Twitter for lawyers – how to balance professionality and personality

With over 500 million active users Twitter is a valuable additional broadcasting channel to traditional marketing channels for law firms, with a huge potential to to create brand awareness, drive traffic to the firm's web site, create engagement with clients, leads, employees and suppliers, to leverage content for marketing, as well as for brand monitoring and control over what is being said about the firm.

Many law firms do understand these possibilities and have started to use Twitter for marketing purposes, but there still seems to be a struggle with how to use Twitter to its full potential for drawing potential clients and creating closer client relationships. There also seem to be some worries about the damage an ill-thought out or misinterpreted tweet can cause.

Hélène Russell, lawyer and knowledge management consultant at TheKnowledgeBusiness, recently held a discussion in the networking group Knowledge Network West on how lawyers can use Twitter for learning, knowledge-sharing, and personal and law firm marketing. The slides from the session are available here: "Twitter for lawyers and knowledge teams"

One of the main issues discussed during the session was how to balance coming across as professional and aligned to the law firm's brand, with the conversational, human, networking aspects of Twitter.

A general Twitter recommendation by Hélène Russell is to never get mislead into thinking you are bantering with a small group of friends, but to always bear in mind that anyone can choose to follow you and retweet your comments to anyone. Another recommendation is to keep your real-world rules in mind also on Twitter, i.e. be ethical and professional, follow your firm's and the Law Society's/Bar Association's guidance and be kind, fair, honest and transparent. With these recommendations is mind it should not be harder to achieve a balance and come across as both a human and a profession on Twitter than in the everyday work as a good lawyer, without it feeling risky and uncomfortable.

Hélène Russell also presents practical tips on how to manage Twitter via tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, how to use hashtags, tweetups, chats, lists and favourites to make it more manageable, and the following five practical ideas on how to bring the human side into the work Twitter account in her blog post "5 ideas to… be more human in your work twitter account":

  • Retweet someone else's interesting (non-libellous and non-controversial) content with a short, one or two word, comment about why it is worth reading. Follow reputable news sources relevant to your target followers and retweet news articles which would be of interest to them.
  • Always send a personal thank you if someone retweets your material. If you want to engage with them, you can always add a relevant comment or ask how their day is going.
  • If you are preparing for an event, such as an open seminar, can you offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of preparations, or share  your (non-proprietary, non-confidential) research as you prepare your talk?
  • If your firm sponsors charity bike-rides, local arts events or similar, include the human stories behind that and retweet the relevant tweets of other people involved.
  • If anything interesting is happening locally, which is relevant to your local clients, retweet details of that even if you aren't involved in sponsoring it.

The key lesson is to be strategic and focus on why you are investing time on Twitter and concentrate on quality content that is of value to your target followers. Aim to be the person you want to be and follow your real-world rules and you should have no problem to come across as both professional and personal.


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