I call today’s social media, particularly Twitter, the “ever present never present.” It means that, for many of us, social media is ever present. It is always on, always tempting us to post, to like, to friend, to fan, to wave, to connect, and to think about all of these all the time, especially if to do so requires only taking out your smart phone and typing out 140 characters.
But it also means that you are never present. At lunch with a colleague and Tweeting about it? Not present. At dinner with your kids and thinking too much about a clever post? Not present. Reading tweets in your car while driving? Recklessly not present. Certainly you are physically present, but in reality you are interacting elsewhere, and that elsewhere is out on the web and often embedded into some form of social media. That’s not by definition a bad thing, but it does come at a price, and that price is a decrease in your ultimate productivity and, more importantly, the loss of real connectivity with those around you – your colleagues, kids, spouse, partner, clients. With Twitter on and people microblogging 24/7, suddenly the weekend is no longer the weekend. It’s just two more days to stay up to speed with everyone else.
So, in the hyperactive world of social media where it seems to matter that you get the latest developments two minutes before anyone else, there are some things you may want to consider before going whole hog. Consider these for Twitter:
Turn Off TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Any Other Persistently Available Application. My guess is that you already struggle with the number of e-mails coming into your inbox every day or, if you don’t have an issue with e-mail, you’ve already spent a good deal of time setting up a system to sort and filter your messages. A lot of folks advise us to turn off e-mail or check e-mail only certain times of the day. It’s good advice, and should apply to Twitter as well. Turn off the Twitter applications, many of which have pop-ups, bird calls, or similar persistent reminders about new tweets. Unless you are an attorney who advises on social media or provides legal marketing services to attorneys, there’s really no good reason to have Twitter humming 24/7 in the background. It’s fine to check Twitter once a day, or even once or twice a week. Honestly, you won’t miss a thing, even though it may feel like you are.
Treat It for What It Is: A Feed. Twitter is just a feed. Sure, a complicated and fun feed, but a feed nonetheless. Treat it that way. Rather than engaging directly in Twitter, set up a feed from the Twitter search site for terms, topics, or hashtags that may affect your practice. Want to know what folks are saying about attorneys in your jurisdiction or about a particular topic of the law in which you practice? Use Twitter’s search and its built-in RSS feed to find out. Or, with one of its brand new features, find Twitter “lists” that people you follow have developed around a topic and follow those lists. It’s probably more useful than jumping into Twitter and spending time – a lot of time – trying to build a Twitter reputation. The message here: it’s OK to lurk.
It is by no means necessary for you to use Twitter to make your practice thrive and gain business – for that, there are better and more local options. But if you want a dose of fun and a bit of interaction with the wider world—including interaction with a very small number of local attorneys – give it a go. But, unless you are an attorney in a national practice or who makes part or all of your income from social media consulting, don’t expect a huge return on investment other than whatever joy you get out of saying that you tweet.