a Twitter account up and running, make people aware of it. Add it to your LinkedIn profile, include it in your email signature, add it to the footer of your slides so audience members can credit you when they tweet takeaways from your presentation.(If you think this isn't a "thing," you haven't been paying attention.)
- Go easy on the hashtags. Hashtags help categorize your content (e.g., #iplaw) and should be used sparingly. Don't use #law or # business - these are so generic as to be useless. Find out what hashtags are used in your area of law. In my early days, it didn't occur to me to look up hashtags to ensure they meant what I thought they meant. For example, I thought #AG referred to Attorneys General. Nope - Agriculture. I've seen several attorneys make this mistake, with embarrassing results. Lesson: do your homework.
- Don't automate your tweets. If you are so busy that you need to set up a program to automatically send out tweets on your behalf at specific times of the day, then I submit you aren't managing your time well. And automating your tweets means you might be the guy tweeting about his article opposing teacher pay raises at the same time the Sandy Hook shootings were all over Twitter. I'm not making this up, I really saw this. By handling your account yourself you won't run the risk of tweeting inappropriately while the rest of the world is riveted by an unfolding tragedy.
- Use humor sparingly. We all know from email that it is incredibly easy to get in trouble when you start using humor in electronic communication. On Twitter, it is even dicier because you have no idea who might see your content. Tread carefully.
- Learn from the best. There are plenty of folks out there doing it right, and it is about this time of year that publications start putting out their "Best of" lists. Look for the best in your area of law, and see how they are doing it. Examples: A2L Consulting posted "50 Best Twitter Accounts to Follow for Litigators and Lawyers", and Copyright Litigation Blog posted this list of the Top 40 IP Lawyers on Twitter.
- Understand basic etiquette.If you retweet something but need to modify it in order to add your commentary, include "MT" (without the quotes) after your comments. This means "modified tweet". If you reference someone's content, include their Twitter handle. It is easy to find by simply Googling their name and the word Twitter - e.g., "Cyndy McCollough Twitter" will yield the following:
I could go on about getting started on Twitter, but at this point I encourage those of you thinking about getting on Twitter to -- at the very least -- sign up and establish a basic presence. I will follow up with a "Twitter for Attorneys - Part II".
Please post any questions in the comments section -- and have fun!