Social-media tools are easy to use. Changing our old behaviors can prove more difficult. To help lawyers make tools like LinkedIn and Twitter work for them and their practices, I've put together checklists — daily steps you can take. Recently, we talked about LinkedIn, and this week we look at Twitter.
• Follow to be followed. It seems counterintuitive, but the best way to gain followers and get others to follow you is by following them first. A Washington lawyer told me recently that journalists from The Wall Street Journal and other publications began following him after he first followed them. They have retweeted some of his articles and blog posts and he has had interview requests as a direct result.
• Listen and Engage. Ninety-nine percent of law firms use Twitter as a broadcast platform — one-way communication. But the power of Twitter lies in instant engagement with other very smart people. When you jump on Twitter while drinking your morning coffee, read what other people have to say and reply or re-share their articles.
• Set up a search. This probably is the most overlooked feature of Twitter. Think Google search, but instead of searching Web pages you search for shared articles and interesting conversations. Who is talking about litigation or merger trends this morning? Run a quick search on Twitter to find out. Enter larger conversations by searching for topics like #obama, #ISIS or #northkorea. Twitter search is a powerful tool that can prove to be of value to anybody.
• Build a list. There is a lot of noise on Twitter, but you don't need to read everything that your Twitter followers post. Set up an "A-list" of people you most want to follow. Then, when you only have a few minutes each day, you can just check to see what your A-list is posting. I follow thousands of people on Twitter, but my A-list has only about 150 people in it.
• Share. Sharing information is most users' most common activity, but the vast majority are doing it wrong. Don't share self-promotional flummery or tout your successes; share information that will help people do their jobs better; that gives practical advice on tricky legal concepts. The secret to social media is that the more you give away the more you will get back in return. Lawyers are some of the brightest minds and best writers in the country; sharing what you write and what you are reading will be of value to others.
• Unfollow. Protect your time. If you follow someone who spouts nonsense or distractions, simply unfollow them. They won't be notified and won't have their feelings hurt. Following someone on Twitter is not a long-term commitment. When you unfollow someone undesirable, your Twitter stream becomes more useful.
Give these steps a try and I guarantee you will boost your profile online. Happy tweeting.