It’s annoying when people talk about stuff they know little about. (Unless it’s on a law blog, in which case this is assumed.) Take Twitter. Most people I know who’ve decided that Twitter is a waste of time have either never used it or tried it out briefly and given up. It’s particularly annoying when you’re attending a social media CLE and one of the panelists says, “I don’t get Twitter.” I’ve seen this happen more than once and automatically think, “And I’m listening to you why…?”
Twitter is partly to blame for this. The site launched eight years ago with a prompt for users to answer the question, “What are you doing?” This led to the assumption that users would post stuff like they just had a soup and sandwich for lunch. As if any of us would care. Twitter has since updated the question to “What’s happening?” which is a more accurate reflection of the variety of content that’s actually shared on Twitter.
I’m one of those people who created a Twitter account some time ago and promptly forgot about its existence. Then, about two years ago, I decided to try Twitter out in earnest for two reasons: one that was related to work and the other that was much more selfish….
As previously mentioned, some of my work involves social media. I decided to find out more about Twitter because I figured, who knows, it might make me better at my job or something to actually understand the thing.
I was also intrigued by the increasing number of tales about people who had publicly tweeted their grievances and received quick and helpful responses from companies. I wanted — nay, craved — that kind of power! And I knew that my paltry 31 follower count wasn’t going to get it for me.
So I spent about two weeks immersed in using and learning about Twitter. During the first several days, it was pretty confusing to navigate around all the links, hashtags, and conversations. But to my surprise, at the end of the two weeks, I found tweeting to be pretty enjoyable. By this, I mean I was totally addicted. I was constantly thinking of stuff I could tweet, checking Twitter during every break, and getting divorce threats from my formerly loving husband (who had to tweet the threats for me to notice). Not surprising, since it’s been shown that Twitter is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.
Why was I so hooked? In the interest of space (and because I just don’t want to), I can’t go into all of the reasons here, but Twitter is genuinely fun once you get the hang of it and provides some value that is difficult to find elsewhere. Here, I’ll discuss a few of the benefits that are more applicable to lawyers.
Compared to the other two main social media sites that lawyers use, Facebook and LinkedIn, Twitter offers the most varied networking opportunities. Most people connect only with friends and family (i.e., people they already know) on Facebook. LinkedIn is still used mainly as a professional network and there isn’t much casual chatter on the site.
Twitter, on the other hand, provides access to people you don’t know worldwide, most of whom you’ll never meet. (That’s a good thing for some of the tweeps on there.) And they all expect the other strangers online to interact with them. In 140 or fewer characters. How often do you have a chance to have your opinions accessible by millions who aren’t normally in your circles? My two “closest” Twitter friends are in California and Sweden. They actually met on Twitter and are dating now. I’m just a little jealous.
Probably a good 70 percent of the people I’m connected with are lawyers and law students. My first official “tweetup” included four lawyers (me, my husband (yes, he decided to join me in the dark side), @DVanLierEsq, and @AvitaAliEsq) and three law students (@CTMetz, @t10nbaum, and @AshtonsLaw). We met in for lunch at Katz’s Deli in NYC and had a blast after confirming that we weren’t all creepy stalkers.
Another cool Twitter feature is the ability to have live chats (check out @lawschoolchat, @LawJobChat and @22twts). Let’s say that you’d like to host a panel discussion with three employment lawyers. You’d promote the chat beforehand and then, at the designated time, you’d use a hashtag, such as #EmpLaw, to connect everyone’s tweets in the same timeline.
What’s great about these Twitter chats is that anyone, anywhere, can follow along, so long as they have wifi or an internet connection. The panelists can tweet from anywhere as well — no need for them to be in the same room or even on the same phone line. And anyone following the chat can jump in and ask questions or respond at any time (as well as immediately retweet good ideas or advice) by using the chat hashtag. I don’t know of anywhere else where you can host a live discussion like this without at least a phone line, a room, or videoconference capabilities. Because the “chat” is in written form, you also automatically have a transcript that anyone can access afterwards by searching #EmpLaw.
Twitter is also a great source of legal news, particularly if you’re interested in finding out what’s popular, since those news bits will get tweeted and retweeted the most (and thus show up often in your timeline).
Of course, Twitter has its cons. For one, it can be a mega time suck (as can most social media sites). Not sure if you’re twaddicted? Here’s a great way to tell. And, of course, think twice before you tweet and exercise caution if meeting new people in person. No matter how nice they sound, do not share your social security number on the first date.
Are there other professional benefits you’ve found from Twitter? Client development, perhaps? If so, feel free to share them below. And follow me @SusanMoon. (I follow everyone back so long as they’re not bots, spammers, or people I suspect will rob my home when I brag that I’m on vacation on a remote, exotic island.)
Susan Moon is an in-house attorney at a travel and hospitality company. Her opinions are her own and not those of her company or anyone she works with. Susan may share both her own and others’ experiences (especially the experiences of those who have expressly indicated to her that they must not under any circumstances be shared on ATL). You can reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SusanMoon.