People follow you on Twitter not to know what you’re doing at any given moment, but because they are interested in what you are thinking.

While there is no formula for the perfect way to Tweet, I have found that it should be a mix of personal and professional. Use your instinct.

In the morning I typically send out links to articles that I am reading. I like to retweet posts of interest and amusement throughout the day. I send out job leads when I hear of anything out there. I use the @reply and DM to engage conversations and raise my profile to someone I’d like to meet. I send links to my blog posts, both here on The Legal Watercooler and for my firm’s three blogs. I also drop in information about the concerts I attend, my Girl Scout Troop, being a mom, etc. so you can get to know me better.

I do NOT use Twitter to vent about work, politics, personal issues, etc. You NEVER know who might be “listening.”

How often should I Tweet?

Some “gurus” out there will give you a specific number, or a limit, of Tweets you should send out each day. Tweet too often and people will think that you’re not busy. Tweet too infrequently and you might not get known. I say Tweet what is necessary, as frequently, or infrequently, as the moment warrants.

If I am at a conference, attending a valuable panel, I’ll Tweet 20 times in an hour. If I have nothing of interest to say, or value to add, I might Tweet three times in a day. If I’m really busy, you might not hear from me for a few days, but I am still reading and reviewing my incoming Tweets.

Who should I follow?

Twitter isn’t about the quantity of your followers, it’s about the quality. We are trying to get our message in front of the right influences and purchasers. We are trying to identify people we want to know; people we want to add to our network of prospects, influences, connectors.

Personally, I follow people and entities:

  • I believe would want to hear my message from within the legal industry (lawyers, marketing, library, IT, finance, in-house counsel, consultants and vendors, etc.). It doesn’t matter to me what type of law or where they are practicing.
  • in my discipline: marketing, business development, communications, PR and media.
  • I can learn from, the thought leaders out there.
  • who make me laugh, make my day run smoother, or those whom I find to be of personal interest.

How can I find followers?

I find new followers several ways:

  1. I follow people who follow me provided that they meet the above criteria.
  2. I follow people others follow. If @jaynenavarre is interesting in what someone has to say, chances are I might as well, so I see who she’s following and review their profiles. If they fit the above criteria, I follow. Repeat often with key follows.
  3. I use the search tools. Search a specific term, such as “journal” and you’ll be amazed at all the reporters and publications that come back. I do this often.
  4. I follow people having interesting conversations with my followers. If @nancymyrland is having an interesting conversation with one of her followers, I’ll follow the other person.

How do I manage my incoming messages?

Once you hit 100 follows you will need a tool to sort and manage the messages you are receiving.I personally use Tweetdeck on both by desktop and iPhone, but there are other applications out there as well.

Tweetdeck can be used to set columns of follows. I have “My Peeps” for people I follow closely, but not obsessively. I have “Leaders” for those whose messages I don’t want to miss. Other columns include: “Press and Media,” “Competitors” and “Fun Follows.”

I also manage search terms to see what people are saying about me, my industry, my professional association, my firm, etc. I will also set temporary columns to follow Twitter streams for conferences (#solo09), major news stories (#fires), and sporting events (#dodgers).

I have also learned to not be obsessive about catching every post and message. I catch up on Twitter a few times per day, and participate as much as I possibly can … always remembering to add value, participate in conversations, and reveal bits about myself so that you can get to know me better.

Pet Peeves

Protected Tweets – Why?? If you’re joining Twitter to play, then play.

Auto Replys – Don’t do it. Really. They don’t come off as sincere and many people will now automatically unfollow you for this social networking faux pas.

All business, no play – If your goal is to get to be “known, liked and trusted” how can this happen if all you do is send out upcoming event notifications for seminars I have to pay to attend? Some of my best Twitter relationships began (or have been enhanced) around a passion for Girl Scouts, a family emergency, 80s Hair weekend, or concert schedules.

There is no 100% right way to use Twitter. I tend to follow closely others I believe are successful at utilizing Twitter for a business development and marketing tool. I’ll then try some of their practices and strategies. I continue to use the ones that work well for me, and discard the ones that don’t.

All in all, I have found Twitter to be quite successful for me. I have built a national reputation as a legal marketer who is engaged and knowledgeable in social media and social networking tools. I have spoken before several prominent legal associations, including the Legal Talk Network’s Lawyer2Lawyer, The American Bar Association, the Virginia Bar Association and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

I have used Twitter to identify new peers, who have now transitioned into personal relationships, within the legal market, including @kevinokeefe, @glambert, and @nancymyrland, while enhancing relationships with people I already knew professionally, but not on a personal level, including @jaynenavarre and @natslavin.

For me, Twitter has proven to be an incredibly valuable tool.

Tomorrow: What about the Twitter naysayers??