The 2019 Tech Survey Report from the American Bar Association revealed that while on average 25% of lawyers uses Twitter personally, only 14% of law firms use Twitter. Which is surprising as it has a lot to offer. So, in this article we will have a closer look at the benefits of using Twitter, and how you can get started. First, for those of you who are not familiar with it, let us explain what it is.
The Wikipedia describes Twitter as a “microblogging and social networking service on which users post and interact with messages known as ‘tweets’. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read them. Users access Twitter through its website interface, through Short Message Service (SMS) or its mobile-device application software (‘app’)”. Apps are available from third party service providers as well. It was launched in 2012, and in 2019 had 330 million active monthly users. In May 2020, Twitter was the third most visited website in the world, after YouTube and the Wikipedia.
The word microblogging refers to the fact that tweets are limited in the amount of characters they can contain. Originally, in line with SMSs, Tweets were limited to 140 characters. In November 2017, that amount was doubled to 280 characters. URLs are typically not counted as characters. If the URL refers to a page that has the relevant tags in its header, a preview of the page will be shown. Apart from text characters, Tweets can have emoticons, often referred to as emoji, in the text. They can also have images and short videos as attachments that will be shown along with the tweet.
What are the main reasons to use Twitter as a law firm? A first reason is that it is a platform with 330 million active monthly registered users. On top of that, it gets a 200 million non-registered visitors per month. Chances are your law firm may have potential clients who use Twitter. A second reason is that Twitter is an excellent networking tool where you can interact with attorneys with similar practices. If you have a blog or publish articles, Twitter is a place to promote those articles. It also allows you to connect with members of the media. Twitter can be an excellent news source too (if you follow reliable sources) and it allows you to obtain information that will be useful in your practice.
A reason to use Twitter as a law firm that is often overlooked is for legal research. Apart from just following legal authors whose articles you’re interested in, you can also create lists in Twitter that you dedicate to one or more topics. You could, e.g., create a list for legal technology, and add the lawyers, researchers, and companies who offer relevant information to the list. Such lists offer a quick and convenient way to get an overview of what is going on and make it easy to stay up to date. When dealing with a specific problem, you can also perform searches on key words by using hashtags. (We dedicated two articles to hashtags in the past. You can find the links in the sources below).
Also noteworthy is that Twitter has been used to serve subpoenas. In August 2018, e.g., Wikileaks was served a subpoena over Twitter. And there also was the case in 2017 where a personal injury letter was allowed to deliver a spoliation letter (i.e. a letter to preserve evidence) to Uber via Twitter.
So, how do you get started? Signing up is free, and can be done at https://twitter.com/signup. You have to choose a unique username (or ‘handle’ as they are often called). Preferably choose one that makes it easy to remember or recognize you by. Some authors advise something related to your personal name, while others advise rather signing up with your law firm’s name. Online consumers typically want to get to know the personality of the person they are dealing with. So, my advice would be that if you set up only one Twitter account to go for an individual one, as it will be easier to relate to. Keep in mind, though, that usernames can only be a maximum of 14 characters long.
You can sign up with an existing email address (that stays private) or with a cell phone (the number stays private, too), and you will be asked to verify your account.
Once you have signed up, you will want to fill out the details for your profile. You can provide a brief Twitter biography. It is good to combine both professional and some personal information in there. You can mention your law firm, as well as some of interests and/or social activities. Remember that people want to be able to relate to you. Stacey Buke recommends a) using a high quality photo for your profile picture, preferably the same professional headshot as your website biography and other social media channels; b) a link to your law firm website to obtain a high value backlink and to drive traffic from the social network to your main digital asset; and c) to complete the information on your location so people know where to find you in case they want to hire you. You may also have a first look at the settings to add more information and to customize privacy and safety settings.
Next, you will want to choose who to follow on Twitter. There are several ways to do this. You can import your existing address book, or you can manually add accounts you want to follow. You can include people you know, clients and potential clients, attorneys with similar practices, service providers you are using or are interested in, people with similar interests, etc. You can also see who people that you follow, follow, and/or who they included in lists they may have created.
If you have more than one Twitter account, or more than one social media account, you could consider using a tool like Tweetdeck (for multiple Twitter accounts) or Buffer or Hootsuite (for multiple social media accounts). These tools typically have a user-friendly interface that allows you to manage several accounts at the same time. Both Hootsuite and Buffer work on a Freemium model, where basic functionality is free for a small number of accounts, and you must pay for the ability to manage more accounts and for premium functionality.
Then it is time to start tweeting. If you have a blog, you can put up links to articles on it. You can use tweets for announcements and news. You can tweet about things that interest you. Keep in mind that social media are not just for self-promotion. They are meant to interact with people. You can reply to tweets, retweet or like their tweets (it is a simple as pressing a button). One author recommends a ratio of 50% retweets or tweets to other people’s content, 30% interactions, and only 20% promotion. Make sure to include some humour in your tweets.
Stacey Burke suggests ten ways lawyers should use Twitter:
- Content promotion
- Media coverage
- Sharing news of interest to you and your followers
- Getting a little personal
- Engaging with hashtags
- Sharing images and videos, as tweets with images get 150% more retweets than those without.
- Live tweeting events
- Joining in conversations
- Analyzing your competitive landscape
So, give it a go. In a future article, we will focus on how you can use Twitter for marketing purposes, and on how you can grow your own following.