Expert Article Library

Social Media That Works for Expert Witnesses

by Beryl Vaughan / ForensicExpertPro.com

“Social Media” is an umbrella term for sites that connect people to one another. Who is connected, and to what end, varies widely, from professional networking to staying in touch with family members.

Social Media is free. When used properly as a business tool, it is a marketing bargain.

In all Social Media, communication is accomplished through (i) posts shared with your “connections” and (ii) private messages or live chat. The nature and purpose of your posts are whatever you like. In the expert witness business, targeting a reader using crafted content will reap the most benefits. You are probably more familiar with casual social media among family and friends where a post can be educational, commentary on current events, or just to bring your buddies up to date on your life. Most platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram) allow you to filter who sees what you share.

Privacy is a serious concern for the businessperson using social media. An expert witness does not want something personal to come back and haunt them in a legal setting! There are great solutions. Defense is the best offense. Privacy settings are available on Facebook and Google+ to prevent posts about your personal life from becoming publicly searchable on Google. Finally, if you have something truly sensitive to convey, use a private chat, or the phone.

Each type of social platform offers something different and for different populations. Marketing isn’t the only reason to sign up. Networking with colleagues, problem-solving pesky tech problems, getting to know like-minded people are all good reasons to use social media. So is business marketing when you engage with current and potential clients on their social platforms of choice.

The focus of this article is to explain which social media outlets are (and which are not) the most useful for promoting the business of an expert witness and how experts might leverage the most powerful social platforms to expand their own network practice.

A note on lingo: The “language” of social media is explained in the accompanying glossary. It’s designed for beginners, and to fill in gaps. If you don’t understand something in this article, look in the Glossary. Find out what a “troll” is, the difference between a post, a share and a reshare, and how a thread grows.

Where To Start

B2B (Business-to-Business) social media is the best option for promoting an expert witness practice to lawyers. On a B2B platform, you can post to, and personally communicate with, a curated collection of potential clients.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, with a half-billion users, is the standout social platform for professionals to acquire the attention of other professionals, making it the go-to for B2B practices like the forensic expert witness. Facebook is a distant second. If you only have time for one form of Social Media, focus your efforts on LinkedIn. Here are some of my tips for making the most of LinkedIn’s many rich features for promoting yourself and building your network.

Build a base of “connections” suitable to your practice—with potential to produce expert witness engagements. Use LinkedIn’s handy filters to locate your target audience of potential clients. You can filter millions of members to zero in on any type of lawyer: personal injury, business litigation, probate litigation—just search with the relevant words. You can also filter by geography, finding local attorneys or firms with offices in important cities for your area of expertise.

Post articles or share relevant and timely information to those very carefully acquired connections. You can choose for your post to go only to your connections. Assuming you’ve acquired connections with attorneys and other potential clients, a post about a legal topic in their field can be a powerful attention-getter. Building defect expert? Share an article about a building failure. Psychiatrist? Start a LinkedIn conversation about legal damages related to PTSD. Resharing someone else’s article is fast, but posting your own original and carefully crafted thoughts on a professional topic is a great way to demonstrate your expertise.

Make sure your LinkedIn Profile is complete. Include your photo, experience, and any graphics or links that you think enhance your profile, as well as information that captures the extent of your expertise. Include fields available in your profile for your contact information, email, website and phone numbers. Be reachable.

Consider using LinkedIn’s premium service charges roughly $60/month and enables you to see who has visited your profile, to conduct unlimited searches and other perks. The ability to track who is viewing your profile is valuable; for example, when a logical target client has viewed your profile more than once, it’s a good time to give them a call or send a LinkedIn message. LinkedIn may offer a month-trial for free. After you’ve built a network and made some posts, you might try the free trial to see if it has something to offer you.

LinkedIn is only as powerful as the connections you build and the posts you put before them. Send connection invites to likely candidates as often as you can; the larger your base, the more powerful your posts. Post often, reshare others’ posts relevant to your own field, and “like: the posts of your connections. These activities will give you some additional free visibility.

LinkedIn also has a powerful job search feature, if you’re interested.

Facebook is similar in mechanics to LinkedIn, but it’s much harder to curate followers. You can’t invite them in the same way, and it’s not a B2B platform--yet. There’s still room to capitalize on Facebook, however. Create a Facebook page with a brand new email—do not connect to an existing personal Facebook page or your business associates might be able to read your personal information. Once you have a Facebook account created with your business email, create a business page (Facebook provides how-to info.). Once you are logged in as your business persona, use the same filter options you used on LinkedIn—which Facebook dumbs down. Join groups and liberally “follow” pages specific to your client base. Facebook groups include attorneys with a specialty or colleagues in your forensic field. Benefits are subtle but visibility and name recognition is your ultimate goal. For example, when you ask to join a group, after giving you access, the Admin sometimes posts a “welcome” message that everyone sees: “We welcome Joanna Expert Witness to our group.” That’s more free press for you.

Managing Your Time

It doesn’t have to take hours out of your life writing thoughtful posts for every social media platform, group, page and thread every day. If you don’t have a lot of time, keep your comments and posts simple and relevant. Recycle material. I use the same post on LinkedIn, Facebook and anywhere else I can repurpose that language. Copy and paste is your friend. As on LinkedIn, invite a mutual “Like” by hitting “Like” on everything you read and every comment to your own post. When you comment, include the names of others in the thread.

Downstream Benefits of Social Media

Online Visibility. Facebook and LinkedIn may not attract a direct call from an attorney, but they do increase your visibility online. It hasn’t been proven, but it is my belief and experience that a bigger footprint online improves SEO for your website. More importantly, it provides another opportunity for your potential clients to learn about you quickly.

Track website traffic that originates from Facebook or LinkedIn. Google Analytics (free) and Web-Stat (about $10/month) are two services with that capability. Note if there’s an uptick in traffic to your site on days you post. As a matter of course, always ask attorneys how they were referred to you, and keep track. If Social Media was the source, take note.

Add Social Media icons and links to your website and directory listings. It communicates you are in this century. It’s about that simple. Some expert witness directories offer Social Media links in a profile. Don’t discount the value.

Social Media You DON’T Need

Pinterest is for sharing what you find personally interesting. It’s not for business networking. Pinterest works like pictures pinned to a virtual corkboard to share with people interested in the same things. It’s a computerized version of torn out magazine photos, quotes, and celebrity doings. There’s a particular emphasis on arts, literature, crafts, design, and fashion. I have found on Pinterest beautiful examples of Victorian lace gowns. I have found no attorneys unless they are into Victorian lace gowns.

Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat have a young and casual audience. Instagram and Tumblr are about sharing, more than commenting, making them more passive than LinkedIn and Facebook.

Experts ask me all the time if they should have a Twitter account. It’s almost embarrassing, they think, not to have that little bird icon on their website next to the LinkedIn logo and Facebook Thumbs-Up. Ultimately, Twitter is about numbers. Acquiring followers can be time-consuming and the quality of what you deliver is limited 280 characters force you to be simplistic. For an expert witness, this is a minefield. 280 characters doesn’t give you enough room to back up your statements and that is precisely what an expert witness must do on the stand. Ultimately, Twitter is about numbers. The message is short, but how many people can you get to look at it? Will you acquire enough followers who are attorneys, so someone is listening? How much is your time worth to trim back 19 characters and remain articulate?

One forensic psychologist I know was the local CBS celebrity psychologist in his area and was brought in whenever a psychological fad hit. He has 10,000 Twitter followers. He reports not a single forensic job from Twitter.

Reddit is a thread-based platform, much like a forum. Live exchanges may also occur. Reddit tends to be quirky. Is there a hidden conspiracy to silence Mr. Spock? Is there a relationship between noisy computers and contrails? As silly as some Reddit forums are, there are many focused on knowledge-sharing—you can give and get free advice about something important, like how to fix a common computer glitch. Reddit’s function and functionality are conversation and knowledge, but it is not a marketing opportunity.

Glossary

Friends and Followers

When you join a social media platform you won’t interact with all 40 million members. Instead, you hope to connect with people you know and the people they know (think of a cocktail party). A personal account functions similarly to a business-centric account, though your carefully selected social circle is different. In both cases, your goal is to find people you wish to know and wish to know you. You will probably share a common interest, or seek people whose statements and taste you admire. If you share or present interesting information, you hope others will appreciate your contribution and share it with others in their social network. On a personal Facebook page, they will “friend” you. On a business page, the “friending” alternative is called “following.” Your followers presumably want to be notified when you’ve posted new information and can click the “follow” button for that purpose.

You want followers who are potential clients; as many as possible. They will see what you have to say as often as you “say” it, like getting a very tiny newsletter instantaneously. The mailing is free, the recipients targeted, and the exposure undeniable.

Posts and Reshares

A post is anything a person presents, types, or uploads as a message to a social media audience. Your post can contain commentary from you, a link to a relevant article or your website, or another person’s post (a reshare). You can include pictures with your posts, which are an attention-grabbing complement to your words.

A reshare is when you forward someone else’s post to your own network of friends and connections. Those people might then reshare to their own connections or friends of friends, thus increasing the exposure of the original post and the content within the post.

Going Viral

Going viral is when the exponential nature of degrees of separation explode and something posted is reshared to each person’s network of friends and followers, and then to their friends and followers and so on. The content can skip from one type of social media to another (for example, a post on Instagram is shared on Facebook, and then Twitter, and then LinkedIn, etc.). Something that’s gone viral might be seen by 50 million people—many of whom think it’s engaging enough to reshare. For obvious reasons, the viral post tends to appeal to the least common denominator among people. Most things that go viral are funny and/or ridiculous. It would be great if your post about handling a difficult cross-examination went viral, but I wouldn’t put any money on that.

Thread

A thread is the series of comments back and forth that people make to a post. A photo is posted of a cat hanging upside down from a jungle gym. One person posts “gymnastic cat!” and the next person posts “don’t you know how dangerous it is for cats to live outside?” and then someone else posts to that post “felines are wild by nature. Why shouldn’t the cat be outside?” and so forth.

The Feed. The feed is that long column of everyone’s posts you scroll past, swiping your phone screen up as you go. Whether on a computer or phone, the idea is the same.

This is what a thread looks like on a public forum for forensic psychologists:


Phone App

Most social media platforms are available through a phone app, and some work best only on a phone. Imagine you’re on the phone scrolling through posts. Your screen fills with what someone found interesting enough to share. Friends and followers then see it and can reshare or perhaps hit a tiny heart icon or thumbs up (Facebook) to show the sender their post is appreciated. For business, stick to platforms that are available online from a desktop as well as the phone. Attorneys typically look for experts from their office computer and use the phone to quickly get the expert’s number. Social platforms that are exclusive to mobile devices are most popular with the 13-25 age group. Tumblr and Instagram follow this format (they have desktop options, but it is an afterthought and the interface clumsier). Snapchat is a mobile platform most popular with the under-20 crowd, that allows the user to take a quick photo or record a short video and share it with his or her social network. The photo or video post is then, by default, deleted within a short time period. It is possible to record someone else’s Snapchat post, so the timed evaporation is not a privacy protection.

Memes

Memes are one-image jokes. Vintage ads showing a housewife with a single funny comment bubble—“I’m cleaning the house…with Vodka.” She holds up her martini glass. The most famous meme is Grumpy Cat, an unusually ugly cat and with a permanent scowl, saying ….grumpy things. Funny grumpy things. People tend to reshare what makes them laugh. I do not know who owns Grumpy Cat, but billions of people are waiting on that pet for its next hysterical utterance.

Trolls

The troll’s only purpose is to be obnoxious and sow discontent. Anyone can be a troll—though they prefer anonymity. The more fighting that results, the better. A troll is an actual person, though there is a serious debate about whether trolls can be automated. For the most part, a troll is someone who repeatedly and purposefully posts statements that are mean and inflammatory. Trolls rarely introduce logic or reason. They are simply bullies and troublemakers; that is the purpose of a troll. Trolls don’t just live on social media. They exist anywhere people share space. Trolls on the game Minecraft burn down other people’s houses and steal their stuff. Trolls on Facebook post ugly comments to otherwise normal conversations. A photo of a new baby, for example, may incite a troll to comment on its ugly face. There’s a reason I am spending so much time on Trolls.

Trolls are present in any social media that involves an information exchange. LinkedIn doesn’t tolerate trolls and they are promptly booted from post comments. Facebook is more vulnerable. Trolls can invade your social media efforts if you don’t use security settings and keep an eye on the evolution of your posts and threads. As an aside, trolls are fond of Yelp and the occasional WebMD profile. Reputation management is key to keeping an eye on your own reputation. If you see your name online with one star instead of five, find out why.

“Once on the Internet, always on the Internet.”

Don’t be scared off, but be thoughtful and careful. Something you’ve posted online is open season in cross-examination, so proof and reproof before you send your thoughts out into the world. On Facebook and LinkedIn, you can edit and delete your posts if you have second thoughts. If that’s the case, I recommend deleting the post and starting fresh. Don’t forget to first copy and paste the post with your changes into a new screen before you select delete. Remember, though, that someone can still take a screenshot of your now deleted post before it was deleted, and thereby have a copy of your original post. So, again, just be careful out there.

020 “Online to Offline” Is a phrase you should know It started out to describe the online singles site that leads to a date. In your case, however, it describes the ultimate goal of online marketing: to develop a real-life relationship with your real-life potential clients.