Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lawyers Exploring Twitter Communities

A large online legal network is a useful tool when taking the social media pulse of lawyers nationwide, and there seems to be a current buzz around lawyers making sense of the various Twitter communities online, and how to use them effectively.

This buzz first bubbled up to me when Robin Kobayashi of the Lexis Nexis Workers Compensation blog asked if I had written anything or had an opinion about Tweetlaw.

Smelling the potential interest in a larger blog post not only on Tweetlaw, but Tweetlaw and other Twitter communities for lawyers, I used Twitter to solicit a little feedback –

@barrettdavid Working on a review of Twitter lawyer communities for The LinkedIn Lawyer blog - might you @me a Tweet about your faves?

The response was tepid, like swimmers testing the water with their toes in the springtime … not sure if it is warm enough to dive in and start swimming.

For example, @KMarvel a somewhat anonymous child support enforcement lawyer from San Antonio Texas responded:

Still trying to find good lawyer communities -- not much out there for family lawyers. I'd love some ideas, please!

and apparently responding to one of my subsequent tweets:

@barrettdavid - Just joined a twibe. Visit to join

The “fairly uppity business and tax lawyer” @CynthiaRRowland

Asked: @barrettdavid I don't get it, what's the point of Twibe?

So first, I would generally describe “Twitter communities” or “Twitter Lawyer communities” as self-selected sub-groups of the larger “Twitter Community” (i.e. everyone on Twitter) who join such groups via websites independent of the official Twitter interface. Generally these websites re-broadcast the Twitter feeds of the members, and allow members to find other Twitter users who may be lawyers, legal professionals, or whatever shared interest of the group.

Historically, these communities were not so fancy, and Adrian Lurssen’s hyper-linked article “145 Lawyers and Legal Professionals to Follow on Twitter” (now at 703 members) was a ground-breaking tool assisting lawyers to find other lawyers and legal professionals on Twitter.

Slick website Twitter communities were soon to follow, including Kevin O’Keefe’s “LexTweet,” Justia’s “Legal Birds” and the aforementioned TweetLaw.

These communities further evolved to be defined by the users themselves, and leading the charge with the use of “Twibes” is legal marketing guru Stephen Fairley with his “Attorney Twibe” and “Law Marketing Twibe.”

So @KMarvel - here’s an idea for you, go to the Start page on Twibes and start a Twibe of Family Lawyers. I started a Twibe for Legal Professionals, but like any social media group for lawyers, recruitment is a considerable challenge.

Really a similar result could be achieved by using an existing LinkedIn group, say American Divorce Lawyers and organizing all the members to provide the group manager with their Twitter feed RSS to that the manager may re-broadcast the Twitter feeds of all the members.

However, this will never work. One secret to getting lawyers and other busy professionals engaged in your particular social media activity is to keep the engagement process as simple as possible.

Social media group organizers need to anticipate that folks are not going to just join because you created a group (i.e. “if you build it they will come” doesn’t work), and getting over the considerable barriers of limited time and varying degrees of techy skills requires you to make the sign up process quick, easy and low-tech.

What is the point of Twibes and other legal communities on Twitter @CynthiaRRowland????

There are a few reasons to join:

1. You may want to find other lawyers or legal professionals who you may want to follow on Twitter. This can help supplement your efforts to crib followers off of other people’s Twitter friends lists, and is easier than going through the trouble of running two internet browsers on your desktop and using Google as a sort of third party Twitter Search.

2. You may want to be found by other lawyers or legal professionals who are interested in what you have to Tweet, and you may gain followers.

3. You may want another venue to re-broadcast your Tweets. Much like the static lawyer directories like the Cornell Law School Directory re-broadcasts of your Tweets can enhance your exposure and your presence in search engines.

4. You likely won’t use these communities as a new place to view a Twitter stream, but you could. Most Twitter users want to follow a Twitter stream that relates directly to them.

Generally I would say that Twitter communities for lawyers are very useful, and very helpful when it comes to networking with folks who are your networking targets, not just any Twitter user who may come along.

Related Articles

For the Birds: LegalBirds: Twitter Directory for the Legal Community

Lawyers Are Building Community Online

Follow David Barrett on Twitter @barrettdavid