[Product Review] Formulists: A Twitter Tool

In or around October or November, I noticed that more and more people would list me on Twitter using a tool called Formulists.  At first, I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical.

To a certain extent, it seemed like Formulists was a scam.  Twitter has its own list builder.  So, what would be the point of using a replica product?  Especially one that seemed to promote itself at every turn?  (How many times have you been added to a Twitter list and noticed that it was “generated by @formulists” in the description?)  Plus, Formulists is not a separate platform like Hootsuite or TweetDeck so I couldn’t see the added value.

Nevertheless, I was intrigued.

As someone who has spent a great deal of time building and tweaking her Twitter lists (see: my AMLAWTweeple project), this notion of self-updating lists piqued my curiosity.

After exploring the site for a few minutes, however, the benefits of Formulists weren’t readily apparent.  But, thankfully, Formulists uses Get Satisfaction, a feedback tool similar to UserVoice.  (More law firms should implement feedback tools, but more on that at another time.)

I sent off a request: “What is the benefit of Formulists? Why would I use it instead of Twitter’s list option?

I received an awesome response – and then a follow-up Power Point presentation(!) – from Natalie Michelson, Marketing Manager at Formulists, and I became a believer.

Her response:

Formulists is not actually meant to be used instead Twitter’s list option but rather to complement it.  A Formulists-made Twitter list, is still a Twitter list- viewable from your Twitter home page or client.  However, the benefit of using Formulists to make some or all of your Twitter lists, is that Formulists takes care of a lot of the hard work for you that is involved in both list creation and list maintenance.

As one classic example, making a “locals” list of the people you follow manually, would require you to click on the profile pages of each person you follow, see where they are from and then manually add them to your “locals I follow” list.  Using Formulists, you can filter all the people you follow by location within a minute  Additionally, Formulists-made lists update themselves daily so that if you follow another person from you city, they will automatically be added to this list too.

Because they are dynamic and automatically-updated, Formulists lists can also be used to do things Twitter lists couldn’t do in the past, like show you who recently unfollowed you or who your friends talk to most.  And because this information is being shown via a Twitter list, you can easily view and act on it from you Twitter client or homepage.

Here is one slide that I found particularly useful in the quick Power Point presentation she forwarded to me:

Mainly, I took Natalie’s advice and created lists to target potential clients by location.  While I didn’t delete my old lists, I now use a few private lists that are, yes, generated by @Formulists.

Do you use Formulists?  What do you think?

Further Reading:

How to Create a New Twitter List Within Hootsuite

Need a Kickstart into Twitter Lists?  Maybe Formulists Can Help You with That and I Have Invites

Updated: Am Law Tweeple List

This updated Am Law Tweeple list is for members only. Like the public list, it color codes the ‘tweeple by their firm role. It also lists practice areas and whether the attorney is a partner, associate, counsel, etc.

Feel free to add anyone else who you may know.

Be sure to read the other posts in this series:

#1: Every Lawyer Knows the AMLAW Firms, First Post in the #AMLAWTweeple Series
#2: Creating & Maintaining the #AMLAWTweeple List

Post #2: Creating & Maintaining the #AMLAWTweeple List

Updated: July 22, 2009

Way back in February, I published a webinar on YouTube called, “netTools 101: Web Tools Every Legal Professional Should Know.”

It’s nothing fancy. The slides are hard to see on the video. I posted them underneath… which is a less-than-satisfactory fix for following along onscreen. For anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to print them as handouts, well, my suggestion is to do it in grayscale. But, hey, it was my first YouTube video! Don’t expect Tim Burton or anything! This is web development in action.

On the video, I demonstrate an easy tool to help visualize how a person or entity presents him/her/itself on the web. Although the chart is not lawyer-specific, I had created this tool to analyze how BigLaw firms – the Am Law firms – present themselves on the web as service providers and businesses. I needed a simple way to assess the firm’s web development and this is what worked.

For each Am Law firm, I collect and compile the data required by the chart. Every “web development” I find – each blog, podcast, or Feedburner account – earns the firm one point. If a firm’s web development really impresses me, I reward them with extra credit. I calculate a firm’s “BigLaw Tech Score” by totaling its points.¹

I started this project in late February. It’s late July and I’m still not finished.

Why has it taken me so long?

Well, for one, data retrieval is time-consuming! This is true in spite of the invaluable resources I had at my disposal, e.g., Kevin O’Keefe’s State of the Am Law 200 Blogosphere, Greg Lambert’s List of Large Law Firm’s “Officially Sanctioned Blogs,” Patrick DiDomenico’s list of law firms on Twitter, or Bruce Carlton’s BigLaw Lawyers on Twitter.

The other big hurdle that I’ve encountered is that I haven’t figured out a “pretty” way to publish the scores. Posts sort of cram the information together and become quickly outdated. Plus, text documents are not the optimal solution when collecting, calculating, or comparing data. On the other hand, spreadsheets lack room for thoughtful analysis.

By late May, I was itching to find a better way to proceed with the BigLaw Tech Scores.

Enter: the #AMLAWTweeple project.3

While I brainstormed the fate of the BigLaw Tech Scores, I figured I may as well publish my research in “real time.”² Technically, the #AMLAWTweeple project is my research for one component of the BigLaw Tech Scores – the Twitter accounts at Am Law firms.4

Borrowing the open-source mentality, the #AMLAWTweeple list is public (and costs nothing!). Moreover, others are enabled and encouraged to add to it.

Precisely because of these characteristics, I thought it would be prudent of me to disclose my methodology for creating the list. I aimed:

1. to make the list of Am Law Tweeple easy to read & maintain;

2. to promote interactivity; &

3. to respect people’s privacy.

I’ll address these objectives in reverse order.

Privacy

I am not ashamed to plug my internet stalking (er, research) skills. In fact, if you want to know about my mad skills, you can ask me to help you find something – anything – on the internet.

However, please understand, as a blogger since 2004, a former legal recruiter, and former plaintiff-side employment discrimination attorney, I am extremely aware of web 2.0 privacy concerns in today’s work environment.5

Therefore, on the #AMLAWTweeple list, I decided to only include people who wanted to be found. I inferred someone wanted to be found if s/he listed the firm at which s/he worked in his/her Twitter profile; if s/he linked to his/her firm URL, or if s/he used a firm e-mail address.

How did I go about finding people – who wanted to be found – to add?

For brevity’s sake, I will refer you to Greg Lambert‘s comprehensive post on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog entitled “Competitive Intelligence in a Web 2.0 World – Part 1: Finding Company Employees on Twitter.” The post describes the type of tools that I used to find #AMLAWTweeple.

As I mentioned in the comments on Greg’s site, Tweepz.com was my favorite tool for finding #AMLAWTweeple. On Tweepz, I would search for firm domain (e.g. kslaw.com) as well as by firm name (e.g. King & Spalding).

To repeat, I only included people whose names came up in public searches such as Google, Tweepz, Twitter search, or LinkedIn.6

On the other hand, even if someone showed up in one of my searches and approached me and requested to be removed or requested that I not add them at all, I obliged.

(Note: While I mention this below, I should state here that I was less stringent when it came to adding referrals.)

Interactivity

Right, so here’s this new tool, “Twitter,” a microblog through which we can make all these new connections, a global water cooler. Nevertheless, as I looked around the blogosphere, I saw lists of Tweeple – any type of Tweeple list – compiled and published on static posts.

Hrm.

(Hey! I did it too! See: BigLaw Tech Scores.)

Anyway, I decided to see how this tool worked in action. The #AMLAWTweeple list may be published to my blog, but I also tweet my research and directly ask the #AMLAWTweeple who I find if they know anyone else with a Twitter account at their firm.

By approaching #AMLAWTweeple directly, this alerts anyone who’s included on the #AMLAWTweeple list about my project. If people would like to add accounts, they can respond to me (@mjsq) (public), DM me (private), or e-mail me (even more private). It also gives #AMLAWTweeple another chance to send me a (polite) request if they wish to be removed.

In addition to broadcasting this over Twitter, I decided to publish the list as a Google Document to show the potential of collaborative word processing tools. Through the provided form, site visitors can add accounts that I’ve missed via the form – anonymously and in real time.7

While I am less stringent about my public search requirements for word-of-mouth add-ons – mainly because I trust the legal industry’s professionalism – I always tweet updates to the list and @reply people directly.

Easy to Read & Maintain

Again, the #AMLAWTweeple project started as a method to combat the pitfalls of the BigLaw Tech Scores, as I described above.

There are many fantastic resources out there listing lawyers on Twitter, BigLaw lawyers on Twitter. There are even LinkedIn Groups for lawyers and law firms on Twitter.

The #AMLAWTweeple list is not a replacement for any of these sites. It’s my research that I’m sharing with everyone in order to encourage people to share their knowledge with me. With that said, add to it, revise it, manipulate it, comment on it, or respond to it.

And, please, please, please tell me if you want off of it.

Next post in series: The Question is not whether Am Law firms have Twitter Accounts, it’s what they can do with them. More insight into why I created the #AMLAWTweeple list. (Post #3)

This is the second post in the #AMLAWTweeple series. Be sure to read the first post in the #AMLAWTweeple Series and take a look at the #AMLAWTweeple chart.

¹ In case you don’t want to watch my video, to determine a firm’s BigLaw Tech Score, I search for Facebook groups, LinkedIn profiles and groups, Jigsaw listings, official blogs, unofficial blogs, podcasts, whether the firm offers webinars, etc.

For firms with blogs and podcasts, I also list how the firm creates the blog/podcast, how it hosts the blog/podcast, and how the firm is analyzing its visitors.

To calculate the BigLaw Tech Score, a firm receives a certain number of points for each element that adds to its web presence.

I’d like to emphasize that all of the information that I find is available in Google searches or by interpreting a firm website’s source code.

² While I present the information in the BigLaw Tech Scores by firm, I compile the information by component. (E.g., I look up all Facebook profiles at once, I look up all LinkedIn profiles at once.)

³ I tag all relevant tweets with the hashtag #AMLAWTweeple. In Twitter, people can click on the #AMLAWTweeple link to view all tagged tweets.

4In the third post in this series, I’ll talk in more detail about what I think Am Law firms can gain from being on Twitter.

5In fact, all writers on my other website – http://nonpretentious.com – publish under pseudonyms. This way, writers have total control over how and to whom they reveal their online identities. They can learn to write for the web without worrying who is reading their material.

6 Again, I emphasize this as a warning and a disclaimer because these searches are easy for anyone to duplicate.

7 The Twitter names show up in real time. I edit the submissions and link ‘em back to Twitter.

Every Lawyer Knows the AMLAW Firms, First Post in the #AMLAWTweeple Series

Last week, I received this question from @VMaryAbraham, “@mjsq Melissa, can you tell me more about your #Amlaw Tweeple project?”

I decided this was a good topic for a series of blog posts.  I’m not sure if I could handle it in one blog post, let alone 140 characters.

Before I address the #AMLAWTweeple project – why I started it (post #3) and what I hope to take away from it (post #4) – I’d like to address why I decided to compile a list of #AMLAWTweeple (post below) in addition to my methodology for adding people to the list (post #2).

While I hope each post is readable on its own, my goal is to use the entire series to answer @VMaryAbraham‘s question. Continue reading