Twitter is a free service that allows users to answer the question “What’s happening?” in 140-character messages known as “tweets.” Users can follow others, enabling their tweets to appear on the user’s homepage as they are published.
While 140 characters might seem brief, Twitter users can share links to longer articles, blogs, videos, etc., for more information. Twitter also allows its users to “retweet” particularly appealing tweets that a different user has authored, while simultaneously providing an acknowledgment to the original author. Twitter allows us to create our own catalog of professional resources, and with more than 500 million users, Twitter is a popular way to connect with others.
Although Twitter is associated with social interaction, savvy attorneys are branding themselves and developing their professional career by maintaining a Twitter composed of “tweets with meat.” Here are some simple steps to assist you in keeping cyberspace “all a twitter” about your professional development.
Create a Twitter profile using your real name and a professional picture of yourself. Complete the biographical information and conduct yourself in a professional manner. Potential contacts will have difficulty finding your profile, and will likely conclude that you do not take your online presence seriously if you use a goofy nickname or a silly picture.
Use Twitter’s search tools or peruse others’ followers/following lists to find and follow reliable news outlets and other professionals in your field of practice and to build a relevant network. Retweet any tweets containing articles, advice, and thoughts concerning your field of practice. For example, if you practice labor law, search for users contributing thoughts and insight in that field. As you retweet, users with similar interests will notice your activity and follow you as a source of useful news and advice. Use list functions to sort and categorize your followers and users you follow for convenience.
Hashtags are interactive lists categorized by a pound sign (#) placed in front of a particular topic (e.g., #laborlaw). Hashtags will place your tweet on a list visible to anyone searching for the topic you have selected; therefore, your tweets have potential to reach an even larger audience.
The service has a unique etiquette, so be sure to familiarize yourself with it. For instance, users receive a notification when you retweet them, but sending a private message thanking the user for his helpful tweets is both polite and a great way to begin networking with individuals making relevant contributions to your field of practice. A simple “thank you” can go a long way in establishing long-term professional connections.
If you have not done so yet, begin posting tweets of your own. You only have 140 characters (including spaces), so make them count. Tweet announcements of particular importance to your practice or professional development, including opinions regarding pending legislation or a development in your practice, or provide links to articles, events, and editorials in your practice. Just be sure to avoid posting anything polarizing, silly, or unprofessional—your goal is to be taken seriously.
You should start asking questions and seeking advice through private messaging of those users who have provided the most helpful tweets in your field of practice. If you have been retweeting a user’s tweets, he or she will be much more inclined to help.
Start tweeting questions seeking advice or support to your followers. By now, you have created an impressive Twitter presence that establishes yourself as professional and a resource of information in your field of practice. Tweeting questions like “In need of solo-practitioner resources in the Chicago area. Ideas?” will likely garner helpful responses. Don’t forget to send a private message thanking anyone who responds—even if the advice does not pan out.
Following these steps consistently will help you build your career and develop a respectable and professional brand that will be taken seriously both online and in person. Soon, people will be saying, “A little bird told me that you are someone I should know.”