Too many lawyers do not realize they can’t land kudos and be easily cited without a Twitter account.

How so?

I regularly monitor sources and subjects for items of interest to me. I do it with my news aggregator, Feedly.

Many of the items I read I share on Twitter. Many of these tweets are shoutouts to the subject of the story. I am not alone in doing this.

In order to give a shutout I need the subject’s Twitter handle.

I go over to Google to look up the Twitter account by searching for the person or organization’s name and the word, ‘Twitter.’ I then include the Twitter handle in my tweet, ie, “Big kudos to @patriciasmith for…” and then include what they did.

Without a Twitter handle the person cannot see the recognition I gave them nor the recognition others gave them by retweeting or favoriting my tweet. With a Twitter account, the subject receives notice of the shoutout via an email and a Twitter notification.

This is a big deal with law firm and association leaders who do not have a Twitter account, but whose public relations people get them in headlines.

I do the same with reporters and bloggers I am citing. I am amazed when I cannot find a Twitter handle for a reporter, after all they are in the media.

Sadly far too many reporters and bloggers in the law lack Twitter handles, something that signals that they are out of touch with media today and aren’t looking to engage their readers.

I’m enjoying the addition of ALM’s (American Legal Media) publications in the feeds in my news aggregator, Feedly.

Through a subscription I just bought to ALM’s Law.com I receive feeds from the entire ALM network of 15 national and regional news publications, as well as commentary from leading voices in the legal field. I bought a subscription to Law.com for about $350/year, the rate given to small law firms. LexBlog, though not a law firm, qualified.

While most of the stories are about legal issues, law firms and the business of law, there are quite a few stories of interest to me and my followers on Twitter.

Stories on digital publishing, technology, business development, social media and the like. When I say quite a few, it’s probably about 5%, but that’s a higher percentage than my other feeds from sources and subjects I monitor in my aggregator. In addition, there are stories regarding law firms, companies and people of which I am interested.

The ALM is not one central feed through the law.com url, but comes via subscribing to each of the ALM legal publications. I went through the list of ALM’s featured legal publications and added them one at a time to Feedly (see above picture).

As many of you know, I share on Twitter a fair number of stories written by others – reporters, bloggers and columnists. I read stories in my aggregator for learning and staying abreast of news and developments, just as you’d read newspapers, periodicals and blogs.

From a business development standpoint for LexBlog and I, I meet and build relationships with the people (virtually to start with) whose stories, columns and blog posts I share. Who wouldn’t be curious who it is that’s sharing their story on Twitter?

They found out their story is being shared by me because I include their Twitter handle in my tweet. I also meet the people and companies who are the subject of the stories I share as I’ll include their Twitter handles.

In addition to potentially building relationships with reporters, bloggers, business people and companies, I serve as an “intelligence agent” for my followers on Twitter. I am combing the news in my aggregator on certain subjects and sharing the stories and blog posts with my followers. Not only does this build a name for me as being on top of my game on these subjects, but people come to rely on me as a source of helpful news and information.

ALM’s news feed is a good fit for me because of it’s legal bent, the reporters and subjects of the stories who I can meet, the quality of the journalism and my sharing of news and columns which folks would not otherwise see behind a paywall. I pay for my subscription to get the feeds, but non-subscribers can read the stories when shared by a subscriber on Twitter and other social media.

Sharing others’ content on Twitter seems to have built a lot of good will for me over the years. The more I share like this, the more people who follow me on Twitter, the more people like their stories shared by me and the more people share my blog posts. ALM’s feeds can only help.

Thanks much to ALM’s Shawn Harlan in business development and their chief sales officer, Allen Milloy, who helped me get the subscription.

Last week a friend asked on Facebook what we thought about President-elect Trump tweeting the possibility of a nuclear arms race with Russia. Was it appropriate for a world leader to be tweeting on such sensitive matters?

The reaction of most people was that it was reckless for the President-elect to weigh in on matters as serious as nuclear weapons in a tweet.  Rather than a reasoned discussion, we have world leaders guessing as to the President-elect’s intent.

Others responded that the President-elect was using Twitter as a press tool, much as corporate leaders are being coached to do. The President-elect was using Twitter to communicate directly to the people, as opposed to going through the traditional media.

I get the concerns about what is proper commentary by a president on Twitter. I was pretty alarmed hearing about the tweet on nuclear arms. But we may be looking at things as they were, not how they are today.

What would be better? Getting a podium, putting flags behind it and asking the media to come to the “Florida White House to be” for a statement or press conference?

Seems a bit outdated to then have reporters reduce what the president said to a sound bite of about 140 characacters when the president could have tweeted it.

The President-elect’s tweet on nuclear arms got the news out and generated discussion world-wide via social media. Vladimir Putin offered a tempered response that what Trump said was obvious and discussed in his campaign. Putin added that he looked forward to visiting the United States and President-elect upon invitation. This and we saw Putin’s Christmas card and message to the President-elect.

A U.S. position stated and reaction diffused all in one day because the President-elect relayed our position via Twitter. Ten years ago we would have been be waiting for the next day’s newspaper to begin two-weeks of news coverage on the subject.

Yesterday, on not nearly as sensitive a matter, we had Hall of Fame basketball coach and president of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson,  and Jeanie Buss, part owner and president of the Los Angeles Lakers, announce on Twitter the ending of their seventeen year relationship and four year engagement.

Rather than statements from their publicists, as we’d have had in the past, we had tweets from Jackson and Buss.

Law firms regularly issue press releases on firm or client related matters. Press conferences, though declining, are used by firms and their clients on high profile matters. Why not use Twitter instead?

Law firms and their leaders are neither celebrities nor politicians. Their news is not going to draw such immediate interest. The legal industry also runs a step or two behind when it comes to the innovative use of the Internet.

But their are some advantages to using Twitter.

  • Twitter does enable law firms to speak directly to their audience, including industry reporters.
  • Twitter enables law firms to control what the press reports on the firm’s position.
  • Twitter allows law firms to get out in front of a story such as a strong group of lawyers departing the firm.
  • Twitter enables law firms to immediately respond to reports they feel are unfair or unwarranted.
  • Social media, including news emanating from Twitter, is where a majority of people get news today.

Will Twitter replace press releases and press conferences for law firms? Overnight, no, but Twitter or another form of social media will replace the way law firms and their leaders release news and make statements — sooner or later.

With all the financial news about Google, Disney, Salesforce and Microsoft having no interest in buying Twitter, you’d think the social media network was a sinking ship.

Not so. Twitter remains valuable to society at large — and to lawyers in particular.

Jack Dorsey (@jack), the CEO and co-founder of Twitter, who rallied his team in an internal memo last week, obtained by Bloomberg, is spot on.

Twitter is what’s happening, and what everyone is talking about (literally!). News and talk. We’re the people’s news network.

People choose us for news because we’re the fastest. Fastest to get news, and fastest to share news with the whole world. Now let’s strive to be the first. The first place people check to see what’s happening…and the first place to break what’s happening. In the moment LIVE, or a fast recap of what we know so far…what matters.

The numbers support Dorsey. Twitter has three hundred million active users. 17 million tweets were sent during the last presidential debate alone. Twitter is what brings us the world — live.

The New Yorker’s James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) wrote last week that despite word that Twitter is floundering, Twitter, the service, remains as strong and influential as ever.

Indeed, if you look at Twitter in terms of social impact and user engagement, you would say that the company is doing quite well and adding a great deal of value.

Twitter gets a bum rap because of the financial community’s expectations that Twitter should be measured for success against its sister social network, Facebook, and its 1.7 billion users and $18 billion in annual revenues. No one is going to be Facebook except may be Google, Amazon and Microsoft before it.

Twitter, with $3 billion in revenue and driving news and information, person to person, across the world is a heck of a successful company — and would be viewed as so if it didn’t go public with unrealistic expectations.

Where does that leave Twitter today?

Can lawyers rely on Twitter being around as a source of receiving and sharing news and information? Can lawyers look to Twitter as medium by which to build relationships? Can lawyers continue to use Twitter to help build a name for themselves?

Absolutely. Twitter will be here for us and will likely see improvements — or it should, as compared to some of the eye candy enhancements made the last couple years in an effort to get its stock price up.

Twitter, as an independent company, is likely to work on adding value to its real users, rather than paying so much attention to its stock price. Long term value will become the key.

How can you use Twitter as a lawyer?

  • Serve as an intelligence agent on a niche. Set up a news aggregator, such as Feedly, to monitor relevant sources and subjects. By sharing posts and stories on Twitter you’ll build a following among those who recognize you as a trusted source to follow.
  • Source of news and information. Twitter can serve as an aggregator of legal news and developments. Identify names of people and media sources on Twitter who are sharing items relevant to your area of the law. Follow them and you’ll have your personal “AP feed.”
  • Twitter lists for relationships. Twitter lists, little known by lawyers, are powerful for building strategic relationships. Create a list of your best clients and prospective clients by company name. Add the principals and officers who are using Twitter. Retweet and/or like items they are Tweeting – especially items they might be proud of. You’ll hear back with a “thank you,” which can lead to a LinkedIn Connection and a face to face to face meeting.
  • Conferences – on and off site. Twitter is abuzz with legal and trade industry conferences today. By following the conference hashtag you can join the Twitter discussion by retweeting, liking or sharing items of your own. Doing so while at the conference or in the office is a good way to meet people and get known.

Twitter’s not going away. Sure, the experts will take pot shots at it. Everyone is a pundit today.

But as ‘The People’s News Network,” Twitter remains strong, influential and of value to the public — and lawyers in particular.

News broke on Twitter last week that the publisher of New York Times didn’t want the Times’ reporters using Twitter.

My response was that this was absolutely nuts – and I was not alone. The reason? The Times’ reporters develop trust with their readers through the online engagement which Twitter enables.

It’s trust which develops a loyal following of readers, and, more importantly, readers who share the reporters’ articles across social media – especially on Facebook and Twitter.

It turned out that the Times was not asking reporters to refrain from using Twitter. The Times was merely asking reporters to refrain from expressing strong political views, something which could call their impartiality into question and turn off some readers.

The reporters’ use of Twitter, generally, is critical in building a following and driving distribution.

  • People sharing a reporter’s articles on Twitter can include the reporter’s Twitter handle.
  • Reporters seeing people share their articles on Twitter like the Tweet.
  • It’s the “like” which engages the person sharing the article. This quick engagement is where the trust starts.
  • Those sharing items like this tend to be intelligence agents and influencers on niches with an awful lot or followers. Building a community of influencers sharing your content is critical today where social media drives distribution.
  • The engagement results in more people following the reporters on Twitter, and in turn sharing items the reporter shares on Twitter.
  • The ensuing relationship between readers using Twitter and the reporter makes it more likely that these readers will read the reporter’s stories in the Times. It’s only natural, when you come to “know” reporters and columnists, that you start to read their stuff.

As a blogging lawyer, you’re in the same shoes as reporters. You need to build trust with influencers online. It’s the influencers who’ll share your blog posts with people who’ve come to trust the influencers as sharing items of interest.

Without a Twitter handle, it’s impossible for you to know who is sharing your blog posts on Twitter. When someone atrrributes your post to you by including your Twitter handle, you’re notified by email and Twitter.

By giving an atta girl or atta boy by liking such a Tweet you begin to build the trust, the relationship. Sure it’s a loose relationship, you’ve likely never met before. But the relationship leads to the person sharing more of your posts, others sharing your posts. more people reading your blog, and more people recognizing you as a trusted authority.

In many cases this engagement leads to connecting on LinkedIn, and, in some cases, face to face meetings.

Understand, as a blogger, Twitter is not a one way street. You need to be sharing others content, blog posts and articles. Doing so builds trust, grows followers and gets more people. who see you as a giver, sharing your blog posts.

Back to the New York Times’ reporters. They were all but ordered to start using Twitter and other social media in the New York Times Innovation Report 2014. I don’t think you’ll see them stop using Twitter anytime soon.

I use Twitter primarily to share items I read via my RSS Reader or the New York Times. I share anywhere from a few to twenty some items a day. More when I am not traveling.

The engagement I experience via Twitter comes from people replying to, liking or retweeting items I share. This engagement comes from me getting to know these people better via Twitter or elsewhere online or offline. Trust is also built by each of us getting to know each other.

Twitter also represents a heck of a news feed from people with deep passion and expertise on countless niches. Whether reporter, blogger or anyone sharing their observations and what they read, Twitter represents a great news feed from trusted authorities with similar interests.

Such a feed is impossible to harness though if you’re following too many people. So yesterday I started refining my feed by whittling down the number of people I’m following.

First, I just started skimming through my Twitter feed to see what people were sharing. If the stuff a person was sharing didn’t offer much value to me (it may for others), I stopped following them.

I then started going through those I was following on Twitter. I wanted to see how much they used Twitter.  I found a free web based app, ManageFlitter, to help me identify those who did not tweet much, if at all.

Turns out there were a lot of folks not tweeting. Some stopped since I started following them — many I now see active on Facebook — and others I may have followed to meet them and it turned out they never much used Twitter.

I then looked at who ManageFlitter said was more influential. Whether someone is “influential” is highly charged. What does that really mean? While viewed as “un-influential,” in general, someone could be very influential to me because of the respect I have for them and the trust I have in the information they share.

So when it came to influential I was pretty discrete in who I stopped following. I am still following a lot of the “un-influential.”

When I was all done I skimmed through the entire list. Scary as it me be, I knew the six hundred plus I was still following. If not personally, at least by their station in life and how they add value to my life by what they share. I also wanted to mantain a “relationship” with most of those folks.

This morning, I started skimming through my feed. I found some good stuff and shared a couple things.

There is still a lot of stuff coming through. More than I can probably absorb. That’s probably because those I stopped following were not sharing much so the flow was not reduced much.

In addition, the Twitter feed represents news and information shared in a moment of time. An hour was all I could scroll back – and that took a bit of time. My RSS reader (Feedly or Mr Reeder) organizes info into folders and allows me to review news and information from an entire day.

But I am going to continue my experiment of reviewing Twitter’s home feed to see how I can a harness it. I may do some more whittling of those I follow, hoping I don’t pick up some resentment from folks who may follow who unfollows – not sure why you would care enough to do that.

I will also use Twitter lists for timely info for sporting events as well as lists to build relationships with strategic partners. The later I do by retweeting some of their things — when I can.

I know many of you follow thousands and thousands of people on Twitter. Some view it as the polite thing to do. To follow back those who follow you. Some even have software that goes and gets followers by targeting people to follow.

I see the greatest value in Twitter as a stream of news and information. Walter Cronkite had the UPI, Reuters and the AP. We have something arguably much more powerful in Twitter.

But to me, Twitter needs to be refined to work.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Pete Simon

Twitter co-founder and CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced on the Today Show last Friday that Twitter’s 140-character limit is here to stay. (See video below)

It’s staying. It’s a good constraint for us. It allows for of-the-moment brevity.

With Wall Street clamoring for a higher stock price and the public thinking Twitter is trying to keep up with Facebook in the amount of users, rumors have run rampant that Twitter was going to increase its character limit. This way Twitter could supposedly compete with Medium, a third party blogging platform, and Facebook.

Dorsey,  who returned as CEO last Ocrober is comitted to making Twitter better. However getting away from the 140 character limit would have been a mistake.

Twitter is not long form social media ala Facebook or a blog-like platform such as Medium. Twitter is about ‘tweets.’ Short form sharing, responses and engagement.

140 characters work. The Chinese earthquake. The US Airways plane landing on the Hudson. The Thanksgiving Eve Mumbai guerilla attacks. The ISIS Paris attack. Sporting events and Hollywood stars. All news spread around the world in seconds via Twitter.

Sharing news stories we read with an attribute to the source. Unmatched social sharing and engagement.

Other changes may be coming, but I’m with Dorsey, Twitter works because of its brevity.

Twitter is under siege with people saying its days are numbered. Users are threatening to leave for any of number reasons – most of them baseless. Financial analysts and reporters, looking at Twitter’s declining stock price, see a dying company.

I couldn’t disagree more. Twitter is what it is, one of the more powerful, if not the most powerful, news and information reporting utilities in the world. I doubt that Reuters, UPI or the AP had near the influence and importance in their first decade.

I’m with New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) who believes Twitter is our most important social network.

That might sound like the ravings of an addict, but look at the headlines in every morning’s newspaper and the obsessions of every evening’s cable news broadcast. Just about anything you encounter in the news media these days has some foot in the controversies and conversations occurring on the 140-character network.

Financial valuations of Twitter as a measurement of the company’s success are flawed.

Wall Street has only one template of success for an Internet company: Google and, later, Facebook. By filing for an initial public offering, Twitter was telling the world that it was part of the same club — that there was no upper bound to its business aims, and that it would try to build a money machine that matched the size and importance of its service.

Twitter need not become a $50 billion or $100 billion business for it to be a well run and very profitable utility.

Long time technology leader and executive, Anil Dash (@anildash) nailed it in telling Manjoo:

Maybe Twitter is not meant to be the most popular band in the world. Maybe it’s meant to be merely Pearl Jam and not U2, and maybe Twitter could find equilibrium as a company with an enterprise value of merely $5 billion. [Twitter is at $10 billion today]

Look at Yahoo, says Manjoo, if you’re looking for an Internet company that chased elusive growth for growth’s sake.

After losing its dominance as a search engine, Yahoo has faced more than a decade of struggle mainly because it has tried too long to become the one-stop portal that it isn’t.

In that effort it has squandered talent and money and run through more chief executives than you’d find at a Brooks Brothers sale. If, instead of pursuing the moon, Yahoo had vastly lowered its ambitions and planned to do one or two things really well, it could have found a sustainable path forward.

The fact is Twitter is pretty darn popular. How would you like to have an Internet business that’s twenty percent as big as Facebook, the world’s largest media channel – social or otherwise? Twitter’s user base grew 9% in the last year to 307 million.

Sure, Twitter is tough for some folks to figure out, but, as Manjoo points out, it works awfully well.

Twitter is an accessible, real-time network that has become the nerve center of the world’s journalists, politicians, activists and agitants, it has, for better or worse, demonstrated an unrivaled capacity to influence real things in the real world.

Lost in all the noise is how Twitter has democratized media and news coverage. Twitter has given people who went unheard a voice. DeRay McKesson (@DeRay), one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, summed it well for Manjoo.

Twitter has created space for the amplification of the voice of marginalized people in ways that we have not seen before. It has redefined our understanding of the public sphere to be more inclusive and more accessible and to have substantive impact on real-world events.

Don’t believe the news reports that Twitter is on the decline. Reject the social media pundits, including those teaching lawyers and other professionals, who are telling you that Twitter is not worthwhile to understand and use.

Twitter’s message may have drifted for a while but co-founder, Jack Dorsey is back at the helm as CEO. Dorsey, founder of Square, is a widely respected technology innovator and just completed a major board and executive shakeup. He’s on record as saying his intent is to make Twitter more “twittery.” And that’s a good thing.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Gerry Buckle

Rumored for sometime, Re/code’s Kurt Wagner (@kurtwagner8) now reports Twitter is going to raise its character limit for tweets to 10,000 characters.

Twitter is building a new feature that will allow users to tweet things longer than the traditional 140-character limit, and the company is targeting a launch date toward the end of Q1, according to multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. Twitter is currently considering a 10,000 character limit, according to these sources. That’s the same character limit the company uses for its Direct Messages product, so it isn’t a complete surprise.

There is no official launch date set in stone, these sources say. It’s also possible the character limit could fluctuate before it rolls out the final product, which people inside Twitter refer to as “Beyond 140.”

Twitter has been under a lot of pressure to keep up with other publishing platforms, including Facebook and Medium. Twitter has always been compared to Facebook by the financial community – number of users, rate of growth of users and frequency of use. With Medium getting traction as a personal publishing platform, Twitter has felt compelled to keep up with Medium as well.

Though Tony Bradley (@gettechspective), Community Manager at Tenable Network Security, writes at Forbes that 140 characters can feel restrictive at times, Twitter’s short form is what makes it most compelling.

[T]he succinct brevity of tweets on Twitter is essentially what makes Twitter unique. There are already competing platforms and social networks out there that fill the void for longer posts. Facebook comes to mind. Medium is a great example of a platform where contributors can craft essays and long-form articles. Can Twitter be a better Facebook than Facebook, or a better Medium than Medium? Can Twitter evolve into a new Twitter that basically mimics Facebook or Medium and still maintain some element that provides unique value?

If Twitter scraps the 140-character limit in some sort of desperate Hail Mary move to attract new users, it may very well backfire. By abandoning the one thing that makes Twitter unique it risks surrendering its relevance as well.

Sure, Twitter can attract more users and more content with long form Tweets. In this day of content marketing and indiscriminate shotgun distribution, marketers will  jump on “Twitter-publishing.” There will be rampant discussion of where and when to publish on each of about four platforms, including your site or blog.

But I am with Bradley. By surrendering what makes it unique, Twitter could surrender its relevance altogether. Twitter began as a quick sound bite for sharing and collaborating. What’s better than one mind when solving a problem? Two or three minds.

Twitter expanded to an extraordinary news feed. Long or short form news copy moved via this new teletype with links  called Twitter. Rather than just the mainstream media, citizen journalists (you and I) could report and share across this wire.

When news and photos broke from a catastrophic earthquake in China, we got the news first via Twitter. With the police chase for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects we received reports and photos from citizen journalists via Twitter. When Twitter search enabled geo-location of tweets we received news and photos of the guerilla attacks in Mumbai as reported by citizens via Twitter.

Today Twitter quickly moves news and information, most often via links to longer stores. Tweets can quickly be shared and favorited. It’s how we move a lot of news and communicate with the parties reporting the news.

Rather than turn Twitter into something it’s not, Twitter would be better served to improve what if does. Move the media, via people, whether it be text, audio or video.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Per

How would you like to engage via Twitter the 200 largest businesses in your community, as well as the top four executives of each company?

There’s obvious value in it, and I’ve heard it from lawyers themselves. A senior lawyer in a large law firm in Portland told me by following business leaders and companies in the community he was able to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. He found this especially valuable in the IP arena, where companies were especially apt to be using technology to network.

So, where to start? With a Twitter list it’s fairly easy to do.

  • Get a list of the largest companies in your city. I saw a recent article in one of the business journals referencing such a list for their metro area. If not the business journal, try the Chamber or just Google “largest employers in Smithtown.”
  • Hire a high schooler (preferably your own) or an intern to do the following work.
  • Have the person helping you log into Twitter under your account.
  • Create a new list in your Twitter account marked “largest employers.” To learn more about setting up Twitter lists,  check out Twitter’s help page regarding lists.
  • Google the name of the company and the word  “Twitter” to identify and click to the first company’s Twitter handle.
  • Add the company to your “largest employers” list by clicking on the little circle cog next to the follow icon on the company’s Twitter page.
  • Repeat for the other companies.
  • Google the name of each company with the title of each of the top executives plus the word Twitter. CEO, CFO, CMO and COO.
  • Add each of those you find to have a Twitter account to your Twitter list.
  • Follow the list when you have time and favorite, retweet or reply to a company or executive tweet as you feel appropriate. Maybe it’s a company acknowledging one of their employee’s local civic work. Or an executive sharing a local news story or commenting on a local pro sports team.

You’ll be engaging executives from afar to start but this engagement will lead to LinkedIn connections, conversations and luncheon meetings.

Your tweets about a company stand a good chance to be recognized by the company’s social media manager and circulated around the company by email. Social media managers or interns are often low on the totem pole and are only too glad to demonstrate their relevance through a local leader—you—recognizing their company’s social media presence.

How many other lawyers in your town will be doing this? Probably none. You’ll be flying under the radar as far as your competition is concerned. You’ll be dancing with companies and executives while they’re slugging it out the old way trying to meet people and build relationships.

Twitter is a powerful business development tool when used strategically and effectively. Twitter lists are a powerful way to do so.