Technology

Twitter Talk: Its Search and Trends Can Keep You Up to Speed

Posted Sep 1, 2012 1:59 AM CDT
By Dennis Kennedy

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Of all the social media tools, Twitter seems to be the hardest for lawyers to understand. The oddness of the lingo, the 140-character limit on posts, and the abbreviations and casualness of the medium can all raise the question: What is the point of all these people tweeting about what they see, hear and read on a regular basis?

It’s a fair question, especially for many lawyers who can’t imagine what they might tweet about. However, that’s only half the equation. While individual tweets might not have much value, the ecosystem of tweets and how they can be watched might provide interesting value to lawyers. Think of individual tweeters acting as sensors for what is happening in the world. Let’s look at two specific aspects of Twitter that many lawyers underutilize—search and trends.

Go to Twitter Search at twitter.com/search. (You can use this tool without having a Twitter account.) You’ll see two things when you reach this page: a big search box labeled “See what’s happening right now” and, below that, a list of 10 trending topics.

Type a search term into the box and you’ll see the most recent tweets containing your term. This is commonly referred to as real-time search. The trending topics are the hottest topics on Twitter at the moment. Click on one and you’ll see the tweets containing the trending term. Results pages auto-update, and you can see what people continue to say on the topics. Experiment with a few searches and try a few trending topics. That’s all you need to get started. The rest is up to your imagination.

Throughout the history of Twitter, people have used trends and search to learn of breaking news, to get details on disasters, and to share reactions to sports and television shows. Lawyers have monitored Twitter Search results of televised trials to gauge response to witnesses, arguments or even themselves, and to make adjustments. You will have to experiment to determine whether this type of information might be useful to you. After an earthquake, someone on Twitter said that, in an emergency, Twitter is simultaneously the best source of accurate news, inaccurate news and inappropriate humor.

WHAT TO WATCH

Here are a few tips:

• People often use the hashtag symbol (#) to group tweets on a topic. The easiest way to test out hashtags is with your favorite TV show or sports team, or use a conference hashtag like #abatechshow to follow happenings at a conference. That will give you a quick flavor of how they work.

• You can use Twitter Search to see what is being said about people (including yourself) and your clients. You might then show your attentiveness and responsiveness by alerting your client.

• If you have high-profile or televised trials, Twitter Search can help you monitor what the public thinks about how the case is going. You can also monitor topics of interest to you or cases you are involved in.

Even if tweeting does not make sense for you, Twitter Search and trends as monitoring tools might. If you are looking for an easy-to-learn tech tool that might have surprisingly good results, you will want to consider this one.

Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis-based information technology lawyer.

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