Social networking: the law firm Twitter experience

Allen & Overy, DLA Piper and Eversheds discuss and comment on the operation of their respective Twitter pages.

Anna Finlayson, PLC

Allen & Overy LLP, DLA Piper UK LLP and Eversheds LLP (together, the firms) are three of a growing number of UK-headquartered law firms which are embracing the use of social networking sites, such as Twitter.

The firms all created their Twitter pages over a year ago. Between them, they have made over 1,300 tweets, have over 3,300 followers and are on over 170 lists (see box “Using Twitter).

The initiative

Allen & Overy’s Twitter page was originally set up to support its G-20 London Summit campaign, as a way of promoting a series of comment and analysis articles written by Allen & Overy’s international partners and to encourage dialogue about the issues raised in the articles, according to Christian Walsh, web manager at Allen & Overy. Allen & Overy now has three Twitter pages. The principal page (www.twitter.com/AllenOvery) is for anyone interested in legal developments, such as the media, lawyers, academics, clients and businesses. Allen & Overy also has a corporate social responsibility page (www.twitter.com/AllenOverycsr) and a page promoting its Pensions Talk blog (www.twitter.com/pensionstalk) (see Know how article "Talking pensions: Allen and Overy's public blog (www.practicallaw.com/0-501-5280)).

Susan Clayton, Europe, Middle East and Africa web manager at DLA Piper, comments that DLA Piper created its Twitter page because it has an interest in the business application of social media tools and wanted to start exploring this area. DLA Piper also has three Twitter pages. Its general page (www.twitter.com/DLA_Piper_News) is targeted at journalists, clients and students looking for training contracts. DLA Piper’s real estate practice has its own page (www.twitter.com/dlarealestate), as does DLA Piper’s Norwegian office (www.twitter.com/DLA_Piper_Norge).

Eversheds set up its Twitter page (www.twitter.com/eversheds) as it saw that it was important to be able to engage with its very broad audience (including clients, potential employees and journalists) via all the channels that it uses day-to-day, explains Gareth Pezzack, head of marketing operations at Eversheds.

The objective

The firms’ primary goals for their respective Twitter pages are to promote their brands and to promote dialogue about key legal issues.

Clayton says that DLA Piper sees Twitter as "an opportunity to establish a new and instant communications channel that complements DLA Piper’s existing PR, marketing and events programme."

Eversheds aims to give its audience easy online access to the news and views of the people at Eversheds. "For instance, we have just tweeted about the implications of a UK hung parliament on business in the Middle East," says Pezzack.

The content

The firms post a mix of content on their Twitter pages. This includes links to articles, legal developments, firm announcements, lawyer and firm successes and community activity.

Allen & Overy’s website team decide which content should be included on the Twitter page, with input from their PR team.

Pezzack says that Eversheds’ content is very much self-generating: it is made up from Eversheds’ spokespeople’s commentary on the news of the day (which would have previously been the reserve of journalists), as well as the firm’s good news.

DLA Piper’s web and PR teams are responsible for deciding the content which is added to their Twitter page. The teams select items of interest from each day’s uploads to DLA Piper’s main website and other announcements. However, Clayton adds that "anyone within the firm can suggest content for tweeting."

Legal vs marketing

There have been comments in the press suggesting that Twitter should be used by law firms to cover legal developments only, rather than to make marketing announcements. Allen & Overy and DLA Piper generally agree with this comment. Walsh states that 90% of Allen & Overy’s tweets highlight topical comment and analysis but emphasises that Allen & Overy does not tweet all its deals, corporate announcements or marketing messages.

Clayton agrees that people will get more value out of tweets that link to useful articles and updates, but notes that DLA Piper’s Twitter page also serves as a useful channel to inform journalists of its news releases.

Pezzack believes that: "It is bit of a red herring to try and impose rules on why or how people use tools like Twitter, since Twitter’s very nature means that it is self-regulating. If we loaded our tweets with content that people didn’t find interesting, that would be reflected by the number of our followers, retweets and so on."

A successful tool?

The firms state that response to their Twitter pages has been very positive, both internally and externally. They have all seen a steady rise in followers of their pages. Clayton adds that: "Anecdotal feedback has been that it is good for us to be engaging with this progressive medium."

Allen & Overy and Eversheds see Twitter as an effective marketing and business development tool, although note that it is one of many that they use. "Twitter is good to have within our marketing toolkit," comments Pezzack. "We recognise that Twitter has the potential to be an effective and engaging communication channel and we look to it as one channel to inform our audience about what is going on within Eversheds, as well as to provide an individual’s point of view on hot legal and business issues."

DLA Piper does not see Twitter in itself as an effective marketing and business development tool, but as part of its overall marketing and communications strategy. Clayton states that: "Multi-channel communications are key to ensuring the best chance to reach target audiences."

Walsh sees Twitter as having some advantages over other tools, due to its low maintenance and low cost, and the fact that it allows instant feedback which can influence content selection and development. It also allows Allen & Overy to reach new audiences. However, Clayton notes that a disadvantage of Twitter is that that two-way engagement is difficult.

Other social media sites

Twitter is not the only social networking site used by the firms.

Allen & Overy has a youtube channel (allenoverylaw) and has groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. It also has client-facing and internal blogs and wikis (see Know-how article “Knowledge sharing at Allen & Overy: using blogs and wikis (www.practicallaw.com/3-385-9964)), as well as its public blog Pensions Talk.

Eversheds also has a presence on a number of social media sites including Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. Pezzack states that: "Eversheds is always reviewing other available social media sites and evaluating who is using them now, who may use them in the future and if Eversheds has anything to bring to the table that would mean they represent a worthwhile channel for Eversheds to explore."

DLA Piper has graduate recruitment Facebook fan pages for the UK, Czech Republic and Norway. According to Clayton, an increasing number of DLA Piper’s staff are also on LinkedIn.

Anna Finlayson, PLC.

Using Twitter

Twitter allows users to send and receive short messages up to 140 characters in length, which are known as "tweets".

If a user is interested in receiving another user’s tweets, they can "follow" that other user.

A user’s tweets will be posted on that user’s profile page as well as the Twitter page of the user’s followers.

Twitter "lists" allow users to create lists of followers and group them accordingly.

A user can take another person’s tweet and copy and paste this to his own followers, allowing them access to the tweets of users they do not follow. This forwarded tweet is known as a "re-tweet" or "RT". To give credit to the original user, users usually put "RT" plus the original user’s username at the beginning of the tweet.

 
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