July 27, 2010, was a special day for me personally and professionally. Inspired by other attorneys who had shared their stories of social media success, that was the day I opened myself up to the Twittersphere and became a “tweeter,” a “tweep” or, as some would say, a “twit.”
I had just started my own firm and needed a fresh approach to engage with my growing network. Although I was an early adopter of LinkedIn’s professional networking site, those around me knew that I was an inherently private person and, at that point, unlike most of my friends and colleagues, I did not even have a Facebook account. Still unsure about this “social media thing,” I remember asking myself: Will all of this time and energy be fruitful for my business? After all, that was the ultimate goal. Would anyone be listening? To my surprise and delight, the answer was yes.
Twitter (www.Twitter.com) is a social media website where information is disseminated to others using 140-character messages or “tweets.” The messages can include links to sites, news, blogs, photos, videos and other media. Twitter quickly supplemented my normal reading list and became my personal feed to the latest news and legal developments. As time went on, I chose to follow the Twitter feeds of others and other tweeters followed my feed. I now have more than 2,600 tweeters following my Twitter feed. I often have my tweets re-tweeted to hundreds if not thousands of other tweeters in Texas, other U.S. states and even internationally. Some followers have contacted me via Twitter on related issues they face at their companies and have become clients. On occasion, journalists and bloggers have sought my comments on intellectual property and technology law-related stories, which in turn has led to more business.
While Twitter is a powerful engine to disseminate information quickly to the masses, communications by lawyers on Twitter are likely subject to the State Bar of Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. As such, I refrain from voicing legal opinions on the content of the links I tweet and do not discuss client matters on my Twitter feed. I am also mindful not to tweet any solicitations for business or advertisements for my firm. A recent article by Robert J. Ambrogi (@BobAmbrogi on Twitter) offers some tips and guidelines on how to keep social networking in line with American Bar Association ethics rules.
As a first step in my Twitter journey, I set up an account and created my Twitter “handle.” Twitter limits your handle to 15 characters, so I made a list of words that described my firm’s expertise (i.e., intellectual property and technology transactions) and decided on @TechSavvyLaw. The next challenge was to create my 160-character Twitter biography. I wanted a bio with interesting insights on what I do for a living and a little something about me personally: “Tech-savvy intellectual property and e-commerce attorney, entrepreneur, social media enthusiast, better half of an incurable foodie & eternal optimist.”
Given Twitter’s international reach, I wanted my followers to know where I practiced law. I chose to display, near my Twitter bio, the city and state along with a website address for more information. Once the basics were in place, I reviewed the account settings to ensure my comfort level with the information Twitter may embed with my account or in individual tweets. As an example, I did not see much value in adding my current GPS location to my tweets.
Once I was ready, I began following the Twitter accounts of news organizations, professional organizations and individuals of interest. As I engaged with others and offered what I considered meaningful content, the number of tweeps following me also grew.
Over time, I was following more Twitter accounts than I could manage. I began categorizing Twitter accounts and placing each account into Twitter lists such as “Savvy Lawyer Tweeps” and “Savvy Techies.” I use TweetDeck (www.TweetDeck.com) and HootSuite (www.HootSuite.com) to view Twitter feeds and parse Twitter traffic by keywords. I’ve also become a fan of BufferApp (www.BufferApp.com) and use it to schedule what I consider to be optimal times to post my tweets. BufferApp allows me to view the number of clicks a tweet receives and which tweets are re-tweeted. Based on a particular tweet’s popularity, I may post follow-up tweets on the same subject matter.
It took some time for me to learn Twitter language (e.g., RT means re-tweet, MT means modified tweet, DM means direct message and #FF means Follow Friday). When possible, I include hashtags in my tweets. Hashtags are simply the “#” symbol followed by a keyword or subject for a particular tweet. For example, when I tweet about a social media legal issue, I try to include the “#SocialMedia” and “#law” hashtags in my tweet. Hashtags, such as #SXSW for South By Southwest Conferences and Festivals, also are used by promoters and attendees of events.
As in the real world, tweeters also follow certain etiquette. When my tweets are re-tweeted by someone, I try to take the time to thank him or her. On Fridays, I often acknowledge someone I’m following with a Follow Friday or #FF. It may not be the highest award you can give, but I find that other twits appreciate them.
My goal on Twitter has been to disseminate information to those who may be interested. The time and energy I invest to engage on Twitter has been fruitful to my business and, when used properly, may be a good business development tool for most lawyers.