As a lawyer, you should be on Twitter. Please don’t stop reading. Hear us out. Twitter does more than inform you of what your favorite celebrity ate for breakfast. It is a powerful tool that connects us with other Internet users who share similar personal and professional interests and keeps our finger on the pulse of issues affecting our clients. But many attorneys, including in-house attorneys who are reading this article, are hesitant to enter the “twitterverse” because they don’t understand what Twitter is and how it can help them. Never fear, we’re here to help.
Understanding Twitter basics
Twitter is a micro-blogging site that allows you to post 140-character messages called tweets. Tweets are short statements (similar to a status update on Facebook) that can include hyperlinks to documents, photos or other websites. Twitter users receive updates in the form of tweets from others on Twitter that they “follow.” Twitter lists enable you to group similar followers into categories (such as tax attorneys) so that you can receive targeted information on what’s important to you (as opposed to what Lady Gaga wore on last night’s red carpet). Twitter also allows you to categorize specific topics with the use of a hashtag, such as #taxcode to search updates and commentary on U.S. tax law. Thus, you can follow the IRS (yes, the IRS has a Twitter feed: @IRSnews) in addition to observe who is communicating with the IRS and what they’re talking about by searching for tweets using that same hashtag. For more information on how to easily establish a Twitter account, visit www.SocialMediaGuideForLawyers.com.
How Twitter can help you
Here are some trusted tips to help in-house attorneys make the most of Twitter:
Follow publications relevant to your area. Many professional publications have a Twitter feed, including InsideCounsel (@InsideCounsel), where you can easily review links to engaging articles accompanied by links to more expansive content. Twitter allows you to sift through information to quickly determine which articles you want to read in full, instead of committing to an entire publication. Twitter enables you to efficiently stay abreast of the most relevant and current information in your practice area or industry.
Follow professional organizations and conferences. Many professional organizations use Twitter to promote their news and events. This is an effective way to learn about upcoming seminars, locate potential speaking engagements and discover new opportunities. Some conferences even establish a hashtag specifically for the conference, so you can keep up to date with networking events and instantly connect with other attendees.
Follow government agencies and courts. Many U.S. government agencies and courts frequently tweet updates to rules and regulations, administrative and court decisions, and news stories relevant to their area of regulation. With the majority of industries having some form of government regulation, this is an excellent direct-from-the-source way to keep up to date on any new developments for that agency.
Join Twitter “chats.” Cutting-edge legal professionals and/or bloggers conduct legal “chats” via Twitter (especially those specializing in HR). Engaging in Twitter chats enables you to discuss current issues with authorities in your field and bounce solutions, theories and ideas off of them (just be sure not to disclose any client confidences). As a general rule, the chat moderator schedules a specific time, identifies a unique hashtag and prompts questions to the group for discussion. Conversation ensues, and oftentimes offline chats will develop in which you can privately engage in a more thorough discussion with someone who has faced a similar situation and can help with your particular issue.
Find experts in the field. Twitter serves as a first step toward locating an expert in a field for nuanced legal issues or potential expert witnesses for your client’s case. Following industry-specific Twitter users will educate you about who others consider experts in that particular field. Although it may not be prudent to choose an expert based solely on a Twitter feed, it is a good start for establishing a list of names from which you can then begin to conduct further due diligence.
Locate new “blawgs” to follow. Many lawyers author legal blogs, called “blawgs” (law + blog, get it?). Twitter is an effective tool to publicize new posts and share them with a wider audience through effective use of hashtags (like promoting one of the author’s social media law blog posts with #socialmedialaw). Researching new blawgs on Twitter is an efficient way to quickly and easily monitor commentary and changes in legal areas of interest.
Develop your network. Twitter is another arrow in your quiver to develop a broader network of legal professionals and leaders in your field. It also serves as a unique way to network with others who share your hobbies and interests. We guarantee that no matter how unique your hobby is, you can find someone with a similar interest (or obsession) on Twitter. Twitter supplements your existing personal network beyond your contacts in the legal industry.
We’re confident that the more you use Twitter, the more you will discover how it can help you grow your ideal online network. We encourage you to set aside some time to try Twitter ... or at least give it a chance. Ask your colleagues how they use it. Search for and follow a few publications, industry leaders and your existing go-to sources for information (your local newspapers, news stations, bar association, etc.). Then, just sit back, relax and digest the information available to you on your schedule. You’ll be amazed at the quality of information available to you 140 characters at a time. Happy tweeting!