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Your tweets, never very private to begin with, are about to get much more public. Google, the Goliath search engine company starting integrating tweets into its desktop search results this weekend. They've been experimenting with Twitter content for awhile now, but they only began to show tweets in all English language desktop searches starting last Friday.
Since Google controls two thirds of the world's search traffic, that means that your tweets could end up in front of a lot more than just Twitter's somewhat insular community. With that in mind, here's a look at what's changed along with some best practices for lawyers who tweet.
What's Changed on Twitter and Google
When you use Google, there's a whole vast Internet world left unsearched. Plenty of helpful Internet content, from emails to Westlaw headnotes to LinkedIn resumes, won't show up in a typical Google search. Until recently, Twitter was one of those hard-to-Google spheres of the web. If you wanted to search tweets, hashtags, or trending topics, you were better served going directly to Twitter itself.
No longer. In its quest to make itself your portal to absolutely everything on the Internet, Google has brought Twitter content into its search results. If you Google "Paul Grewal," you'll get the federal judge's Twitter account up top. If you Google "Golden Retriever" you'll get @GoldenRetriever, a Twitter stream of puppy pics, right alongside American Kennel Club and Wikipedia info. You can even search hashtags directly from Google now.
The tweets haven't bled into many legal searches yet, it seems. Search for FindLaw and you'll get our corporate Twitter account, but searches for the First Circuit or Ruth Bader Ginsberg come back tweet-free.
Twitter Best Practices
The change means that your tweets could be much more easily discoverable by the general public. But don't let that scare you away from Twitter. Lawyers should still be on Twitter, and social media generally. Being lawyers, however, you should also be cautious about your social media usage. Here are our top 5 best practices to follow on Twitter:
1. Don't be Inappropriate. Twitter is public, so don't put out anything you wouldn't want people to see -- and that includes making sure you don't follow inappropriate accounts either.
2. Adopt a Social Media Policy. Even solo practitioners should consider putting together a solid set of rules for their social media use.
3. Consider Disclaimers. If you're marketing through Twitter, you're marketing. That means you need to consider all the potential pitfalls of typical marketing, which might mean you need to put a disclaimer in your 140 characters.
4. Remember Who Owns What. Twitter considers tweets to be the property of their author, which means that if your intern is managing your Twitter account, you might not actually have ownership over that clever tweet that got five shares. Retweeting the work of others may also violate copyright laws.
5. Keep It Ethical. As always, remember your professional and ethical obligations. Don't misrepresent your identity, don't tweet at represented parties, and be careful before you follow that judge's Twitter account.
Follow these practices and you should have a fine time on Twitter, Google, or both.