From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
A steady stream of lawyers is using Twitter.com -- on their computers and on their Blackberrys -- to network with peers, post industry news and drum up business.
How to tweet
Twitter is a free social networking service that allows users to post and receive messages.
Updates from others appear on Twitter.com
or on sites connected to Twitter accounts, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
(A user of Twitter.com is known as a "tweeter" or "twitterer." The message posted is called a "tweet." When you post tweets, you're "tweeting.")
Messages must be under 140 characters in length. They can be sent to an individual as a direct message or to your entire network.
A key feature is the ability to "follow" other Tweeters. By visiting the Twitter account pages of other users and clicking on the "follow" button, their postings start appearing on your home screen.
But you don't have to open your Web browser to link in to Twitter. Downloading programs such as Twitterific will send Tweets to cellphones as text messages. Other programs such as PocketTweets and Tweetie are used with the iPhone.
Wayne Serra spends his workday immersed in the rarefied world of intellectual property law.
He prepares software patent applications, defends infringement claims and advises clients on medical research developments. But every once in a while, the Cleveland lawyer sticks his toe into the broad conversational river known as Twitter.
It's like microblogging crossed with instant messaging. The initial appeal appeared to be mostly among tech-heads and teenyboppers who had an urge to relay real-time bulletins to their friends about any and everything.
Reasons to tweet
• Expand your network.
• Drive traffic to a blog.
• Simulate the water cooler
Monitor the buzz.
• Keep up with a local court.
• Track activity at a conference.
• Promote an event or seminar.
SOURCE: Robert J. Ambrogi, Law Technology News
Now the Twitosphere, as it's known, is drawing in a steady stream of lawyers and other professionals who are networking with peers, posting industry news and drumming up business.
"It's a very powerful tool, a way to get discreet bits of information in front of people," said Serra, a partner at Ulmer & Berne.
Serra, 41, has Twittered about:
- Interesting patent cases in court
- Novel interpretations of intellectual property law
- Issues at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
- New computer technology.
He's also kept touch with other patent lawyers and with IT leaders such as Apple's chief design technician, Jonathan Ive, and a top program manager at Google, Chris DiBona. He follows 61 other Twitterers and has 118 following him.
Serra's goal is to build a community of like-minded professionals who exchange ideas. Ambrogi calls it a virtual water cooler. The Boston attorney at first doubted Twitter's usefulness because of its "high noise ratio." Now he views it as an interesting way to keep his finger on the pulse of what lawyers are talking about.
Lawyers can use Twitter to monitor what's being said about their firm, a client or a business, Ambrogi said. Twitter also can play into the "ubiquity factor" of marketing -- repeatedly getting your name in front of potential clients.
Twitter is indeed full of banal chatter, maybe because it's free, easy and instant. It's biggest drawback, users say, is the sheer onslaught of words. For lawyers operating under information overload already, it can be a prodigious distraction.
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Ambrogi handles it through software called a Tweetdeck that scrolls in-coming tweets on a screen separate from his computer, much like a Times Square ticker tape. Even so, it's a time-eater, and Ambrogi frequently shuts off the tweets.
Kevin O'Keefe, chief executive of LexBlog, also was a Twitter skeptic. "I couldn't see the benefit of it, someone saying 'My cat just rolled over,' " O'Keefe recounted in a call from Seattle, where he runs his Internet marketing company for lawyers.
He changed his mind after last year's devastating earthquake in China, when Twitter broke the news before the mainstream media. Twitterers also got the jump on the terrorist attack in Mumbai and the Continental Airlines jet that slid off a runway in Denver last month. "Holy &* %%, I was just in a plane crash," passenger Mike Wilson messaged seconds after the accident.
Convinced that Twitter had impact, O'Keefe signed up and began weaving it into his legal work.
He now pronounces it the single biggest branding tool he's ever used. It allows lawyers to network on steroids, he said, making it a far more efficient tool than joining a country club and playing golf.