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Attorney’s Guide to Beginning Twitter

Each of the big three social networking platforms has its own unique niche in the online world. Twitter is used for sending short streams of messages, called a timeline, of no more than 140 characters each. This article is intended to be a short guide on how to maximize Twitter as a resource for the practicing attorney or small law firm.

One of the most basic hurdles to overcome when using Twitter is creating meaningful 140-character posts. Attorneys are told in law school to flesh out issues and concepts, so the Twitter character limit can seem unworkable. My recommendation is to use the time-honored issue, rule, analysis, conclusion (or IRAC) method of writing and regard Twitter posts as the “C”.

When you are ready to set up your Twitter page, keep the following three issues in mind:

  1. Choose a professional user name or handle. Twitter user names work like website addresses, so a bad user name will reflect poorly on you or your firm.
  2. Separate personal Twitter accounts from professional Twitter accounts.
  3. Establish rules as to who owns, controls and updates the Twitter account in advance (for group accounts).

Once you generate the Twitter account, fill in the bio section, add a link to your official website, create an official Twitter avatar, and design a background image. This may seem daunting at first, but remember, a Twitter page is like a part of your website, so you need to give it the same amount of attention to detail. Instructions on designing a Twitter page can be easily found on the Internet or provided by reputable web designers.

Now that you are ready to post on Twitter, keep some of these operational tips in mind:

  1. Be selective about who you link with or “follow” on Twitter. Like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter has a follow feature; however, on Twitter a lot of follow requests come from random or unknown people. While anybody on the Internet can still view your Twitter page, Twitter does give you the ability to un-follow people who have followed you.
  2. To post links on Twitter, you will need to use a link shortening service (called URL shorteners). Perform some due diligence before settling on a particular service. Shorteners can go out of business leaving your links inoperable.
  3. Re-tweet with care (a re-tweet is resending another person’s message). The Twitter feed is your chance to show your original content to current and prospective clients, constant re-tweeting risks driving those clients elsewhere.
  4. One final tip for the more advanced Twitter user is to use only one hash tag per message. A hash tag is a word preceded with the hash symbol (#) that describes the category of the message. For instance, a post about health care reform might have a hash tag of “#healthcare”. If you see the need to use more than one hash tag, it is probably a sign that you need to separate your message in to two messages with a separate tag for each.

There are many more details, issues, tips and tricks that an Attorney should learn as he or she continues to use Twitter. The modern law practice needs a social networking presence and along with LinkedIn and Facebook, learning Twitter is a must for the modern lawyer.

Kenneth Gray is currently an attorney in private practice based out of Washington and Pittsburgh. He is an expert in financial economics, private equity, emerging markets, global transactions, technology and natural resources. Ken holds a JD from the Georgetown University Law Center, an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Pennsylvania. Visit Ken’s website. Or follow him on twitter @kennethgray

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