Twitter 101 for Lawyers: Growing Your Profile and Avoiding Legal Pitfalls

Twitter may not be the most popular social media platform for lawyers, but with 500 million tweets sent each day, are we under-using it? Twitter can help to foster valuable relationships with industry influencers and help build your personal brand. Here’s the 101 on how to make it work for you as a lawyer.

Why use Twitter?

Twitter is used by only 21% of law firms, according to figures from 2016, with 23% of individual lawyers maintaining a presence on the site for professional means. In sharp contrast, of 123,000 social posts by banks this year, 79% were posted to Twitter compared to 12% on Facebook. Twitter is also widely used by court journalists, government bodies and other political and policy officials, which of course is very useful from a lawyer perspective. Depending on who your clients are, B2B or B2C, Twitter can be an extraordinary way to engage with your audience.

Twitter also provides an opportunity to go beyond the purely professional. While LinkedIn for lawyers is about connecting with as many business contacts as possible, projecting a very specific message and impression of you and your career profile, Twitter is a little bit different. The most successful and engaging Twitter profiles start and contribute to more informal but rewarding conversations that relate to any of their expertise and areas of interest. Twitter is much more about striking up meaningful conversations, building trust and mutual knowledge building. The connections you make may not be direct business leads but can lead to more valuable relationships that foster personal growth.

Raising your Twitter Profile

Tweet frequently and fruitfully – It is important to tweet regularly, but make sure what you tweet adds value. Sending numerous ‘broadcasting’ tweets will probably get you a few more follows from bots and marketing accounts, but these are of no value to you personally. Your aim should be to make more impressions and to start conversing with more people. Think of tweeting as joining in with a very large group chat. Engage with talking points of the day, share comments and links that will be of interest to your followers/the people you want to follow you.

Engage with relevant hashtags – stuffing tweets with as many relevant hashtags you can think of is a no-no, but it is worth spending a bit of time checking out the most used tags in your area of interest and using those that you feel reflect the topics you talk about most effectively. This makes your tweets more searchable for like-minded individuals.

Find support networks – While a lot of talk about Twitter in recent times focuses on the negative aspects of interactions, it’s worth remembering that communities formed and maintained on the platform are very vocal and supportive of one another. Following and engaging with other women and BAME in law and related professions, startups and tech etc. boosts confidence and gives you a ready-made list of contacts for guidance and advice, organising events and any other personal or professional development projects.

Legal implications to avoid

As with any social media sharing, be mindful of any sensitive or identifying information that relates to clients. There have been incidents of lawyers landing in hot water for tweeting information about cases. It’s also worth reiterating that no legal advice should be given, whether public public posts or private messages.

When re-Tweeting and quoting other profile you are unfamiliar with, it is vitally important to check not just the source of link, but also the rest of the profile’s posts. Your profile can become tainted by association with profiles that express deliberate bias or false information.

WIth a restrictive character limit, remember that what is said can be misconstrued or taken easily out of context. One way around this is to use threads – replying to your own tweets to make a chain of posts that can be easily followed by people, and allows you to cover all vital details relating to the topic. Threads are frequently used by thought leaders and campaigners as they also create a compelling structure to digest complex issues. They can also act as useful drafts for articles, particular if you get some interesting responses from other users.

Followers and following

While many people make the mistake of thinking that having thousands of followers is a sign of Twitter success, in terms of real benefit to you as an individual it’s the quality, not quantity of followers.

In terms of who you follow, keep it as broad as possible. That means follow people from all your personal areas of interest – you can use the Lists function to organise into categories. It also means include those whose views may differ somewhat to your own. There has been some concern about social media creating echo chambers of opinion, and while it is important to connect with people with whom you have common ground, to broaden your knowledge and understanding of certain issues you need to step outside of the bubble.

A few examples of organisations and legal influencers to get you started are:

LSE Brexit – latest academic research and thinking about Brexit from London School of Economics.

Law Society (UK) – Representing, promoting and supporting solicitors in England and Wales.

European Court of Justice – the official account of the Press Service of the Court of Justice of the European Union.

ICO – news on information rights, GDPR and data privacy from the Information Commissioner’s Office

Young Women in Law – a membership organisation for women lawyers called to the bar for up to 10 years

National Law Review (USA) – news and analysis of all aspects of American law

Felicity Gerry – International QC and speaker, Legal Personality 2016

Martha Sperry – American lawyer writing on legal technology and the developing web

And just in case you don’t follow them already, here’s Obelisk and CEO Dana Denis Smith, and the First 100 Years Project. Happy Tweeting!