COM0011-521: Brief Analysis – Good and Not-so-good Social Media Campaigns

Learn from the mistakes of others. How often have we heard that! You can also learn from their successes. Here’s a brief analysis of two social media campaigns – one that worked (Allen & Overy), and one that did not (Esquire Magazine).

Law has two characteristics that make it an ideal environment for social media – it’s constantly changing, which means that lawyers have to keep current on new developments in their area of expertise; and it’s collaborative, with lawyers in the same practice needing to share information with each other.

Global law firm, Allen & Overy decided to embrace it and chose to use blogs and wikis for knowledge sharing.

Two years after introducing three pilot sites, all of which combined blog and wiki functionality, the firm boosted 30 sites. Some were used by specific practice areas while others were grouped around particular topics, e.g. new legislation.

The initial 3 pilots were largely successful due to their ease of use and the firm’s culture around sharing – seems like they chose the right tools.

In addition to the growth in the number of sites, the content became a source of rich information around best practices. As well as allowing lawyers to disseminate information more quickly, the tools made it easier for lawyers to have queries answered. Instead of sending out an email query to several colleagues, none of whom could see who else has responded, a lawyer could post a blog question and receive several responses, with each new poster able to see the previous answers.

Sometimes, a lawyer would transfer a conversation to a wiki where a group of lawyers could put all their ideas together to produce detailed content. Wikis were also used to prepare for training events and for people to discuss issues raised post-event.

In this case, ROI was measured in terms of the initial objective – improved knowledge sharing. This social media initiative succeeded in that it took pressure off the knowledge function as a whole, and gave knowledge staff more time to focus on more high-end activities, instead of answering questions. Today, Allen & Overy utilize RSS, Facebook and Twitter to augment the above-mentioned social media outreach.

On the flip side, Esquire magazine incurred a “fail” when a campaign to mark the Sept 11 anniversary had an unfortunate technical glitch.

With good intentions, Esquire produced a story which was accompanied by a “falling man” image – an image of a man falling from one of the towers, however the image was mistakenly aligned next to a sidebar headline that read “Making Your Morning Commute More Stylish.”

This combination did not go unnoticed by readers.  After mounting complaints (no surprise), Esquire responded with this apology tweet:

“Relax, everybody. There was a stupid technical glitch on our “Falling Man” story

and it was fixed asap. We’re sorry for the confusion.”

While Esquire did the right thing by explaining the situation and apologizing, it didn’t put enough thought into the message. The first two words conveyed a condescending tone. Perhaps they should have started with the apology first! Telling people that they don’t need to get their shorts in a knot is disingenuous. There was either a lack of oversight, which resulted in “…a stupid technical glitch…” or the producer simply demonstrated an insensitive attitude. Either way, both are unacceptable. I found the last line of the apology, “We’re sorry for the confusion.” sent a “don’t care” attitude – it lack sincerity.

The lesson is simple. For good content, every word is critical, and this is particularly true when you only have 140 characters. So think ahead, consider the circumstances and use another set of eyes.