Who doesn’t love a good five-part series on Twitter? Don’t answer that. 

Today, we have the last installment from my presentation, which covers some frequently asked questions that I’ve gotten with regard to Twitter, as well as the questions that came in as I was preparing the presentation. 

What’s in a username? Should I use my name, or some fun little moniker? 

Some people will argue that it’s a good idea to have a keyword or subject as your Twitter name, but I (and many others) disagree. I think it should always be your real name. As we’ve talked about before, people want to connect and work with people they know, like and trust, and how can they really know you if you’re not transparent with your name? It’s also much easier for people to find you when your username is your real name. 

There can be some difficulties here, because Twitter only allows you fifteen characters. My full name has more than that, so I just chopped off the "s" at the end. You can work around this however you’d like. 

What’s an avatar? Do I need one? 

An avatar is your profile picture, and it’s an absolute necessity. Again, this speaks to people needing to get to know you in order to like and trust you, and having a picture is essential to that. If you’re behind the firm account, this should be your firm’s logo. If it’s for your personal Twitter account or your assisting your attorneys with setting up their accounts, it should be a professional photo. Keep in mind that this, along with your tweets, will be the first impression that people get. 

What if I don’t care what someone had for breakfast? 

One of the common complaints or worries that people have about Twitter is that their stream will be full of what people ate for breakfast and they just won’t care. I have two responses for this – the first is that it depends on who you follow. If you’re following other professionals in your industry, they’re unlikely to be tweeting just mundane activities and FourSquare check-ins. They’re going to be sending out valuable content. So don’t follow anyone who seems to be posting a lot of junk. 

The second response is that as you begin to form relationships with people, you may actually care about some of this mundane stuff! There is an attorney on Twitter who I followed early on, and she would post photos of her dinner almost every night – one of the ways that she relaxes is to cook a fabulous meal, and other followers became very interested in what she was making and eating. It sounds silly, but it gave people something to connect to her with outside of her work, which gave them another reason to know, like and trust her. It’s a question of knowing your audience, and finding the best ways to connect with them. 

I’m following 2,000 people, but it won’t let me follow any more…what happened?

Twitter imposes a random limit – once your account is following 2,000 people, you have to also be followed by 2,000 people in order to add any more. This is to cut down on spammers, who would follow as many people as possible and send them meaningless junk. It can be a hassle to the regular Twitter user, but in the beginning, I definitely recommend taking care with who you’re following, and working to really engage those people. Twitter isn’t about sheer numbers – it’s about cultivating relationships. It’s better to have fewer, more solid relationships, than to have many followers who are either not relevant or not strong connections. 

Holy cow, I can follow 2,000 people?!? How the heck do I read all of those tweets? 

The short answer is that you don’t. I follow almost 3,000 people, and there’s no way that I can monitor all of them – I’d be spending my entire day on Twitter. Instead, I categorize people using lists, as we talked about earlier. I use TweetDeck, create columns that look at the Twitter lists I’ve created – so I will always see those I’ve designated as "must follows" for example – or I can create columns based around a search term. 

I don’t have time to do this.

Yes, you do. Start with ten minutes, first thing in the morning or last thing before you leave, and begin by listening. Read what others are saying, and retweet their content if it’s interesting. Twitter is an excellent gauge for what people are talking about and care about, so even just a few minutes checking in will bring you up to speed, which is valuable in and of itself. 

When you write an article, tweet out the link. Or just go through and share what others have written. Respond to any messages you’ve gotten. When you begin to make it part of your life, and limit the time so it doesn’t suck you in, you’ll be surprised at how much it will do for you. 

The nice thing about social media is that it’s working for you even when you’re not logged in – people will read your tweets hours after you’ve posted them, or your name and information will come up when they’re doing a Google search, and you don’t have to do a thing. Put Twitter to work for you. 

Should you tweet links more often, or provide thoughts/analysis more often? 

The answer to this is that you should do both. Again, you want to abide by the 80/20 rules – 20% of the tweets should be about you, 80% about others. You are restricted by 140 characters, so if you don’t have a blog, you’re limited as to how much thought and analysis you can provide. Some of it will depend on you and your followers, so trial and error works best here too. And it depends on what you’re reading. There are times when I’ll read a post, and I really like it, but I don’t have much to add. So I’ll tweet out the link with the title, maybe alone, or I’ll add "reading so and so’s article" and make sure to include their Twitter name. 

Other times, I’ll want to add my two cents right in the tweet, so I may skip posting the title, and I’ll just link to the article with my comment. I think people like to see a good mix between just text tweets, which may be your own thoughts, and tweets with links. If you’re just posting links all the time, that will turn some people off, and if you’re only posting your own thoughts and never sharing anything else, that will also turn people off. So it’s about finding the right balance for you and your audience. 

What kind of (different) information should be posted to Twitter vs. other social media outlets? 

This is a great question, and one that’s come up a lot. Again, it’s going to depend on your audience. You may find that as your developing your audiences, that they’re completely different – that the people who fan your Facebook page and subscribe to your LinkedIn group have no overlap with your Twitter followers. In that case, feel free to tweet out the same things.

I’m certainly guilty of tweeting out a lot of the same stuff that’s being posted to other platforms, particularly when it comes to sharing the articles that my attorneys are writing. However, there are plenty of times when I’ll find an article or a blog post that I know won’t be relevant to my attorneys on LinkedIn, so I’ll just post it on Twitter. 

Retweets are obviously another thing that will be happening mostly on Twitter. Another great use of Twitter is during conferences – I’ll live tweet an event, and I’ll post a link to my Twitter account over on our other platforms so that people can follow if they’d like to, but I’ll only be tweeting information about the sessions from my account on Twitter. 

Facebook can often be better for photos – since it’s more casual over there, I’ll post fun pictures of our attorneys at our conferences there, which I won’t tweet out. Since that’s a public page, I may tweet out the link to encourage cross subscriptions, or post the link over in our LinkedIn group. I don’t have anything formal set up, so I handle it on a case by case basis. 

Are there any guidelines or legal limitations for attorneys or for marketing staff? 

This is another great question. It came up during the social media session at the LMA conference, and Melissa Croteau of Nixon Peabody answered it best. She said that the medium is always changing, so it’s really a matter of comfort level and education. She suggests that firms look at the most restrictive states’ rules and abide by those. 

Sue Sassmann of Armstrong Teasdale commented via Twitter that social media changes the medium, but not the message, so the ethical rules that apply to other mediums don’t change. It’s important to keep current with the firms’ social media policies and to know your state rules. Peter Vogel of Gardere Wynne Sewell also said that a good line to draw when using social media is to avoid saying anything that you don’t want a jury to see. That’s true no matter how private you think your settings are. 

Are there any analytics for Twitter? Any way to track posts and such? 

Yes and no. Twitter and Tweetdeck don’t have any kind of analytics, though those of us using them hope that changes quickly. In my case, I use bit.ly to track links. Bit.ly is free – you set up an account and then you can use it to shorten any link you like – yours or others – and then use that bit.ly link when tweeting. You can then go back and look at the stats, which include clicks, saves, clicks by day, where those clicks came from (like Twitter for example) and what countries each click came from. The combination of these two works pretty well, but it can be a bit annoying to have to run every link through bit.ly in order to post and track it. I started doing it religiously because Facebook got rid of their "add link" section for pages and groups, so now you have to include the link right in with the text of the status. Bit.ly shortens it, so it’s not as unwieldy. 

A tracking and monitoring tool that some people like a lot, but that I haven’t used much, is Hootsuite. This is similar to Tweetdeck in that you can use your web browser to access is, but to get the full benefit of using it, it’s recommended that you get a paid subscription. It’s not very expensive, so many people feel that it’s worth it. This includes enhanced social analytics, unlimited social profiles, a free team members (a collaborator who can help you manage your social accounts), unlimited RSS feeds, no ads, and a free report with advanced tools like networking stats, Facebook insights, influence scores, URL parameters, and Google analytics. This is of course all dependent on the level that you purchase. 

Some people also like it because you can schedule tweets, but I’m not a fan of doing that – with the social aspect of Twitter, I think you should be behind the machine when your tweets go out, so that you can respond to any comments that come in. But, to each his own. 

So for about $10 a month, you have access to 50 points of analytics (as determined by Hootsuite). It’s worth playing around with the thirty day trial – which does require a credit care number to secure – to see whether this would be useful for your firm or not. 

How often should you tweet? 

The answer really is "it depends." It depends on you, first of all – what’s your style and schedule like? I find that it works well for me to tweet first thing in the morning, generally only on weekdays, and then I will check Twitter towards the end of the business and calendar day, just to see what responses I’ve gotten and briefly what people are up to. There are different audiences of people on Twitter at different times of the day, and bear in mind that if you’re working with people in different time zones, their days will be different as well. Obviously, more professional tweets are being seen during the business day, and again, it depends on who you follow. I like to suggest some trial and error with this – play around with it a bit and see what works best for you. If you’re worried about getting sucked into it, set a timer for twenty minutes, read tweets, send out your won, comment and respond to people and then shut it down. 

In Closing…

A lot of my attorneys have said to me that Twitter must be useless because they’ve never heard of anyone getting a client through there. Aside from the fact that we did once get a nice referral for one of our firms through Twitter, I tell them that it’s not about getting business directly. Sure, it can happen, but it’s not the norm. 

What is the norm is that someone will need an attorney for something and they’ll ask a friend. That friend will recommend someone, and the person WILL Google them. If your name comes up, and with it is just a rather dry attorney bio, they may not be sure how good you are (even if you are the best attorney at what you do). BUT…if instead, a list of blog posts that you’ve written covering the subject that they need help with comes up, along with the tweets you’ve written and others have tweeted about you, and your well-thought-out LinkedIn profile comes up, etc., that will reinforce their decision to hire you. And that’s where the value lies!