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January 28, 2009

10 Ways I Use Twitter and Why I Do It The Way I Do

This post is not meant to tell you how you should use Twitter or whether you should even like Twitter.  But it is a post about how I use Twitter and why I choose to use it the way I do as well as some overall observations.  If you can pull some tidbits out of it that work for you...great.  I am certainly not pretending to be an authority on the Twitterverse. Quite frankly no one CAN be because it is simply too new and its uses, acceptable behaviors, etiquette and more are in its infancy. That being said, some people certainly have more time than others to explore the myriad of Twitter aids, applications, technical advances, widgets and more because of their occupations and curiosity. So, in this regard they may be a little ahead of the pack..but not by much.

Personally, I do get tremendous value out of my time on Twitter and wanted to share for those who may still seem skeptical:

Some are obvious benefits.  Others, may not be as obvious.

FIRST: I use Twitter to 'connect.'  But what does connect mean for me?  It means hooking up and following the people I know or already know of to see what they are saying, join in their conversations, maybe meet online, see what they are reading, who they are talking to and then reaching out to make those new connections through the 'follow' feature. Those I follow become my referral source to others I might be interested in following.

My use is 70% business and 30% fun, but this percentage can change from day to day.  Your percentages will certainly vary from everyone else, too, because 1) it will turn on your goals for Twitter and 2) you may evolve in how you use Twitter because it really is a (good) Pandora's box of wonders once you get the hang of it.

SECOND: I only follow people I am interested in for business or pleasure but am more heavily weighted towards business.  I do not unfollow simply because someone doesn't follow me.  I am not interested in numbers or ranking on some arbitrary scale.  I am interested in what someone has to say.  Quantity offers no value to me.  Quality of follower does.  If you offer something I've identified as valuable to me, I will follow you.  If there comes a time when your tweets lose their original value to me, I will unfollow.

THIRD: I have also found the Direct Message (DM) function replacing e-mail more and more because of its speed and brevity. If I follow you on Twitter, e-mail now seems a 'slow' way of reaching you which on some levels scares the heck out of me. Do I need such immediacy? But I'm finding I will get a quicker response from DM's then e-mails from those who are on Twitter with regularity. I use this quick connect to generate more lengthy and meaningful conversations through e-mail, then phone, then in person.  And I think others feel more comfortable trying to initially connect with me via DM, too.

FOURTH: Twitter has in large part become my RSS, both feeding my blog posts from this blog and Solo Practice University and receiving others.  This has evolved over time. I still receive my blogs in an RSS feeder from those bloggers who do not tweet or do not feed their tweets.  But now I find I go to my RSS feeder less and less and I am more inclined to skip over posts as a result.  So it's fair to say Twitter has reduced the time I spend on my RSS by up to 50%. 

FIFTH: I'm finding I now affirm a blog author's great post not by commenting as readily but by Tweeting or Retweeting (RT) on Twitter to give it more exposure.  I expand the author's audience by helping the post go viral and spread. To me, this is the ultimate compliment one tweeter can give another by picking up the megaphone and telling others to visit this person's blog and read their post. This has more give then take to it and that appeals to me.

SIXTH: I use Twitter to share what I am reading.  It isn't always business related to solo practice.  It is also what interests me which I feel may interest others from global warming to hot- off- the- press celebrity news. In this regard it adds dimensions of my personality for those who may strictly 'know me' through my singular blog focus on solo practice.

SEVENTH: Twitter has become a great forum to pose questions and get immediate responses.  I post questions and happily answer others if I can, whether business or personal.  Example:  Does anyone know a labor lawyer in Denver?  Has anyone ever heard of stress-induced hypertension and diabetes?  Those who follow you are quick to respond with answers, links and more.  Your conversation is multi-purposed and you give others a chance to show you they are listening and have something to offer, too. 

EIGHTH: I have used Twitter to find a virtual assistant.  I have assisted others looking for jobs by either tweeting their request or retweeting their job search tweet.  Because of its speed and viral capacity, I'm drawn to using Twitter for things traditionally reserved for other mediums.  And I enjoy its incredible speed.  (Yes, I keep referencing the speed of Twitter to spread a message.)

NINTH: I share personal joys and sadness, nothing so intimate it shouldn't be there.  But sometimes it's nice just to get an 'atta girl' or an 'aw, that stinks'  or tweet about my son and commiserate with another parent.  These little affirmations or personal notes brighten my day.   

TENTH:  I use Tweetdeck to organize those I'm following, those who have replied to me and Direct Messages.  I use EasyTweets to schedule tweets at select times.

What I would not recommend you do on Twitter:

DO NOT BE ONE-DIMENSIONAL: Those who are strictly one-dimensional, anonymous or keep their tweets private end up more often than not unfollowed or never followed.  What do I mean?  Twitter requires a real person ready to engage in conversation.  Other than getting news updates from NYT or BBC which generally is one-directional, it is fair to say most Tweeters I know want to see conversation from someone who is a real person they can identify through a link to a personal or professional blog or LinkedIn profile.  So if you are strictly going to use Twitter as an RSS for your blog posts this won't work.  If you are strictly going to talk about baby poop it won't work either. At least not if you are a professional, are in school mingling with professionals, or looking to build reputation in any way.

DO NOT BE A MESSENGER: If you are strictly going to be a messenger Retweeting (RT) other people's tweets, no good. Where is your unique voice?

DO NOT BE AN OBSERVER: If you are strictly a follower and never Tweet, no good.  Twitter requires, in my opinion, for you to be multi-dimensional and very human unless you are the sage on the hill, known as the sage on the hill, only thing anyone ever wants of you is the dispensing of your invaluable and sage advice.  And I haven't seen the Dalai Lama on Twitter yet :-)

Some have described Twitter as a cocktail party with millions in attendance.  You have to find your voice, your 'kind'. You can't meet and greet them all.  You won't like everyone who wants to talk with you. Not everyone you want to talk with will want to talk back.  You don't have to follow everyone who follows you. And not everyone you follow will follow back. You can even block some people who creep you out.

Use of Twitter is very personal. Before you enter the Twitterverse know what your goals are.  And then mind your own business knowing everyone is on there for their own reasons which, quite frankly, are none of your concern.  Your power and pleasure lies in your ability to follow or unfollow. 

Find your voice, who you want to Tweet with and remember, your followers are listening.

So, how do you use Twitter?  Please share.

(And in case you didn't see, check out our recent faculty announcements at Solo Practice University.

If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my RSS! If you would like to be part of a new educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students why not subscribe to the RSS for Solo Practice University.

And you can always follow me on Twitter :-)


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Susan, this is one of the best blog posts about Twitter I have seen. So many users like to sing Twitter's praises and tell you exactly what to do and what not, how to get "the most" out of it, etc. These posts from "Twitter experts" can get tiresome, but yours was a pleasure to read. I especially liked your second, fifth and ninth reasons.

In response to the question you pose at the end of your post, I use Twitter mainly to connect with other professionals in my field and find out what they are reading and doing. It has given me an invaluable opportunity to get to know these intelligent professionals as people as well. I find I have a more well-rounded appreciation for professional contacts with whom I connect on Twitter.

All in all, it makes the big world seem a little bit smaller and friendlier.


Great post! I agree, one of the best I've seen about Twitter use. I use Twitter for all the same reasons you do, although I started just out of curiosity and didn't "get" it for a while. I have made some friends and found favorite tweeters, both on a personal and on a professional level.

One thing that is huge for me with Twitter is that you can easily tweak it so that what you read can be very uplifting. If someone repeatedly tweets negative info or tries to engage people in arguments, you can click unfollow and they don't really notice. Not so easy with Facebook or a discussion forum. Conversely, if someone RT someone's really cool tweet, you can follow that person. Kind of intimidating to just "friend" someone on Facebook who you might admire but not know if they'll "accept" you. Very cool way to build a place where you can be uplifted and uplift others.

Ha ha, I'm kind of talking in Twitter half-sentences!

Debra Snider

I've been thinking about writing a post along these lines, but now there's no need. This one is right on the money, full of great advice for lawyers and everyone else, too. I've RT'd it and I hope it goes viral.

I use Twitter to interact with interesting people, as a news feed, and to gain windows into worlds I don't know much about. Not surprisingly, I guess, given my own background, my crowd tends to fall into 5 categories: writers, lawyers, cooks, moms (oddly, since my kids are grown), and miscellaneous fascinating people.

Thanks for a terrific post!

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