By Vicki Voisin, ACP
Do you wonder why anyone would bother with social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn? Do you think social networking is a waste of time? Do you think that time spent on social networks has no value?
Perhaps it’s the word ‘social’ that bothers you? ‘Social’ conjures up thoughts of fun and parties…of spending time on nonsense when there are too many other things to do. Social networking sites can be a lot of fun but what is incredibly valuable to all of the social networking platforms is the social learning that takes place.
While I participate in FaceBook and LinkedIn, Twitter is hands down my favorite. Here are a few tips that will help you understand Twitter and get on the road to social learning:
What is Twitter? Twitter is a social networking service that allows users to send messages (called ‘tweets’) that are 140 characters in length to their friends (called ‘followers’). This 140 word format is unique to Twitter and allows for quick, informal sharing of information with people you wouldn’t normally include in emails or instant messages. This expands your circle of contacts to a community of like-minded people. That community is growing by leaps and bounds…Twitter has well over 5 million users.
What does Twitter offer? Twitter can be used for both business and personal purposes. It’s is a great way to keep in touch with your friends and broadcast information about what you’re doing. You can always share that you’re eating a PB&J at your desk (I do enjoy those posts) but I think the BEST use of twitter is for business purposes. Companies will broadcast their latest news and blogposts. Individuals will post links to their blogposts or ask for help. For instance:
@CathieCummings sent this message: I just christened my new laptop by getting peanut butter on the keyboard. Any suggestions on cleaning it?
Here’s another post from an attorney: Today, I found out that a paralegal had redacted ORIGINAL documents with a sharpie. (OOPS!).
There are posts and links about employment opportunities: @alisondoyle posted Who’s hiringhttp://bit.ly/tXeaO.
Tips for Twitter set-up. The first step is to go to www.Twitter.com and create your Twitter account. I have four important recommendations for this process:
1) Select your username (you can have up to 15 alphanumeric characters in your user name). Sign up using your given name with no spaces or underlines, as in VickiVoisin. Unless you have a brand that will identify you (such as @ExpertParalegal or @legaltypist), you must use your name or no one will be able to find you. How many people would know to look for me as @vvacp94? (Please note that @ is before every name on Twitter) Twitter will automatically check to see if the user name you’ve chosen is available.
2) Be sure to load a picture, too. If you don’t, your avatar will be something that looks like a brown paper bag with eyes.
3) Give careful thought to your profile. Mind your manners and post a profile that will attract followers.
4) You may also set up your Twitter account so your Tweets automatically link to Facebook…this will save you lots of time.
How to post Tweets. Because your tweets are limited to 140 characters (that includes spaces and punctuation) you have to be brief and concise. There are all sorts of shortcuts you can take to get more bang for your tweet…but that could be an entire article in itself. For now, we’ll stick with the basics.
(Except for one tip: you can shorten any links you are using by going to www.snipurl.com orwww.tinyurl.com where http://www.paralegalmentor.com/ethical-technical-05-14-09.html would become http://snipurl.com/han90)
Your first tweet or two will feel strange but you’ll quickly get the hang of it. Just type in ‘Am a paralegal new to Twitter and wondering why I’m here.’ Hit send and there goes your tweet….the response will surprise you. Once you get the hang of it, tweet about an article, an idea, or share a link of professional interest to your targeted followers. Many tweets will offer tips or links to articles or blog posts. Watch these carefully as this is where the social learning comes into play. For instance:
@alisondoyle posts several employment-related links every day. Some tweets will ask questions and this is your opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and share information in quick bursts of wisdom.
Looking for a job? Tell your Twitter friends! A story was posted about an account manager who was laid off from her job. Within minutes of the layoff, she pulled out her cell phone and sent a tweet that said ‘Needs a job.’ She did this even before she told her family. Before social media, victims of layoffs would share this news with just a few close friends and their family. Thanks to social media, the newly unemployed are coming out of the dark. This can be a great way to jump-start a job search. There will be support…either emotional support or suggestions for a new job. I might add here that there are lots of job postings on Twitter…I won’t vouch for them but they’re there.
What about followers? You can search for people to follow in the Find People link at the top of the Twitter page. Type in a name and then select ‘follow.’ The person may or may not follow you. This is a terrific option with Twitter because if someone chooses to follow you, you do not have to reciprocate. I frequently ignore anyone whose profile is questionable or who isn’t writing about anything I’m interested in reading.
You can follow topics, too. There is a search box in the right sidebar on the Twitter page. Type in ‘paralegal’ and all posts about paralegals will pop up. Type in ‘job search’ and you’ll see all those tweets. From those tweets, you can select people to follow.
Here are a few suggestions for you to follow:
@VickiVoisin (of course!)
@legaltypist (virtual assistant) (who also has a great f’ree ebook Twitter 101 athttp://www.legaltypist.com/twitter)
@DebbieLynnAVA (virtual assistant)
@ExpertParalegal (Lynne Devenny…great information and humorous posts)
@alisondoyle (terrific employment information)
@sallyannekane (with Legal Assistant Today)
@kevinhouchin (an attorney)
@breakthruguy and @mike_wesely (motivational quotes)
@NALStweet (yes, NALS is tweeting)
@lillyhill (paralegal who posts links of interest to the profession)
@Goddess_Bless (Lisa Devlin) @MargaretAgius @CathyRibble, @CathyCummings
(all Strategies subscribers…I love their posts)
@charlsye (Charlsye Smith-Diaz
@rsylvester (a reporter who tweets from the courtroom)
@Paragate (Paralegal Gateway)
@Oprah Winfrey (do I have to tell you who that is?)
@aplusk (you get a gold star if you can figure that out … it’s Ashton Kutcher)
What does the # sign mean? The # you see before some topics is called a hashtag. Hashtags are channels that allow you to tune in to whatever signal will make Twitter useful at a given time. If you like the Food Network, you will follow #foodie or #cooking or #recipe. If you’re a sports fan from San Diego, you can follow #padres. You will see all the tweets about that topic. The topics are endless.
Take a simple giant step. Now that you’re all set up to tweet, you just HAVE to download Tweetdeck…until I did this, Twitter was difficult to use because tweets stream in real time. There was no way I could just sit at my desk and watch the tweets go by. Tweetdeck (a f’ree download at www.tweetdeck.com) allows you to set up ten columns and then customize those columns to fit your interests. I have a column for ‘paralegal’ and another for ‘probate’ and another for ‘law firm’…these change frequently. You can also organize your followers into groups.
My usual warning. Everything you post can be located with a simple Google search so remember that people may read every tweet you send. An inappropriate tweet (or post on any networking site for that matter) could hurt your career, cost you the job you have or take you out of the running for a new job. Don’t say anything about anyone (especially your boss) that you would not say to them if they were standing in front of you.
Your Challenge. If you haven’t already, it’s time to see what the social media rage is all about. The key to your success is to use social media as a learning tool. Create your Twitter account…be sure to use your name correctly, upload a picture, write a positive profile…then ask yourself what you want to learn from Twitter and search for that information. This will get you off to a great start. Let me know if you have questions!
© 2009 Vicki Voisin, Inc.
Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can, so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a bi-weekly ezine titled Strategies for Paralegals Seeking Excellence. More information is available atwww.paralegalmentor.com