How a campaign strategy transformed into a can’t-miss online presence.
Whether he’s quoting historical figures, commenting on current events, or cracking jokes, Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett has quite the following on Twitter. By balancing work and personal life, Willett’s digital connection with the public sets a precedent for other officials. Keeping a 140-character limit in mind, he answers questions about his social media successes.
How long have you had your account?
I signed up in Oct ’09 but didn’t send my 1st tweet until Feb ’10. I tweeted only sporadically until my 2012 reelection campaign ramped up.
Why did you join Twitter?
Mainly as a campaign comm tool. People consume info online, esp political info. It’s political malpractice not to engage via social media.
You’ve tweeted more than 6,400 times. Were those all directly from you, or do you have a helper?
For better or worse, it’s 100% me, which I think people find refreshing & authentic.
(It’s tough to believe I’ve tweeted that much, though.)
What comments do people have about your use of Twitter?
Many folks (mis)describe me as the most interesting public official on Twitter—a bar so low it’s subterranean. I keep it light & positive.
Who are you most excited to say follows you?
I was amped to get a follow & RT from @HonestToddler, a Twitter celebrity who
observes the world thru the eyes of a witty, tech-savvy tot.
Name three people everyone on Twitter should follow.
Besides me? Ace historian Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC). The genius
observations of @HonestToddler. And for sports junkies, @TheFakeESPN.
Who do you RT the most?
Probably prez historian Michael Beschloss. Fascinating trove of historical tidbits & exquisite photos—nuggets you won’t find anywhere else.
How can an attorney benefit from Twitter?
Follow incisive folks across a range of views & areas—just to learn & laugh. As for boosting biz, info can ricochet fruitfully online.
Let’s say I don’t have an account. Tell me why I should get one.
To stay abreast of warp-speed happenings in the world & enjoy the musings of
smart, fascinating people. Follow, even if you don’t tweet.
You’re active on Facebook. Which platform do you prefer?
I enjoy both, but the quantity & content differs. FB = more personal & family-focused. Twitter = more current events & newsy, & more often.
What’s your favorite thing about Twitter?
It’s a neat, one-stop compilation of smart, funny & interesting viewpoints on every imaginable topic from a riveting cross-section of folks.
Is there anything that frustrates you about it?
The sometimes knee-jerk nastiness & incivility, especially on political matters. I don’t mind snark, if delivered w/ intelligence & wit.
You have more than 3,100 followers. Why do you think people follow you?
It’s rare for a Supreme Court Justice to step out from behind the bench. Folks are surprised that it’s comedic, authentic & informative.
Do you have a strategy to get followers?
I don’t pay to “promote” my tweets as some pols do. I want to earn actual, engaged followers the old-fashioned way: w/ compelling content.
How do you balance work and play on your account?
Unsuccessfully. When day job calls, I’m laser-locked. But it’s a fun diversion when you have a few mins 2 spare. Content-wise, I mix it up.
What rules do you have for your account?
I don’t discuss issues that could appear before me or throw partisan sharp elbows. I strive to keep things witty, informative & interesting.
What goes through your mind before you hit “Tweet?”
Usually, did I misspell or mis-grammatize anything? But also, is this worth polluting the Interwebs w/ for posterity, & will my wife wince.
Have you ever regretted or deleted a tweet?
Succinctness = enemy of nuance. It’s tough 2 be precise in 140 chars, so conveying tone/nuance is tough. I self-censor & try to be careful.
What are some of the most important Twitter rules of etiquette to remember?
My paramount rule: keep things civil. Once I tweeted, “Pro tip: Be nice.” Also, engage others. Master Twitter; don’t let Twitter master you.
Have you ever had to deal with trolls?
I’ve only blocked 1 person, who committed the cardinal sin of saying rude things about my sainted mother. Nobody disses heroic Mama Doris!
How many tweets a day is too many?
I don’t follow folks who tweet w/ every breath. The volume is paralyzing. I tweet maybe 10-20x/day. It varies & depends on what’s happening.
Select tweets from Willett’s feed
I think Edward Snowden could’ve walked a red panda through the Capitol Rotunda tonight & nobody would’ve noticed. #txlege
I recently rec’d this note from a 4th grader: "I watched your Court webcast to help me fall asleep and it worked!" #SCOTX cc: @atlblog
“Live Gluten Free or Die Hard” #AddaWordRuinaMovie
You can also read the full article from TexasBar.com here.