Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Anatomy of a Twitter Tweet - Twitter Basics for Lawyers

A few weeks ago while checking email I noticed via a email update that one of my favorite colleagues, Attorney Tom McLain, was following me on Twitter.

Although Tom is an attorney in the Greater Atlanta area, and I practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I have had the opportunity to get to know Tom just a bit via social media.

In addition to the typical pleasantries exchanged upon making a new LinkedIn connection, Tom responded to my call for help in response to the major change in the group policy by LinkedIn.

In a rather short amount of time, I had to “share” my nationwide network of lawyer networking groups, and Tom was both courageous enough to take over ownership of a group and willing to keep the group in part of the larger MyLinkLaw family of lawyer networking groups. (I still "give away" LinkedIn lawyer networking groups as a networking activity itself, but the time pressure has passed.)

After looking at Tom’s Twitter page (which has since flourished), I noticed that he was rather new to Twitter.

I was confident Tom would be able to share interesting content on Twitter, and I knew he was sincere about his use of social media for professional networking. Also because Tom had done me a big favor, I thought I might repay the favor by attempting to attract him some followers to his new account by Tweeting about him.

My Twitter message was –

Follow @TomMcLain Chair, Corporate Lawyer Network on LinkedIn (1700+) - #followfriday

… and Tom responded with a private DM (Direct Message) full of honesty and a great question -

“I think I may be in over my head . . . The message you posted - - what does it do?”

Although Twitter messages are only 140 characters, Tom’s question was a good one since there are a few elements included in this Tweet.

Let’s deconstruct:

1. “Follow @TomMcLain – in addition to the general suggestion for others to follow Tom, including the “@” sign together with his active Twitter account name allows users to easily click through to his Twitter home page, where viewers may learn more about Tom, click through to his website, or choose to follow him on Twitter.

2. “Chair, Corporate Lawyer Network on LinkedIn” – is my attempt to tell others something about Tom. You see … I happened to create and send this Twitter message on a Friday, and I did so with the Twitter meme (the term Internet meme is a phrase used to describe a catchphrase or concept that spreads quickly from person to person via the Internet, much like an inside joke) “Follow Friday” in mind.

“Follow Friday” can be found as its own Twitter page
and its “bio” reads as basic instructions on how to execute the concept (“Tweet the names of Twitter users you'd like others to follow and tag it with #followfriday”).

One "Follow Friday" Tip -

Some folks pack in as many Twitter addresses as possible in 140 characters for their “Follow Friday” messages:

@barrettdavid, @jdtwitt, @tommclain, @stephenfairley, @bambrogi, @rkodner, @massgovernor, @barackobama, @rex7 #followfriday

However, “Follow Friday’s” are more effective if you include fewer people in each Tweet, and if you explain something about why you think others should follow this person. For example:

@barrettdavid – World’s Largest LinkedIn Lawyer Network, One of 20 Twitterers for Lawyers to Follow #followfriday

3. The “tag” (i.e. “#followfriday”) typically is found at the end of the Twitter message, and this refers to the “#” symbol used to create a searchable term (i.e. distinguishing it from a simple word search, which may have an alternate meaning) by using a service such as Twitter Search. These tags are commonly referred to as “hashtags” and are collected and observed at the Hashtags website.

4. The “(1700+)” adopts some LinkedIn shorthand typically used to show how many LinkedIn connections one has (LinkedIn changed its initial policy and now only shows the number of connections a given member has up to 500) and refers to the number of members in the aforementioned Corporate Lawyer group on LinkedIn,

5. and “” is a quick link to the group, should others be interested to join.

One should note that the "real" link to the Corporate Lawyer group on LinkedIn is:

However, this link is way too long for a Twitter message of 140 characters or less. So I plugged that link into Tweetburner, a free website service which produced this shorter link (i.e. while also tracking how many people “click through” that link.

Now, looking at a Twitter message (or “Tweet”) such as this –

Follow @TomMcLain Chair, Corporate Lawyer Network on LinkedIn (1700+) - #followfriday

Should no longer seem as intimidating.

I hope this helps explain a little bit of the foreign language of Twitter. Twitter can be a great networking tool when used wisely.

Follow Boston Attorney and Legal Social Media Consultant David Barrett on Twitter.