Jared D. Correia, Esq., is the author of Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers, coming this fall from LPM Publishing. He is the Senior Law Practice Advisor with the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (LOMAP), where he provides free and confidential law practice management consulting to Massachusetts attorneys.
There is a lot of content out there about how to maximize your efforts using Twitter, but you should also be thinking about minimizing the mistakes you can easily fall into trying to leverage the titanic social networking engine. Not all publicity is good publicity, despite what you’ve heard. As a professional, you want to be known for your competence, and your competence should extend beyond your substantive practice to everything else you do. In the spirit of brevity, which is the animating force of Twitter, let’s review some specific things that you should NOT do when tweeting.
What’s In a Name? It’s surely a great idea to ‘tag’ other users by referencing their usernames, as appropriate, in tweets. However, you’ve got to be careful when doing so, because the link to the user’s account will only work when the spelling is correct, and the appropriate account is tagged. So, don’t guess, and check your spelling. Otherwise, you’ll end up linking to Kenny Rogers, when you really want to be linking to Kenny Rogers. (You’re welcome, Kenny Rogers from Indiana . . . or not.) Draft the tweet first, and test the link, just to make sure, before you post.
Shrinkage. You’ve only got 140 characters to work with, so you’ve got to be certain that the bulk of what you tweet is substantive, while also leaving space for retweets and the usernames of retweeters. Links just get in the way, so you’ve got to shorten them up as much as you can. Twitter.com will automatically shorten links, but not every posting service will. If the posting platform you use does not shorten, you’ll want to consider another third party tool, like Tiny Url or Bit.ly, to get the job done.
Crossface Chicken Wing. Just because it’s pretty easy to post across several social media sites at once (using services like Buffer, HootSuite and Seesmic, to name a few), doesn’t mean that you should do it. Consider how many of your followers are common across platforms, and whether all that quirky Twitter code (RT, #hashtags, etc.) would look swanky, or just terrible, on another platform.
Automatic Society. One of the most obnoxious things you can do on Twitter is to set up automatic direct messaging for new followers, e.g.–“If you like my tweets, ‘like’ my Facebook page, and let’s continue the conversation there!” You’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective way to turn off your new followers, and to get your message deleted, or yourself unfollowed.
Follow the Leader. While it’s tempting to follow everyone who follows you back, or to build your following by following a bunch of other users as soon as you establish your account, this strategy won’t pay off in the long run. Twitter has in place follower limits after 2,000 followers, which means that, as your ratio of followers to followees begins to creep past 1:1, you’ll be restricted as to your ability to follow more users. Another important Twitter rule to know is that you can’t follow more than 1,000 people in one day. This is just Twitter trying to institutionalize organic account growth. So, take it slow and easy, and let your followers come to you.
The Touch. It’s almost worse to have no account at all than to have an abandoned account, or an account which is mostly vacant until you pop in, and then pop out again, every couple of months. If you’re going to tweet, you’ve got to be consistent about what you do; otherwise, you look disinterested, lazy and/or like someone who doesn’t follow through on commitments.
The Jerk Store Called. They’re Running Out of You. Don’t get on Twitter to be a tool. In the final analysis, you get far more traction being the good guy, or lady. It’s fine to disagree, but do so amicably, and be reasonable. Everything you tweet is potentially writ upon the face of the internet forever; think of the potential damage to your professional reputation if you come off as a straight hater, with an obvious agenda. Far fewer people will want to work with you. Just because you’re sitting behind a keyboard, it doesn’t mean you should say things you would not be willing to say to someone face-to-face.
Hashtag Binges. Don’t get carried away with the hashtags. Hashtag in context, and it reads better. When you’re getting to 4 or 5 and 6 hashtags, it’s time for an intervention. Even if they’re all germane, and you’re gaining access to a number of different hashtag streams, the clutter inherent in over-hashtagged tweets will delete any advantage you receive from being almost everywhere. Just tweet the content out two or three different times, using unique hashtags each time.
Winbox. When you sign up for Twitter, you’ll be opted into email notifications for Twitter activity. Opt out. As you become more active on the service, you’ll find the multiples of emails to be obnoxious, and nothing more than clutter in, what should be, your mission-critical inbox. If you don’t want to opt out entirely, you can select for only certain types of notifications. You can also create a separate email address to house Twitter notifications, as well as notifications from other social media sites. GMail, with its large storage capacity, is good for this. But, really: Why bother? Just log in regularly to see what’s happenin’. You can change your Email Notifications Settings within Twitter.com.
Incompletions. Finally: Never, ever hit send before you’re rea
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