Why I tweet.
I joined twitter in February 2011 not previously knowing it existed. I got to know about @pennyred, a young journalist with over 44k followers. I was astonished at the extent of her political savvy at such a young age and realised how much I’d missed by being stuck in the dungeons of custody over the preceding 10 years. Working shifts you are either working or asleep it seems, and I realised my wider education had been completely neglected in the pursuit of my career, combined with child care.
A quick look at the early accounts I chose to follow, included the two people @crimelinelaw and @justicegap that I would go on to be fortunate enough to work for and with. Twitter was immediately, and continues to be, a revelation for me. It wouldn’t be over dramatic to say it changed my life. The broadening of experience and education available on twitter, the opportunities for personal and professional growth are there for the taking, together with inspiration, support, and not least of all, friendship.
The best and worst things about tweeting.
In explaining to a friend why I tweet I told the following analogy. With Facebook, I found myself limiting my personality to that which established friends and colleagues knew and understood. On twitter, I threw my ‘personality’ and opinions out there, and those who found my opinion interesting followed. As a result, my confidence in what I had to say grew.
That first time you get retweeted is a heady moment!
To be able to access, and converse with someone you admire, at the top of your chosen profession is probably the best thing about twitter. Through it I can follow people doing amazing things, top Human Rights lawyers and commentators that I just wouldn’t have access to in ordinary day to day life. I have learnt to listen, to look at situations and subjects from all sides, not to jump to conclusions, to sum up the evidence, and hear the opinions of those I trust and admire before adding my two penn’worth. It’s made me a more rounded, balanced, and educated person.
I have been fortunate enough to go on to meet people I follow, and without exception have found all of them to be as lovely and inspirational in real life as they are on twitter. Some have become friends who support me and take almost more pride in my personal achievements than I do. For that I am truly grateful.
The worst thing about twitter?
I am exceedingly fortunate not to suffer from Trolls, but for those that do, I feel incredibly sad that there are people who think that hiding behind anonymous accounts, whilst tweeting vile, racist or homophobic invective will not have a negative impact on their lives.
How does my organisation benefit from tweeting?
Twitter enables me to keep informed as to the legal zeitgeist. What’s happening, what are commentators saying, what is the story that’s not being told and which stories are relevant to our audience. I can then see who has an opinion which they would be willing to share, by writing for us on the subject. We can respond quickly to events as they happen, as evidenced by my live tweeting from the Sam Hallam appeal. I was there when the prosecution announced they would not be opposing the appeal, and was able to get the news out instantaneously, which was a coup for the justice gap and led to me writing a piece for the Guardian.
Tips and successes
- Follow those at the top of your chosen profession to keep you informed regarding interesting articles and opinions.
- Do you have a view on it? If so you can tweet with a link (always credit the original author or tweeter), or retweet with a comment. If you don’t have time to read, bookmark for later.
- Knowledgeable in your field? Know something that others may find useful. Don’t assume everyone already knows, get tweeting.
- Got something fascinating to say? Choose a time of peak twitter traffic.
- NEVER argue, moan, have public meltdowns, jump into conversations without backtracking through the timeline, or tweet information which is too personal.
- Engage with followers, and thank those who retweet you.
- Give reasons for your well chosen and individual #Friday Follows.
Remember, if your account is a hybrid personal/professional account, your comments will always be taken in the context of your professional one. Be aware of libel and anything with the potential to interfere with the course of justice in relation to current proceedings. If you Tweet from court, you might be interested in my guide.
Mistakes and failures
I shall have to leave others to judge my mistakes and failures. They won’t see this though, because they will mainly have signalled their disapproval by unfollowing!
My final tip? If you wouldn’t say it in front of your granny, don’t say it on twitter. Remember, once it’s out there on the Internet, it’s out there for all eternity.
Good luck and enjoy.
Next week: @sirianblair writes about his spoof Twitter account which has been so effective in galvanising protests against the proposed police reforms.
Get Russell’s free guide to Twitterfectiveness.