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Twitter Gaffes, and What We Can Learn from Them

Twitter is supposed to be the place for lawyers and law firms to interact with potential clients and convince them to call if they have a legal problem. However, many lawyers underestimate the dedication it takes to have a strong social media presence, instead seeming to adopt the “if you build it, they will come” approach.

At Myers Freelance, we follow a lot of lawyers and law firms on Twitter. Many of the posts we see there serve to highlight how lawyers can fail on the platform and provide lessons for other attorneys to keep in mind. Some are pretty stinking funny, too.

You Need Content to Tweet Effectively

Probably the biggest pitfall that lawyers make when they get active on Twitter is to post when they don’t have anything to post about. Twitter is a great platform for putting your online content on a pedestal for others to see, like, retweet, and maybe even backlink to. So is the rest of social media, for that matter.

But when you don’t have online content, the results leave something to be desired:

Umm… okay.

At best, posts like these can act like filler, which falls somewhere between failure and success:

Sure, this post takes up real estate in a potential client’s Twitter feed, but what are they supposed to do with it? At least include a link to a relevant landing page:

You Can Enhance Your Reputation… Or Hurt It

Lawyers are aware of the fact that potential clients are interested in who they are, as people. Twitter is a great place to humanize a law firm and the attorneys who work in it, showing to potential clients a face that they can relate to and grow the firm’s reputation.

Many lawyers do this effectively on Twitter, though they typically need real life events and interests to stand in for online content:

Still other firms take a bold and daring approach to try to seem “hip” with the internet culture. All to often, though, the emphasis falls on the word try:

In our unscientific opinion, solo and small firms are especially susceptible to this problem. Without others available, willing, or able to edit or critique a Tweet before posting it, the results can be strange or off-putting:

This post is not an anomaly. It is, with very few exceptions, the only thing this lawyer posts on Twitter. Granted, the firm does not have an official Twitter account—only Google+ and Facebook profiles—but that actually makes it worse: With no official account on Twitter for the firm, the lawyer’s posts start to stand in for the firm’s Tweets, implicating the firm’s reputation.

Don’t Dabble in Conspiracy Theories

Similarly, Tweeting or Retweeting fake news and conspiracy theories can hurt your reputation, as well. If you spread clickbait articles with racial and political dogwhistles from suspicious sources, you not only alienate a huge portion of your audience, you also shoot your own credibility in the foot. To wit:

The source for the article is a WordPress blog, with no identifying information on it, exclusively hosting articles with a particular political slant and without citation to primary sourcing. We’ve dealt with handling politics in your legal blog and the different levels of journalism, before. This is an example of what can go wrong.

Using Social Media Like Another Place for TV Ads

The perk of social media is that it allows you to interact with potential clients, as well as the public at large, in ways that traditional media like radio and TV never could. Yet some firms seem to copy and paste their billboards into their Tweets, and add just a pinch of hashtag:

Overdoing the Hashtags

Speaking of hashtags:

We’ve discussed how lawyers overuse hashtags, before, so there’s no sense going past the four main takeaways of that post:

  1. Hashtags make Tweets look commercial and desperate for attention
  2. While using hashtags can increase the number of impressions a Tweets gets, impressions are a poor measurement of success
  3. Using too many hashtags even decreases the engagement rate of a Tweet, which is actually a good measurement of a Tweet’s success
  4. See Takeaway #1

Don’t Misspell Things

Remember that your reputation is synonymous with how people judge you. Controlling your reputation is controlling how other people see you, and one way that people judge is through your use of the written word. Unfair? In many cases, yes, but maybe not for attorneys whose job it is to use that language on a client’s behalf.

So don’t misspell things on Twitter. That includes using one word when you mean another, like continuous when you mean continuing:

Even if you’re not a law firm, if you’re a legal publication then you rely on your credibility, which takes a hit if you misspell a word:

Especially because, once you make a spelling mistake, other typos or grammatical problems begin to set a trend:

But if you make it your goal to cover the U.S. Supreme Court, you should at least never misspell a Justice’s name:

FYI: It’s Clarence.

[Updated 9/3/2018 to include the section on conspiracy theories]