What is Twitter?
Twitter is pretty simple — you can send messages of 140 characters (or less) to anyone who’s “following” you. They’ll see your messages in their “stream/feed.”
On the flip side, you can follow people, and you’ll see their messages in your stream.
One of the interesting aspects of Twitter is that it’s asynchronous, meaning you can follow someone without necessarily having them follow you back. So, if you’d like to get updates from Justin Bieber, you can. Just follow @justinbieber. (Why you’d want to do this is another question, but hey, whatever floats your boat.)
Why Should You Care?
Twitter is useful for several distinct reasons:
- It’s a great way to curate a personal news stream. You’re a busy law student (or lawyer) and you don’t have tons of time to read the news every day. At the same time, you need to stay up-to-date. What do you do? One option is to use your Twitter account as a personal news feed. You can follow a variety of people in the legal industry (and in any other industry you’re interested in) and then — in just a few minutes every morning — you can scroll through your feed to see what people are talking about. If there’s a topic of mass interest (say, an important Supreme Court case that just came out), you’ll know that’s something to pay attention to and you can take a few extra minutes to read an article about it, so you’re prepared when your professor brings it up.
- You can make useful connections. In the beginning, Twitter can be a bit impenetrable. I remember thinking there were no legal types anywhere when I first signed up. But that’s not true — there’s actually a fairly substantial and close-knit community, I just hadn’t found them yet. Once you come into the fold, as it were, you’ll find that there are lots of helpful legal-oriented Tweeters, many of whom are open to questions about all kinds of things (work, school, life).
- You can establish yourself as an expert. Another interesting aspect of Twitter is that people “retweet” content. This means you can send out a Tweet, which — if someone else finds it helpful — might be sent out to all of their followers, too. So, even if you only 50 people directly following you, a Retweet might go out to hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people you don’t know. If you’re interested in a specific niche area of law, this is a fantastic way to build up your credibility as a knowledgeable player in the area. And, when you retweet relevant content from other experts working in the area, you can establish yourself as someone who’s “in the know,” leading to more followers, and even more exposure!
How Can You Sign Up?
Signing up for Twitter is very easy. You just create an account and then follow some people.
That’s pretty much it. (For more details, check out this beginner’s guide to Twitter.)
But the real question is a little harder: How do you find good people to follow? This is where Twitter’s built-in suggestions for legal types aren’t usually so great. But there are other ways to find good accounts to follow:
- Search by law-related hashtags. We haven’t gotten into what exactly a “hashtag” is, but it’s pretty simple. If you add “#” in front of a word, it becomes a hashtag. So, if you want to find law school-related Tweets, you could search for #LawSchool, #LawStudent, or #1L and find people to follow that way. Twitter’s built in search doesn’t make it super easy to search by hashtag, so you might find something like Hashtags.org more useful. You can also Google “twitter #lawschool,” for example, and get some useful results, or just click on a hashtag when you’re looking at your feed, and most viewing programs will bring up a list of recent Tweets using the tag. When you get your search results, you’ll know who’s Tweeting in your areas of interest, so it’s an excellent way to find new people to follow.
- Look to see who other people are following. This is one often-overlooked, but fantastic, way to find good accounts to follow. You can look at the list of followers (and following) for any Twitter user. So, for example, if you’re interested in law school-related content, you can look to see who the Law School Toolbox follows: Who does @LawSchoolTools follow? Chances are good you might like some of these same people! (And, assuming you’re logged into your account, it’s super easy to find out more about someone by clicking on their username and to follow them by just clicking the Follow button.)
- Pay attention to Retweets. When you see a Retweet, it generally shows you who the original author was. Click on their username to find out more, and see if you’d also like to follow them. (This is why having someone with a broad reach retweet your content generally leads to new followers.)
In the beginning, it can be hard to figure out who to follow, but it gets easier over time. As a general rule, I’d suggest finding a couple hundred people to follow — otherwise your stream won’t be very interesting, and you’ll get bored.
Twitter Best Practices
There are entire books written on Twitter, so we can’t cover everything. But here are a few tips to keep you out of trouble:
- Think before you Tweet. Before you publish any Tweet, think for a second. Is this something that conceivably could impact your character and fitness evaluation when you apply to become a member of the bar? If so, DO NOT SEND it. You’d think this would be obvious, but it’s not, apparently.
- Be nice most of the time. The best way to make new friends on Twitter is to retweet someone’s content regularly. Eventually, they’ll notice (in most cases). They’ll notice even faster if you add some commentary. If you say “Great article!” they’re going to like you. If you say “This is rubbish!” not so much. You don’t have to turn yourself into Pollyanna, but think twice before you knock someone. Mostly, it just makes you look like a jerk.
- Listen and share more than you talk. Particularly in the beginning, as you’re learning the ropes, it’s fine not to “say” much (as in, not to Tweet much yourself). You can learn a lot on Twitter, even if you never send a Tweet. But, as you become more comfortable, you’ll probably want to jump into the fray. Just pay some attention to whether you’re dominating the conversation. If all you ever do is post “Read my awesome new blog post!” and “I’m excited about my new pro bono case!” it gets a little dull for anyone listening to you. Mix it up, and make it a conversation. Did you like a post you read? Retweet it with a nice comment, or ask the author a question. As a general rule, you should probably be sharing and interacting 90% of the time, and talking about yourself 10% of the time.
- Do NOT send 20 messages at once. A common newbie mistake is to go online once or twice a day, and send out a string of Tweets all at once. Don’t do this. It’s obnoxious. Use a scheduler tool to spread out your Tweets for the day, of just manually reign yourself in if you have to. Any more than about two at once is too many (and this applies to Retweets, as well).
In general, you shouldn’t stress too much over doing something wrong. Unless you really insult someone, which you’d probably know you were doing, any minor mistakes will just disappear into the stream to be forgotten.
More Twitter Resources
If you’re going to be a serious Twitter user, I highly recommend HootSuite, which is a dashboard of sorts for your own Tweets, your stream, people who mention you, and so on. There are other similar tools, such as TweetDeck, and it doesn’t really matter which one you use. Just get one of them.
They’ll make your life a lot easier, by keeping things organized and allowing you to schedule messages in advance.
If you have a smart phone, you’ll also want to download a Twitter app. That way, when you’re waiting in line for coffee, you can quickly scroll through your feed, looking for interesting stuff. (This is how I get 90% of the content I retweet.)
To learn more, check out:
- Why Every Law Student Should Be on Twitter (The Girl’s Guide to Law School)
- What NOT to Do on Twitter (Jared Correia)
- The Complete Guide to How Lawyers Should Not Use Twitter (Lawyerist)
- Twitter 101: How to Get Started on Twitter (Twitter)
And don’t forget the most important rule of thumb: Have a nice time!
Want to connect with us on Twitter?
- Law School Toolbox (@LawSchoolTools)
- Bar Exam Toolbox (@BarExamTools)
- The Girl’s Guide to Law School (@GirlsGuideToLS)
Also, keep an eye out for our monthly Twitter chats:
- #1Ltools for law school advice
- #BarExamTools for bar exam advice
Do you have questions or concerns about Twitter? Leave them in the comments!
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