[The following column originally appeared in print in May 2008. I am republishing it as part of my continuing effort to maintain an archive of my published columns. Important note: I have not updated this since its original publication. While most of the sites remain as described, some may have changed. All information was current [...]
TAG | social networking
[The following column originally appeared in print in November 2008. I am republishing it as part of my continuing effort to maintain an archive of my published columns. Important note: I have not updated this since its original publication. While most of the sites remain as described, some may have changed. All information was current as of the date of original publication.]
When it comes to social media, I tend to be an evangelist. But even I could not grasp why so many lawyers were all atwitter over Twitter. What value could there be in a microblogging tool that limits each post to 140 characters?
So I strapped on some wings and gave it a try. In no time at all, Twitter turned me into a songbird ready to sing its praises. For all those who ask, “Why Twitter?” I present my Tweet 16 – 16 ways lawyers can use Twitter to enhance their practices and their profiles.
First, a few words about how it works. After you sign up and create a user name, you can post short messages, called “tweets,” of no more than 140 characters. These messages appear on Twitter’s Web site and can also be tracked through mobile phones and other applications.
Once you are a member, you can choose to follow other members’ messages. When you come across someone you know or find interesting, click the “follow” button to add their messages to your feed. (Find mine at http://twitter.com/bobambrogi.) Others can do the same to receive your messages. If you prefer to be less public, you can limit the visibility of your messages to people you approve.
It is so simple in concept, yet surprisingly versatile in potential uses. Here are 16 that stand out for me.
1. Expand your network. What with blogging, writing, speaking and various bar committees, I consider myself pretty well networked. So I was surprised upon joining Twitter at how many new contacts I made, how quickly I made them, and their potential value to me as a professional.
2. Discover new blogs. Everyone on Twitter has a profile page on which they can link to their Web site or blog. As interesting tweets catch my attention, I sometimes click through to find equally interesting – and previously unknown to me – blogs.
3. Mold your image. Those who post regularly to Twitter provide others a glimpse of their daily lives. That glimpse can help shape your public image. Do your posts paint you as a high-powered professional – now writing an appellate brief, now preparing for a deposition – or as a trivia-obsessed slacker – now breaking for lunch, now off for drinks? By thinking before you post, you can shape how others see you.
4. Distribute your news. Lawyers and law firms already use Twitter as a vehicle to distribute news and press releases. Even though Twitter limits posts to 140 characters, posts can include Web links. Thus, post the headline or a brief description together with the link to the full item.
5. Drive traffic. When you post an interesting item to your blog, mention it on Twitter with a link to the full post. Various tools let you do this automatically, updating your Twitter feed whenever you post to your blog. (I use Twitterfeed for this.)
6. Simulate the water cooler. For solo lawyers and self-employed consultants, Twitter is a virtual office water cooler. Throughout the day, lawyers on Twitter comment on the news, throw out questions and share articles and items of interest. You can reply directly to others, either publicly or privately.
7. Message your colleagues. You can send a direct message to anyone on Twitter, visible only to the recipient. This is a convenient way, much like instant messaging, to send a colleague a quick question or comment.
8. Monitor the buzz. What are hot topics among lawyers in your practice area? What are people saying about your client or its product? On Twitter, you can select the people whose posts you wish to follow. You can also search all Twitter posts, save the search and get updates via RSS. (Go to http://search.twitter.com.)
9. Get noticed by news media. News reporters are turning to Twitter to find sources and leads. Additionally, Twitter provides opportunities for professionals to connect and establish relationships with reporters.
10. Keep up with your local court. Courts in Philadelphia recently launched a Twitter feed of news and announcements. (Find it at http://twitter.com/PhilaCourts.) Others may well follow suit.
11. Track activity at a conference. Using what Twitter calls “hashtags,” you can tag posts to connect them with other posts. One way this is useful is at a conference, enabling attendees to find each others’ posts. The tag is marked using the pound symbol and placed directly within the post. For example, #legaltech might be used by attendees at the Legal Tech conference in New York. A site devoted to monitoring hashtags is at http://hashtags.org.
12. Follow the government. The White House, federal agencies and members of Congress are among the many sources within the U.S. government that use Twitter to distribute news and announcements. A list of federal government Twitter feeds is at Twitter Fan Wiki.
13. Promote an event or seminar. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal told how Andrew Flusche, an attorney in Fredericksburg, Va., used Twitter to promote a webinar he was holding on trademark registration. The session attracted 15 attendees, more than twice the number he drew for a subsequent seminar he didn’t promote on the service.
14. Get more mileage. Why publish to just one source when you can as easily publish to many and reach that many more readers? When I post an item to my blog, it shows up in my Twitter feed. When I post an item to Twitter, it shows up on my Facebook and Plaxo profiles. In social networking, there is power in ubiquity.
15. Find clients. When a California blogger was threatened with a lawsuit over comments he made online, he turned to Twitter to search for a lawyer. Through Twitter, you may find new clients and they may find you.
16. Locate experts. Either by posting a message to Twitter or by using its search function, you may be able to find experts on a particular topic. If you do, use Twitter’s direct message feature to make the initial contact.
There you have my Tweet 16. But I hasten to add something else lawyers can do on Twitter: Get in trouble. For example, a Seattle law firm recently generated controversy when its outside public-relations consultant posted a message to Twitter seeking putative plaintiffs for a possible class action suit.
Before you post to Twitter, consider the consequences. A casual tool such as this makes it easy to unwittingly create an attorney-client relationship or overstep an ethical rule. Even with only 140 characters, you can easily get yourself in hot water.
Copyright 2008 Robert J. Ambrogi
The current issue of the Boston Bar Journal (PDF) is devoted to Web 2.0. It includes a brief essay of mine, “The Future of Online Networking” (page 18 of the journal and page 20 of the PDF). The gist of my essay is summed up in this:
The future of these sites, at least within the legal profession, promises more than mere connections. Networking will remain a key part of the picture, but as more sites compete to serve the legal profession, they will offer more diverse and practical suites of tools.
Networking sites will morph into broader, online communities for legal professionals. Along with connections, they will offer community, content and collaboration. They will be places where lawyers will not simply network with each other, but also work with each other and share resources with each other in more substantive ways.
The Boston Bar Journal is the magazine of the Boston Bar Association.
Ambitious as it is, the site falls short on execution. It jettisons features that should be central and weighs itself down with others that are useless or redundant. It is as if the ABA came late to a crowded race, barefoot and with bricks in its backpack.
I had an earlier post about it here.
Here is a good article from The Plain Dealer on lawyers’ use of Twitter: Twitosphere drawing in a steady stream of twittering lawyers. I am among the twittering lawyers reporter Alison Grant interviewed for the piece.
The professional networking site LinkedIn today launched a private beta of a new feature, Connections, that allows you to better manage your lists of LinkedIn connections. The key feature is the ability to group your connections by assigning tags to them. Once grouped, you can then send messages to the entire group simply by selecting it. Thus, you could tag certain people as “friends” and then simply select that category to send all your friends a message.
The tagging feature starts out in a sort of smart mode. It pre-assigns tags based on connections it can decipher. For example, connections who were law school classmates of mine were already tagged “classmates.”
The new feature also incorporates “type-ahead search,” which lets you type just a couple letters in the search field to be taken to the matching name within your list of connections.
I received an e-mail from LinkedIn today inviting me to try it. I am not sure how many invitations went out, but I know from monitoring Twitter that I was not alone in receiving it.
OK, I’ll admit up front that I am biased about this video, given that my son Ben Ambrogi produced it. And although it is addressed to educators, it is actually a useful overview for anyone who is new to Facebook. Ben produced this and a series of other video tutorials for a San Francisco-based company, Inigral, where he works part-time while attending the University of San Francisco. Inigral has developed an innovative Facebook application for use by colleges, universities and secondary schools.
The share of adult Internet users who have a profile on an online social network has more than quadrupled in the past four years, from 8 percent in 2005 to 35 percent now, according to a new Pew Internet study of adults and social networks. Not surprisingly, use of social networks still remains much heavier among younger adults, with 75 percent of those aged 18-24 using social networks compared to 7 percent of those 65 and older. (Full report in PDF.)
The American Bar Association has jumped on the social-networking bandwagon with a networking site of its own, Legally Minded. I wrote about it earlier today at Legal Blog Watch. As I said then, a bug in the site is preventing me from completing my registration. Fred Faulkner, the ABA’s manager of interactive services, told me earlier today that they’d experienced this log-in problem in earlier testing but thought it was resolved. That was just after 9 a.m. As of 7 p.m., I’m still not able to log-in. Not a great start, but the site looks good and I look forward to getting access at some point so that I can provide a more complete report. Meanwhile, check out my write-up at Legal Blog Watch and then try Legally Minded for yourself