Twitter Best Practices for Businesses

Are you a lawyer who uses Twitter professionally? Have you ever visited Twitter for Business and read the Best Practices section? Based on what some lawyers have been tweeting, my guess would be that many lawyers have not.

Oh Brother, Another Use Twitter or Die Post

The purpose of this post isn’t to convince you to tweet, or use any other social media for that matter. If you’re wondering whether or not it’s “worth it”, consider Eric Cooperstein’s comment:

I don’t think a lawyer is likely to get clients directly from social media. But I also don’t think a lawyer is going to get clients directly by having lunch or coffee with someone, or volunteering for a nonprofit, or doing bar association work. Networking is about making connections and planting seeds. Social media fits that bill. It’s not that someone will see your tweets and think “I’m going to fire my current lawyer and send all my work to this guy – he’s brilliant!” But when they or friends or business colleagues of there’s have a legal need, they’re more likely to think of you because they read your tweets everyday and they like them. That possibility makes social media worthwhile as an investment of time.

The truth is, some lawyers find Twitter to be useful, some simply find it fun, and some think it’s a stupid kid’s toy. I leave it up to you to decide whether it’s worth your time.

However, if you’re going to use it, I humbly recommend that you use it in a way that helps you discover and share new information as opposed to, advertising, soliciting, or otherwise spamming the web.

Applying Twitter’s Best Practices to Lawyers

Twitter provides the following business best practice advice:

Build your following, reputation, and customer’s trust with these simple practices:

  1. Share. Share photos and behind the scenes info about your business. Even better, give a glimpse of developing projects and events. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest, so give it to them!
  2. Listen. Regularly monitor the comments about your company, brand, and products.
  3. Ask. Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.
  4. Respond. Respond to compliments and feedback in real time
  5. Reward. Tweet updates about special offers, discounts and time-sensitive deals.
  6. Demonstrate wider leadership and know-how. Reference articles and links about the bigger picture as it relates to your business.
  7. Champion your stakeholders. Retweet and reply publicly to great tweets posted by your followers and customers.
  8. Establish the right voice. Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine, and of course, a likable tone from your business, but think about your voice as you Tweet. How do you want your business to appear to the Twitter community?

Admittedly, much of this advice may be better applied to businesses that sell widgets. Nonetheless, at least some of it seems applicable to professional service providers, like lawyers.

Sharing

The folks at Twitter.com recommend sharing photos, behind the scenes info, projects, and events. Conspicuously absent from their list of sharing are automated tweets, automated article feeds, and advertisements.

Sharing new information with people that might not have otherwise found it, in my opinion, is the second most important “best practice”. Tweets can help you share information with interested people who might not otherwise have found it through other channels, like search.

Listening

While it’s likely that their advice is listed “in no particular order”, I would suggest that “listening” is the most important practice (or really any form of communication, including one’s mouth). Search for your name, your account name (which hopefully is somewhat similar to your actual name), your firm’s name, and subject matter related to your practice.

Listen to and follow quality sharers. Organize your followers into manageable lists. Click-through to see what they’re sharing and where. This is likely to help you find more people to whom to listen.

Asking

Asking questions on Twitter is one of the most effective ways to engage. Ask questions about issues you are facing professionally. Ask about services, products, and technology you are using, or are considering using, in your practice. Ask questions you have about a particular court. Ask about what’s good to eat or where you can get a good deal.

Responding

When some mentions you (precedes their tweet with the @ symbol and your account name), try to respond as timely as possible. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to respond to everyone that mentions you. However, there’s no better way to get unfollowed (except for spam) than to wholesale ignore those that try to engage you.

On the other hand, you should operate under the premise that everything you do online is likely to become public. Therefore, your responses should be mindful that everyone will see them. Including, clients, colleagues, judges, and jurors.

Would You Follow Yourself on Twitter?

If you wouldn’t follow yourself on Twitter, why would you expect others to want to?

That’s the question Laurel Miltner asks in Would You Follow Yourself on Twitter? Laurel provides the following test:

Go to your Twitter page (i.e. twitter.com/laurelmackenzie) and scan through your most recent 10-15 tweets. Ask yourself:

  • How much of what I’ve posted is interesting or entertaining?
  • Am I participating too much in private conversations or silly banter?
  • When was the last time I posted an update? Am I tweeting frequently enough? Too much?
  • Would I click on any of the links I’ve shared?

It’s also a good idea to periodically check in on your bio and photo.

  • Are they up-to-date?
  • Do you still look like the person in your photo?
  • Is the bio still a good representation of the you that you want to present to the world?

Before you even get to your bio and tweets, start by looking at your account name. Does it go something like this:

@(practice area)(location)(lawyer or attorney)

Does that sound like an interesting person to follow? Would people you know think this would be an interesting person to follow? Not sure? Ask them.

If you’re using social media to enhance your professional profile online, it stands to reason that people need to know that it’s you. Therefore, you should probably use an account name that your followers can identify as you both online, as well as, offline. For most people, it’s probably your name, or something similar to it.

More Twitter Help

Still trying to figure this Twitter-thing out? Twitter’s Help Center includes:

Twitter Citizenry

If you’re hyper-focused on measuring the “value” of your social media participation (a focus that is likely misplaced), don’t focus on the number of tweets you send or the number of followers you accrue. Instead, consider monitoring things like:

  • Whether you found something interesting on that you might not otherwise have found.
  • Whether you have found someone interesting who you might not otherwise have found.
  • How people are talking about you, talking to you, and talking about the “stuff” you share.
  • Whether people are talking about you, or “stuff” you shared, at other places, like their blogs.
  • Whether people are emailing you about “stuff” you shared.

When you boil it down, the “best practices” for good Twitter citizenry are really just the same as the “best practices” for good internet citizenry generally:

Make the web better.