University of Wisconsin–Madison

How Lawyers & Other Professionals are Using Twitter as a Research Tool

As a social networking tool, Twitter is gaining in popularity, and according to Hitwise Twitter has now passed Diggs in users.   Perhaps best known for its “real time” format, Twitter is a nimble resource for sending out short bursts of information quickly, and people from a variety of professions are discovering that the features offered by Twitter are useful to their work. 

As a recent example of the speed with which Twitter's users can transmit information, the news of the plane downed in the Hudson was reported by Twitter users before the news media reported this event.  This real time response to news events makes Twitter a resource for media professionals.  In legal news, when journalists reported on a murder trial, according to a blog posting, by communications expert, Shel Holz, the reporters covering the local trial used Twitter to report on the case. 

Not only journalists, but bloggers use Twitter as a news source.  Bloggers report that they like to use Twitter to receive instant feedback to questions they post on Twitter.  Their followers then "tweet" a response to their question on a topic of interest.  You can also set up RSS feeds through Twitter to follow news feeds.

So while advertisers are using Twitter as a marketing tool for their professional, and medical professionals are using Twitter to ask for information on medical-related questions, getting answers from educators across the globe, lawyers and legal professionals use Twitter as a data mining tool:  to follow a trial, to get instant feed-back on a reported opinion, to check for information on a company, and to do people searches. 

An informative article, How to use Twitter for Information Mining, posted by Lenny Zeltzer, gives advice on how to mine the data that is on Twitter.  In this article, the author lists Twitter essentials, and includes a link to a video by Common Craft, Twitter in Plain English, as well as citing to an article from the New York Times, Twittering Tips for Beginners, to get you started on Twitter.  

If you decide to try Twitter for information mining, the author features several tips on how to search topics, including:

  • Emerging Topics
  • People Searches
  • Companies and Competition Searches

RSS Feeds on Twitter

If you want to learn how to set up RSS feeds on Twitter, see Use Twitter for Your RSS Feeds.  This article takes you through the steps to set up RSS feeds on Twitter. 

News Feeds on Twitter

 To learn more about news feeds on Twitter, check another article JDScoop, News Feeds on Twitter. 

Legal Writing Using Twitter

Lawyers, at least student lawyers, are using Twitter to improve their legal writing.  For more information on how a law student used Twitter to advance his skill as a writer check out, Using Twitter to Become a Better Legal Writer.

Lawyers Who Use Twitter

Curious as to who uses Twitter in your profession?  To view a list of lawyers who are using Twitter, check out JDScoop compilation of a list of lawyers and legal professionals.   

Privacy Issues on Twitter

Remember, when using Twitter, either when setting up your account or for searches, to please use caution regarding the information you add or gather.  Don’t post anything on Twitter that you don’t want known, and when seeking information, be aware that it’s possible to be fed wrong or bad information on Twitter.   

Also, before signing on for a Twitter account, recognize that Twitter can be hacked and has been hacked in the past and a recent article reports that spammers, called "twammers," are targeting Twitter.  Also, note that Twitter may share your personal information and reserves the right to sell it to a third party.  But with these concerns in mind, you should find Twitter another valuable tool for information gathering. 

Submitted by Jenny Zook, Reference Librarian on January 29, 2009

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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