In my last post, I talked about using Twitter as a broadcast tool, and Nancy Myrland added some valuable comments to the discussion about making sure to incorporate as much personality as possible.

Today, we’re going to talk about what many people consider to be the most important use of Twitter – engagement. As Nancy always says "Twitter is a contact sport." 

So how do you engage with your Twitter followers? It’s the same as you would in real life – share others’ posts and tweets, comment on their tweets, start conversations and periodically reach out to them. Then, take these relationships offline – meet people for lunch who are in the same city as you are, or when you’re traveling or at a conference. 

Because it’s about engagement, I’m against ghostblogging or ghosttweeting, which is when you or someone you’ve hired does the tweeting for your attorneys. It’s different when we’re talking about the firm account, but when you put someone’s name to something, people who are talking to that person expect that that’s who they’re engaging with. Let’s think about it – you wouldn’t have someone impersonate one of your attorneys at a cocktail party, so it doesn’t make any more sense to do that online. 

Let’s look at a few examples of my personal Twitter account and how I use it. 

This first tweet is an original from me, where I share an article written by one of our attorneys. I’m sharing the title, the link to the article (using bit.ly to track – more on that in a bit) and the hashtags #ILN and #legal. This tweet does a couple of things for me. One, it’s showing me to be a thought leader in the industry because I’m sharing substantive posts written by our attorneys that will be of interest to those who follow me. I’m also marketing on behalf of our law firms, because I’m pushing out their content for them. 

Now, in my case, I’m getting these posts through RSS feeds to our ILNToday website – so that’s where I’m finding them. You might wonder where you can find your own articles of interest, and there are two ways I’d recommend for this. Sending out your own stuff is great and you should do it, but it’s really important to also act as a repository of information. You want to abide by the 80/20 rule – 20% of your tweets should be about yourself, and 80% about other people – either retweets or sharing their stuff.

One of the ways to find articles is through Twitter itself – if you find something interesting, you can create a new tweet if you want to, either with your comment or just saying that you’re reading the article. If you know the Twitter name of the author, stick that in there so that they know you’re sharing their stuff. You can also retweet their tweets. 

The other way would be using an RSS reader. I use Google reader, and I have it set up to open when I open Google Chrome in the morning. That way, I can check to see if the people whose blogs I subscribe to have written a new post, and I can tweet that out, or I can set up Google to search terms of interest to deliver to my RSS reader, and that will find posts and articles written by people whose feeds I don’t necessarily subscribe to. Then, I can tweet those out, or it will inspire me to write something original on my blog to share – and of course, I’ll reference my initial inspiration in the post. 

In this next tweet, I’m engaging with a couple of people I follow: 

These two ladies work for LexBlog, so I’ve gotten to know them offline as well and I follow them on Twitter. Kara’s doing a great job here, because she’s tweeting about something that’s going on in her personal life. Some people will argue that no one cares about what’s going on personally, but truthfully, when you chat with someone in a social situation, what are the things that bond you with them? What are the things that help you to know, like and trust them? It’s the personal stuff – comments about your kids, what sports you like, what hobbies you have, etc. 

I follow Lyda’s blog about running because I’m an intermittent runner myself, and that’s bonded us beyond our professional relationship. So when Kara posted that she and Lyda would be running the Rock and Roll half, I retweeted her tweet (so she would know what I was referencing), and wished them good luck. 

Kara later responded to me to say thanks, and suggested that I join them sometime: 

 

I agreed, and again, I retweeted her messages so she’d know what I was referencing, since a couple of days had gone by. And despite the limitations of 140 characters, we are having a conversation. Look for those opportunities among those you follow – who can you respond to and chat with? Who can you find mutual interests with? 

Let’s look at a couple more.  The Saturday before my sister’s wedding, I tweeted a message to Newark’s mayor, Cory Booker, about her wedding. My sister is a huge fan of his, and had joked when I’d seen her the previous weekend that he’s the only one she would consider leaving her fiance for. 

So I was hoping that he’d give her a hello – he an excellent Twitter user, so I highly recommend following him to get an idea of how to successfully use the tool. 

In my message, I started with his Twitter handle, mentioned my sister’s Twitter handle as well, so he could tweet her directly, and asked him to send her a hello. 

And he did – busy man that he is, he took the time to send both of us a private message, along with my dad, and wisher her a public congratulations as well. Some people might think this is a silly use of Twitter, but it shows a human side, as we talked about earlier. 

I also went a step further to thank him for his message and this is part of Twitter’s etiquette – never get so big for your britches that you don’t reach out with a thank you when someone shares something that you’ve tweeted. 

And finally, I’m also retweeting a lot of things, again for a few reasons. Here, you can see two tweets from our member firms. When our firms tweet something that I think would be interesting to those who follow me, I’ll tweet it out – again, showing myself to be a thought leader in this area. I’m also marketing my firms on their behalf, and sharing their Twitter handles at the same time, which gives people the opportunity to follow and engage with them.

Secondarily, these firms, my clients, see that I’m retweeting their content, which is a value add for them. Also, they’re getting the reminder constantly that they’re members of our organization, and we care about what they have to say. That adds to our bond.

In my next post, I’ll talk about another excellent use of Twitter for law firms!