November 30, 2021

Volume XI, Number 334

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November 29, 2021

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Tips on Twittering For Lawyers Part 2

If you’re a lawyer and wondering what all the fuss is about and whether or not you should join the Twitter conversation, you can be reassured, despite what some critics are saying, that lawyers are using Twitter in productive ways. They’re using the microblogging service for networking and information gathering, as well as for sharing, branding, and marketing. In 140 characters or less, lawyers across the country are tweeting about new court cases, monitoring conversations about their firm’s and their clients’ reputations, following breaking legal news, and even researching deponents.

 
Lawyers who are tweeting successfully say Twitter has helped them build community and even generate business leads because of the professional presence they maintain on the site; but they say that the real benefit of Twitter is that, above all else, Twitter makes them human.

HOW REAL LAWYERS USE TWITTER

Kelly Phillips Erb (@taxgirl), a tax attorney in Philadelphia, is a well-known blogger at taxgirl.com. Twittering is part of Erb’s overall branding strategy—Taxgirl is smart and direct and sassy—and that’s exactly what Erb is trying to achieve.
 
“Twitter makes me approachable. In this niche of tax law, the stereotype is that professionals are not approachable, they might be judge-y,” said Erb. Erb’s tweets are a combination of insights into tax law and her life as a mother of three kids. One day last month, within the space of two hours, Erb tweeted this: taxgirl Some of the biggest critics of Obama int'l tax proposal: tech companies. http://tinyurl.com/dyjozk And then, a few hours later, she posted this to her Twitter feed: taxgirl School form asks daughter to list "talents" for possible inclusion in gifted prgm. I think art, writing. She writes down scootering.
 
Interestingly, because Erb has built a community on Twitter, both tweets elicited RTs (“retweets,” when others forward your message to their Twitter friends) and @ replies (public responses to her tweets). If you want even more insight into what all this means, check out our first white paper.
Though Erb uses Twitter to extend her brand awareness, she says she cannot draw a hard line from Twitter to new clients. “It’s rare that someone is being audited and they think to go to Twitter to find an attorney,” said Erb.
 
That’s not the case for Seattle-based employment lawyer D. Jill Pugh (@djillpugh). She has been blogging about employment law for three years and says she gets two to three potential client calls each week based on her blog. Because her blog is a business driver, Pugh figured that she could use Twitter to drive traffic to her blog and thus increase her business leads. But she is so enamored of Twitter, what she has found is that her activity on Twitter has supplanted her blogging to a degree. Twitter delivers new business leads and more for Pugh. Through Twitter, she says she has not only secured new business leads but extended her local community of lawyers in Seattle and, like Erb, says Twitter helps her humanize her practice.
 
Pugh jokes that her obsession with Twitter is a little unhealthy because she is a news and information “junkie” and Twitter can become an intravenous line for information. For Pugh the temptation to be on it all day is alluring. That’s because she has so many peers among her followers (friends on Twitter). Pugh has conversations with a community of experts in her practice area including human resources professionals, members of the ACLU, and people involved in civil rights. She says she often posts articles she finds on her Twitter feed, and she reads articles she sees other post. To keep a handle on her Twitter time, Pugh carves out very specific—and limited—hours for Twittering. Once the time is up, she logs off.
 
Alluring and as humanizing as Twitter can be, when Pugh posts, she says she is always mindful about the fact that she is a lawyer and her posts could have legal implications.
 
“For me, Twitter is still very public,” she says. Pugh says that because anyone can read posts, and anyone can cut and paste what she has written, she never mentions clients by name and is extra cautious in scrutinizing her posts to ensure they don’t reveal any attorney-client confidences.
 
Erb and Pugh are good examples, albeit small when compared with very large firms, of how lawyers are making Twitter work for them. They’re successful with the site because they both joined Twitter with a clear purpose in mind—they wanted to build brand awareness, build their community, and build their business. Before you join Twitter, it’s important to determine your goals. Your reason for being on Twitter will help you determine what you tweet, whom you choose to follow, and whom you allow to follow you.  

SOME LEGAL CAUTION

Recently, the New York State Bar Association Journal ran an important cover story on the possible legal implications of using Twitter for lawyers and corporations. In it, author Steven C. Bennett, a partner at the Jones Day firm in New York City, argued that Twitter posts could spell litigation trouble for attorneys and other businesses.
 
Bennett argues that Twitter messages must be “treated with the same caution as messages in any other form (including correspondence, memoranda or e-mails).” Messages should not reveal confidential information, appear to contain legal advice, or violate rules for solicitation. Another thing to keep in mind is that tweets can be used in litigation discovery. They’re searchable, permanent, and findable.
 
While some lawyers might be cautious and choose to avoid Twitter altogether because it’s easier than diving in, it is here to stay and, despite recent reports that 60 percent of users don’t return to the site after one month, it is likely to remain influential among users.

JOURNALISTS/BLOGGERS/REPORTERS ON TWITTER

One category of users who are incredibly active on Twitter is the media, who have taken to the service like bees to honey.
 
If ever there was a Web site that was designed for information-loving, comfortable-with-writing-the-least-amount-of-words-to-tell-the-best-possible-story (i.e., journalists), it’s Twitter. And journalists (and bloggers) are on Twitter in droves, publicizing their and their colleagues’ stories, looking for sources, giving their ideas a test-run, and filling in followers in on what’s on their minds.
 
CNN’s Anderson Cooper is on Twitter; so is NBC’s Brian Williams, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, and now, Nightline even has a TV show that is twitterable. Business Week, The Wall Street Journal—they’re all on Twitter.
 
Finding them is simple: Muckrack.com is one way. It’s a Web site that organizes and categorizes all the journalists who are on Twitter by their beats. Twitter Search, which has an advanced search function, is another way to track journalists by name, publication, and topic.
 
For lawyers, it’s easy to harness the media conversation by following the news in their respective fields and even by providing insight directly to reporters when there is some to share (more on that below.) For legal PR people, Twitter can be great way to connect with journalists that are important to the practices they cover. There are a few tips for positive engagement that are good to follow.
  1. Listen first. Follow the reporters to get a handle on what they’re thinking now.
  2. Look for an opportunity. If they ask a question, answer them if you have something helpful to offer, even if it doesn’t directly pertain to your business.
  3. Don’t pitch them immediately (and don’t pitch over Twitter—journalists by and large prefer the email pitch). Establish a relationship through your conversation first.
  4. Be helpful in general: Reporters need resources, insights, and information.
  5. Make sure that they can find you as an expert. Have a robust Twitter profile. Add yourself to the Twitter directory at WeFollow (use hashtags that best describe what you do, i.e., #legalpr, #legalmarketing, #employmentlaw). And make your posts interesting to get your name out there.

HOW TO BUILD YOUR CREDIBILITY AS AN EXPERT ON TWITTER

About a month ago, Nick Gould, CEO of Catalyst Group, joined Twitter. As the head of a firm specializing in user experience on Web sites, Gould was interested in using Twitter to build his network with other practitioners and to establish his thought leadership in a highly specialized field. Gould says that he’s surprised at how quickly people have signed up to follow him and how useful Twitter has been to help him build his brand. One strategy that he has employed is a solid one for anyone wanting to build thought leadership on Twitter: the art of the retweet.
 
Think of retweeting as you would forwarding an email. A recent article on Mashable.com argues that strategic retweeting enhances the value of you, the expert, and likens retweeting to academic citations in published work.
 
If your strategy is to establish yourself as an expert, then by showing your followers what you think is interesting demonstrates your value as a filter. If you continue to contribute to the conversation by citing insightful, important, interesting stuff, you will be regarded as an expert source for information.

BUILDING YOUR REPUTATION ON FOLLOW FRIDAY AND OTHER TWITTER RITUALS

You can build your reputation on Twitter without retweeting, too. One of the easiest ways to do this, and to keep up your end of the Twitter conversation, is to log onto Twitter on Fridays to recommend people for others to follow using a hashtag (#followfriday) to lump your recommendations together.
You’ve likely noticed these posts in your Twitter stream: #followfriday @username, @username2, @username3. Every Friday, the Twitterverse becomes a kind and giving place where users let others know who they think is interesting. Take note of whom you like to read and recommend them to your followers. That’s how to build a community on Twitter.
 
There are now other day-tags popping up on Twitter. For example, #musicmonday, #winewednesday, and #wkndthx are all ways to keep the conversation popping about topics that are of interest to you.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF MANAGING YOUR TWITTER EXPERIENCE: TECH-ISH (BUT NOT TOO TECHY) TIPS ORGANIZING TWEETS ON YOUR DESKTOP

As Pugh mentioned, using Twitter can be highly addictive, especially for people, like lawyers, who are curious and thrive on learning new things—and who like to make their opinions heard. So managing how and when you use Twitter is important.
 
One way to manage the information flow is to organize it and make it easy to access by running Twitter on an application on your desktop and off your web browser.
 
The official Twitter Web site is fine, but once you’re following a couple dozen people, you’ll have a hard time keeping track of the conversations. The application Tweetdeck, a free application that sits on your desktop, is a useful Twitter management application. Tweetdeck works on both PCs and Macs.
 
Tweetdeck looks elegant and requires minimal set-up. You organize your followers from groups that you create. So you can have colleagues in one column, media and bloggers who cover your field in another, and client news in a third. If you want to keep an eye out for trending news in, say, immigration, you can set one of your columns to constantly search for that keyword.
 
Tweetdeck automatically handles a number of functions useful for the Twitter universe – it shortens URLs and lets you share your 12-second videos that you record on Tweetdeck through an application called 12 Seconds. For photos, there’s Twitpic through Tweetdeck.
 
Another benefit of Tweetdeck is that it enables you to synchronize your posts from Twitter onto your Facebook profile. You can automatically post in both places at once.
 
If Tweetdeck isn’t to your liking, you can try Twitterific for Mac users and Digsby for Windows-based systems. Digsby consolidates all your social media activity in one place on your desktop, so you can manage Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and more all at once.

TWITTER SEARCH

Searching for trends, people, and topics on Twitter has become one of its most useful features. Recently, Twitter even inserted a search box on every user’s homepage. It’s easy to type in just about anything to find it via the search box (as you would on Google). Twitter search also has an advanced tab, which helps make searching easier.
 
If you need to search for and be updated in real time, Tweetdeck is useful because you set up custom searches, which appear in one column that is constantly refreshed throughout the day if you keep Tweetdeck up and running. So, for example, if you want to keep a constant look-out for a general topic such as “#civilrights” or a specific one like the news of a decision on a pending supreme court case, you can insert search terms into the Twitter advanced search box (on Twitter or through Tweetdeck) and stay up to date.
 

TWITTERING FROM YOUR MOBILE PHONE

Twitter was conceived as a texting service, and, when you join Twitter, you will be encouraged to register your mobile device on Twitter’s setting tab. That’s a good idea if you have an unlimited texting plan, because, eventually, tweets coming in will wind up on your phone. You can control which tweets you will accept on your phone on the main Twitter interface. You can also tweet from your phone by texting a message to 40404. Remember that texting allows for 160 characters and Twitter only 140, so keep those phone-text tweets short.
 
If you have a Blackberry or other smartphone, you can load an application called Twitterberry onto your phone and interact with the Web site directly. iPhone users say they like an application called Tweetie, a $1.99 application that runs Twitter with ease on the iPhone.
 

SHARING LINKS, PHOTOS, and MUSIC

Twitterers like to share links to blog postings, articles, videos, and photos; these are among the most useful tweets. Because Twitter allows for only 140 characters, Twitter users can automatically shorten URLs using free services such as Tiny URL (http://tinyurl.com/) or bit.ly (http://bit.ly/). These services are easy to use—just drag the icons onto the toolbar on your desktop. When you find an article you’d like to share, click on the tiny URL icon, and your shortened URL is automatically generated. Of course the beauty in shortening links is that you have more space to provide commentary about them in your 140-character post.
 
Services like Twitpic can help you post photos to Twitter. Twitpic stores the photo and churns out a tiny URL to add to your post. Blip.fm lets you easily add a link to a tune on your post.
 

The predecessor article on this topic from Jaffe is: Twittering For Lawyers, Part I.

© Copyright 2008-2021, Jaffe AssociatesNational Law Review, Volume , Number 169
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