Monday, December 26, 2011

Lawyers: Jumping in to Twitter in 2012? A Do/Don't Do List

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Having just completed year three on Twitter, I've been spending some time looking at how so called experts tout the site to lawyers. I was considering attending a seminar in January that has at least two hours devoted to all things social media. The CLE brochure lost me, however, when it breathlessly explained to me that one hour would be devoted to "getting new clients through social media like Twitter."

Having read that type of pitch for probably the 500th time, and seeing no real explanation for lawyers new to Twitter, here's my Do/Don't List. Think of it as Twitter 101. You can't become a millionaire via social media quickly any more than you can graduate from law school and litigate a multi-million dollar case in US District Court. Before you count your money, learn the basics. 

1.Do select a name that will identify you and/or your firm. I've seen many Twitter accounts with names like "AZ Personal Injury" or "Accident Lawyers." This isn't the yellow pages. Whether it's your first and last name, or your firm name, or (like me) a geographic ID that ties in with your business, website, or blog, focus on how others will find/see you. 

2. Do explain your practice or firm in the profile:  Obviously, with an account like @ageorgialawyer, you know where my practice is based. The profile is equally important. Mine says:

Injury/Pharma Lawyer in Atlanta/Savannah, licensed in FL &GA, Litigator. Runner, College Football Fan , Labs owner.
Atlanta, Savannah, FL ·

It helps to list your city or a telephone number. Website or blog? I know that I will click on that link at some point.  Describe what you do, but don't go overboard, remember this is a profile. If you work in the personal injury field, why clutter  your profile with "Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, Divorce and Bankruptcy" 
when you can keep it simple? 

3.Don't be too pithy, vague, or hip in your profile: To me there is nothing more irritating to stumble upon a twitter account, only to read this: "Biglaw maven." Or better, "lawyer/rock star in the land of commercial litigation." Yes, nothing says rock star like a photo of a balding, over 40, horn rimmed glasses head shot of a guy in a grey suit.

4.Do select an avatar or image that might possibly make you stand out:  I think that head shots work just fine. I also appreciate a firm logo, or a pic of a lawyer's office. Do us all a favor though. No more courthouse. I actually was working up a list, and in one lawyer's list of followers, there were 3 twitter accounts in a row with a courthouse. Also, skip the scales of justice. 

For me I have been using a pic of my three labradors since starting my blog nearly seven years ago. It's a conversation starter, and if you came to my office you'd likely see one of those animals here. Plus, I have a face for radio. 

5.Don't EVER make your account private: One of the biggest mistakes I see for new lawyers is locking or making your account private. Stupid. Got it? Dumb. Just really stupid, and it makes you look uninformed to the ways of Twitter. Twitter's purpose is to start conversations, pass along information (among other things).  In other words, you miss out on what makes the site valuable

6. Don't use a validation service for potential followers.  Placing barriers in the way of communication is essentially the same thing as locking your Tweets. What is the point of joining a network if you don’t want to communicate? Take the time to filter out followers on your own. If @GuyKawasaki and @MariaShriver don't use a validation service, why should you? Could you imagine going to a lawyer social and demanding to see a business card before you shook a person's hand?
7. Do realize that whatever you want your Twitter account to be, your goal(s) will change after about 3-4 months: I know what some lawyers are thinking even now as 2012 nears - "I'll go on Twitter and get lots of cases!" or ... "Twitter will make my blog hum with visitors!" Sure. Well, not really. 

I started off thinking that way, changed my mind about six months in, and now appreciate Twitter for what it is - essentially a news service ticker with some funny comments, wry insight, and spam mixed in. It's a bit like news talk radio - you get information, it might make you mad, or you can ignore it at your leisure.     

For me Twitter does help update others with blog posts. If that is all it does, you are ahead of the game, business wise. 

8.  Do know that it's okay to be human on Twitter: While I may not be crazy about reading a tweet  about what you are making for dinner, or worse - clicking on a pic of it - you don't have to be a 140 character version of a billboard. 

To me, I like to see  that @btannebaum is not only a lawyer, but a "Type II Diabetic." Or that Gwynne Monahan (@econwriter5) not only writes cogent posts, but is also unafraid to complain about having to run errands for family - a twitter post she had during the holidays. I know that @lizstrauss not only links to useful news/tips, but that her pix of the lakefront in her hometown are worth a look nearly every day.   

I am a voracious consumer of legal news, but I also connect on Twitter with runners, with beach people, with folks who like music, and with smartasses (you know who you are). I post about my trail runs and SEC football. It's ok if you post about your 3rd grader'sschool honor. It gives me some measure of comfort that Twitter is not a bot site. 

9.Don't spam with me with repeated crap about your firm: By this I mean - be careful about how often you post on Twitter, in a row, rapid fire style.  I've stopped following someone who will post 15-40 times in a row within 5 minutes. This is not what Twitter is best at - spamming those who follow you. 

Use your judgment, post when reasonable, and back off if you start hammering away. 

10. Don't tweet something to another person on the site, then get in a huff when someone (like me) comments.   Just before you hit the "tweet" button remember that others may see it, especially if you use a hashtag like #Obama.  

In one instance, I found someone ripping in to a judge, and there was a # hashtag in the tweet. When I replied to the author's diatribe, I received back a curt "butt out, that wasn't for you to read." Well, I did, and I replied.  

Remember that whatever you post is the equivalent of it being said in a crowded grocery store line for all to hear. So, toughen up when you get blindsided out of nowhere. If someone does not like what you wrote, it comes with the territory. Respond, ignore, or even block.  

That's the start of my list - if you want to add to it, send it to me on Twitter.   
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