This article will cover Twitter and how legal professionals can and should be using it to connect and maintain connections with people online.
140 Characters: a Creative Challenge
Twitter is different from LinkedIn and Facebook, which were previously presented, because it restricts the number of characters allowed in a post (called a “tweet”). This requires that you be pithy and creative in what you tweet. Twitter is a great way to share links and photos but not a great way to have lengthy philosophical conversations.
As a lawyer, you may post links to interesting articles in your area of law that you’ve run across, sparking short conversations with others in your field.
Tweets, Retweets, and Mentions, Oh My!
Of course, you should also be interacting with other people on twitter—follow people and groups that you have an interest in and post things that interest you. And, of course, you should follow WLALA at @WLALATweets for updates about what’s on the calendar and what members are doing.
When you read a tweet that you like and think that your followers would enjoy, you can retweet it. Or you can add commentary; commonly, this is signified by adding “RT”. For example, if you see this tweet in your twitterstream and want to share it, your followers will see it in their twitterstreams:
Women's Negotiation Academy: Creating Skilled and Sophisticated Negotiators at the Straus Institute http://buff.ly/1uL9nEc
If you want to add commentary, simply add it before the original content, followed by “RT” and the original poster’s Twitter username:
Just signed up! RT @WLALATweets: Women's Negotiation Academy: Creating Skilled and Sophisticated Negotiators at the Straus Institute http://buff.ly/1uL9nEc
Unfortunately, this might be more than 140 characters, so you’ll have to modify the tweet, signaled by using “MT”:
Just signed up! MT @WLALATweets: Women's Negotiation Academy at the Straus Institute http://buff.ly/1uL9nEc
This gives credit to the original poster while also alerting them to your existence. If you have similar interests, you might end up following each other or participating in a conversation.
Maybe you want to mention a Twitter user who pointed you in the direction of an interesting link, event, or idea. You can use their username, preceded, as always, with an “@”:
Loved the Women's Negotiation Academy at the Straus Institute! Thanks for the tip, @WLALATweets!
Of course, you can also mention friends in your tweets, to let them know about things you want to call to their attention:
Hey, @RegLevy, you might be interested in the Women's Negotiation Academy at the Straus Institute. h/t @WLALATweets
If you start a tweet with “@”, the tweet will be hidden from anyone not mentioned in the tweet or who follows both you and the mentioned twitterer. In the above example, the tweet will appear in your twitterstream. If you hadn’t included “Hey,” it would only appear in @RegLevy’s and @WLALATweets’ twitterstreams—and those of anyone who follows both you and @RegLevy. This does not mean it’s hidden or private, just less obvious. This is why you may see tweets that begin with “.”: it’s a way of calling someone out publicly.
“h/t”, by the way, stands for “hat-tip”, another way of attributing something that is not a direct quote.
How Twitter Fits Into Your Social Media Strategy
LinkedIn is a great way of connecting with other professionals, including sharing links to professional articles and presentations. Facebook is a great way of connecting to other professionals in a more relaxed setting (if LinkedIn is a business meeting, Facebook is a networking cocktail party). Twitter is a great way of maintaining interest and communication with your connections (in our analogy above, Twitter is texting).
On LinkedIn, you might post a link to an article you wrote. You might post the same to Twitter, but because of the way Twitter works, it’s more likely to get shared on Twitter. Retweeting and MTing are easier—and more encouraged—on Twitter than on LinkedIn. Used in combination, they’re even more powerful. Don't, however, simply post the same thing at the same time in every social media outlet—craft your content to your audience (professional on LinkedIn, less professional on Facebook, totally casual on Twitter). Because of the character constraints, grammar and spelling mistakes are overlooked more often on Twitter, especially if the content is compelling.
Twitter is anonymous; anyone can see your tweets, without you knowing and without following you—especially if you get retweeted. You may not know if people are reading your tweets, although retweets and mentions increase your visibility. Twitter is also a great way of sending out little thoughts while you’re mobile (not at your computer). A lawyer might tweet upon arriving at a bar association event, reminding their followers who might have forgotten about it and telling followers who might also be at the event that they’re there. This is social networking!
The key, as with all forms of networking, is to be yourself. Soon, you’ll be meeting new professionals with similar interests and strengthening ties to people and groups you already know. In addition, you’ll be increasing your online presence and establishing yourself as an authority in your area.