Twitter 101 for Lawyers

The recent 2019 “ABA Profile of the Legal Profession” report says that only 25% of lawyers personally use or maintain a presence on Twitter for professional purposes. That same report also states that only 14% of law firms use Twitter (down from a high of 21% in 2016). My business clients—who in my opinion, are the greatest sales professionals on the planet—like to use a word known as “whitespace” to describe new potential opportunities with customers. I believe that Twitter is “whitespace” for lawyers.

Embracing Twitter provides lawyers with a highly powerful—and free—opportunity to learn, build your organization’s brand, build your personal brand and develop relationships. In this article, we explore some strategies for you to do so.

Create your Twitter Account + Profile

A first step in being a Twitter user is to create an account and profile, which is very easy to do and you can begin here. You will also need to select a username or Twitter “handle” and Twitter will tell you if your preferred username is available. Once you set up your account you can create a short Twitter profile/bio—which is a brief description of yourself that is limited to a maximum of 160 characters. You can also include both primary and secondary photos on your profile/bio. Be sure to add those photos and devise a profile/bio that stands out but is still very professional. Consider refreshing your profile/bio on an on-going basis as needed.

Actively Follow Others

Think about who you want to follow on Twitter in order to see their posts and content—you have plenty of choices as there are over 300 million monthly active users on Twitter. I follow approximately 1,400 Twitter accounts and when I first joined Twitter these were the types of Twitter users who I initially targeted to follow: in-house lawyers, major law firms, notable law schools, bar associations, #legaltech leaders, important privacy and cybersecurity professionals, well-known traditional media outlets, members of the Microsoft legal team, Microsoft business leaders, Microsoft Twitter accounts, key Microsoft competitors and customers, technology industry leaders and sportswriters who cover my beloved New York Yankees baseball team. For key accounts that I follow, I also check out who they follow for additional ideas on other Twitter accounts that I may want to follow. Twitter also has a powerful search function that enables you to identify and find other Twitter users. Finally, I also create “Lists” of Twitter users—based largely on the categories of Twitter users that I mentioned above—which allows me to more easily sort through their respective content. Also, once a Twitter user is added to your “List,” you do not technically need to follow them.

Learn More

Nowadays Twitter is my primary news feed and source of information. I check my Twitter feed, and my Lists, several times during the day and I feel that I have the most current and breaking news in the technology and legal industries that enables me to be highly informed as an attorney so that I can better serve my business clients. While the amount of information and data available via Twitter is staggering, it is also important to quickly filter through the key information that you think is most valuable to you as a legal professional.

Share Thoughtful Content and Engage with Others

In my experience, some lawyers prefer to be more “stealth” on Twitter and to consume content on Twitter versus creating and sharing any content. There is certainly nothing wrong with that strategy; it’s a “low-risk” option as you will not have to worry about how people may interpret any content you share via Twitter.

However, in my opinion, Twitter can be more beneficial to you when you actively share thoughtful information and engage in a conversation with other Twitter users so that you can learn from them. Some of the common ways you can engage on Twitter are as follows:

  • Retweet a Tweet: This motion is easy to do as you simply press the Retweet icon (which contains arrows going up and down) to share or Retweet someone else’s Tweet
  • Like a Tweet: This motion is also easy to do as you simply press the like icon (which is a heart)
  • Retweet with a Comment: You can Retweet someone’s Tweet and provide your own perspective/views/comment “on top of” someone’s Tweet
  • Reply to a Tweet: You can simply provide your response to someone’s Tweet
  • Post Content via a Tweet: You can generate your own “net-new” Tweet
  • Direct Messages: You can send a private message to another Twitter user.

The beauty of Twitter is that you need to be “short and sweet” in your Tweets as you are limited to 280 characters. Using Twitter has taught me to become a more effective and efficient digital communicator with my business clients. You can also enhance your Tweets—and increase the likelihood they will be viewed—by adding some visual content in the form of emojis, pictures, videos, GIFs, etc.

Brand Evangelist for Your Organization

Using Twitter provides you with opportunities to positively amplify the work of your employer/organization. As an example, I routinely post/Retweet content from Microsoft senior leaders, new Microsoft public case studies/references from key customers and useful information posted by my Microsoft legal teammates who are also on Twitter.

Build Your Brand

Contributing useful content on Twitter can also demonstrate your subject matter expertise and help you shape and develop your personal brand. For instance, I believe that as a frequent contributor on matters pertaining to the intersection of law and technology, in-house counsel issues, advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and privacy and cybersecurity, I have improved my brand both inside and outside of Microsoft. If you provide impactful content to your followers and on the “Twittersphere,” others will begin to follow you on Twitter, they may want to engage in a conversation on Twitter and media outlets may seek to interview you or quote you for their articles.

Develop Relationships

Actively using Twitter can also serve to expand your network. Over the years I have met and developed relationships with business and legal professionals directly because of my Twitter usage. Liking and retweeting the posts of others are great ways to get the attention of Twitter users and to start a professional relationship with them.

Twitter and LinkedIn

Both Twitter and LinkedIn are high-powered social media platforms, however, they are very different. According to the recent ABA report mentioned above, 82% of lawyers use LinkedIn. LinkedIn is also often viewed as the world’s largest professional network. Twitter is not just focused on the professional/business community and in my opinion, it is a bit more “fast and furious” than LinkedIn as the content is shared often and rapidly by Twitter users. Whenever I post content on LinkedIn, I will usually post similar content on Twitter, however, I do not employ a similar strategy on LinkedIn with my Twitter posts. My LinkedIn feed has also provided a great source of content that I post on Twitter.

Always Be Smart

Like any form of social media, it is very, very important for you to be smart and highly thoughtful when using Twitter, especially as you post content, retweet content, or like content. Always think twice before posting, retweeting, and liking any content and assume that whatever you do on Twitter can find its way onto the front page of The Wall Street Journal and can come to the attention of your clients or your General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer. You will be considered as an ambassador for your employer/organization so please keep that in mind when using Twitter.

Social Media Legal Ethics and Policies

There are various legal ethics requirements for lawyers and your employer may have its own social medial policies. Be sure to understand these requirements and policies and abide by them.

Be Positive and Avoid the Trolls

As part of my Twitter usage, I try my best to always remain positive and I do not disparage others when using Twitter—unfortunately, such negative discourse does happen routinely via Twitter. A best practice is to avoid the Twitter “trolls” that may want to engage in a negative dialogue with you on Twitter.

Embrace Cybersecurity

Increasingly cybercriminals are targeting our social media accounts. Like all types of social media, please be smart, safe, and cybersecure in your Twitter usage.

Be Authentic

Do not be afraid to show your genuine self on Twitter. Doing so will demonstrate to others that you are not just a lawyer but that you are a real person and are highly relatable.

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