Twitter is a remarkably powerful resource for legal professionals. Specifically, in my experience, Twitter offers tremendous opportunities for lawyers who want to expand their professional network, spread their professional reputation, and connect with potential clients and colleagues who they may not otherwise have the opportunity to connect with. Nonetheless, it’s hardly an intuitive platform. This is especially true for Twitter novices, but even experienced users sometimes make mistakes when using the service. Here are 10 common mistakes lawyers make on Twitter, and how you can avoid making those mistakes yourself.
1. Not Making Your Account Public
I’ve come across a number of attorneys who have Twitter accounts, but keep their accounts protected (a.k.a. private). It’s a mistake. Put simply, making your Twitter account private is like going to a networking event and refusing to interact with anyone. That’s because if your account is private then other people can’t see your tweets, retweet your tweets, and if you reply to other people’s tweets–they can’t see those replies unless you have already approved that person to see your account. While I can understand privacy concerns, for most professionals, making your Twitter account private negates most, if not all, of the benefits of using the service in the first place. Social media is meant to be social, so make your account public.
2. Not Using an Interesting Profile Picture
Few things will make me want to follow a person less than a generic or nonexistent profile picture. Case in point: when I recently performed a search for attorneys on Twitter I found a shockingly large number of users with generic profile pictures of gavels, scales of justice, and law books (this is becoming a pet peeve of mine). Many more of the attorneys I located lacked any profile picture at all. Put simply, an interesting profile picture makes people more likely to follow you; encourages other users to interact with you; and will make your tweets stand out in a busy Twitter stream. I recommend using an interesting picture that looks good as a thumbnail and stands out in a crowd.
3. Not Creating a Bio
Twitter allows you to create a short bio about yourself. Without a bio, few people will know who you are, what you do, or why they might want to follow you or interact with you on Twitter. You should create a bio that does all of that. Write a short, thoughtful bio that explains who you are, why people might want to follow you, and what it is you do. If your account is intended primarily for professional purposes, then include information about your practice areas and specialties.
4. Not Retweeting
There is a reason we refer to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram as “social” media. If your interactions aren’t social, then you’re doing it wrong. On Twitter, re-sharing other users’ messages is one of the easiest social interactions available. When you “retweet” another user’s message, their message is shared to all of the people who follow your account. It also pings the original user to let them know that you shared their message. This basic form of Twitter interaction adds value to your own Twitter feed, is appreciated by the original user whose message you’ve shared, and makes others more likely to retweet your messages.
5. Not Commenting on a Retweet
When you’re accessing Twitter through a mobile app or third-party app such as TweetDeck, you can choose to “edit then retweet” or “quote retweet” when sharing another user’s message. This gives you the opportunity to include your own comment in the original message before sharing it with your followers. For example, if you’re retweeting a message by @SFGiants that reads: “I love baseball!” then you can edit the message before sending it to include your own message. Thus, a newly shared message appears like this: “@matthewhickey Me Too! RT @SFGiants: I love baseball!” Commenting on a retweet is more interactive and allows you to add a little bit of your own personality in the shared message.
6. Not Connecting Directly With Other Users
Retweeting is good, but it’s only the tip of the Twitter iceberg. You should regularly interact with people on Twitter through public @ messages as well. When you include the “@” sign before a user’s name, they are notified of your message. In other words, a normal tweet is a conversation with every one of your followers at once. An @ message is still public, but it targets an individual person for conversation. This is how you develop personal relationships with other users and will allow you to really make the most out of the service.
7. Not Being Concise
Attorneys have a reputation for being overly verbose. I’ll admit, I can be as guilty of this as anyone. On Twitter, though, it pays to be concise. Not only are your tweets limited to a maximum of 140 characters, but many social media professionals will tell you that it’s better to stay well under the 140 cap. Shorter messages are easier to skim, easier to retweet, and easier to comment on. Before you send that next message, consider whether you can shorten that message even further.
8. Not Being Genuine
Generally speaking, people prefer to follow real people on Twitter. While it’s okay to create a Twitter account to represent a partnership, a business, or a brand, it’s still a best practice to insure that you have an authentic voice representing that account. If people suspect that they are merely engaging with some faceless intern, they’ll be less likely to engage you in conversation on the network. That means you’ll have fewer retweets, followers, and opportunities for relationship building. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
9. Not Using Direct Messages
Although Twitter is an inherently public platform, you can share private messages with individual followers. If you’re mutually connected with another user (i.e. you are following them and they are following you), you are able to send them private messages. Direct messages can be a great way to share a private aside with another user during an otherwise public discussion.
This may be the biggest mistake you can make on Twitter, and yet I see novice users do it all the time. You’ve created an account and you’re ready to start sharing your witty and engaging 140 character insights with the whole world. The only problem? You don’t have any followers yet. Whatever you do, do not start @ messaging anyone and everyone you can asking them to follow you back. When I receive a message from a user I’m not familiar with, the first thing I do is check their profile. This means I can see their bio as well as all of their recent messages. If their Twitter feed is nothing more than a sea of identical @ messages to other users, you can be certain I will not follow them back. If I see authentic, genuine interactions and posts, I’m far more likely to follow them back.
If you avoid making those mistakes, you’re on the right course for developing a strong Twitter following. If you’re an experienced Twitter user, let us know if there are any common mistakes we left off this list. We’d love to hear from you!
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