This post was originally published in June 2011. Last updated: January 4, 2022.
Nearly two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all that time in quarantine has given way to a boom in social media across all industries. According to a survey of U.S. social media users, 29.7 percent of respondents were using asocial media for an additional 1-2 hours per day.
What does this mean for businesses? If you plan to be found by current clients, it’s imperative that you have an online social presence. Twitter is popular amongst the legal community, especially since it can be used as a sounding board to promote your services and your expertise.
If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that productive social media engagement requires some restraint.
It sounds simple and obvious enough, but execution is often lacking on the part of legal professionals. Lawyers get in trouble and even get fired for saying the wrong things on Twitter.
To keep yourself clean and not in danger of getting sacked or disbarred, take a look at these examples of what not to tweet:
1) Don’t use explosive language.
Don’t be like the Indiana deputy attorney general who tweeted that police should use live ammunition against protesters. The attorney was fired. His defense? His tweet, “You’re damn right I advocate deadly force”, was intended to be satirical.
2) Don’t try to be too clever. Satire rarely plays well online.
It’s okay to be funny, but leave satire to Bill Maher or The Daily Show. Poking fun of reality is often confused with reality when a wink or a grin isn’t present. Even giant media companies like the New York Times and Fox News mistakenly report satire as real news.
3) Don’t retweet without attribution.
Re-posting others’ updates as one’s own without giving credit to the original author is tantamount to plagiarism. Accounts showing a pattern of repeatedly reposting others’ content without attribution may even be suspended for spam!
People like to be retweeted. If you don’t cite someone, you’ll also be missing out on a golden conversation starter. Many will thank you for it. And isn’t conversation the whole point?
4) Don’t tweet about your current cases and clients.
There are only two questions any attorney should ask when contemplating a public comment about a case:
- What will clients, past, present and future, think about it if they should see it?
- What will jurors think about it?
For more on this, check out the excellent discussion — Should Lawyer Blog (or Twitter) About Their Cases.
5) Don’t tweet racy photos or jokes.
The obvious example is Anthony Weiner, the disgraced congressman whose surname accurately describes the content of some of his tweets. Crotch shots sent to teenage girls, soccer moms, or anyone else are never a good idea and will not end well.
If you wouldn’t want your mom or boss to see something, keep it offline.
6) Be opinionated, not controversial.
If you’re not sure that a tweet you’re about to post crosses the line or can be misconstrued, keep it offline. Politics and religion often devolve into less than useful conversations. Avoid or tread carefully.
7) Don’t use legalese on Twitter.
Avoid using industry specific acronyms or terminology. No one’s impressed. Rather, attempt to use language that resonates with your audience.
8 ) Stay away from personal attacks.
You may not agree with everyone, and you may not even like some people. But don’t attack them.
You’ll encounter twitter bullies: those that attack people use name calling. Unfollow them. If you choose to follow them, don’t follow their examples.
In general the rule of thumb is: be aware and exercise sound judgment. Show restraint. And when in doubt, keep it offline.