Balancing the Risks and Rewards of Social Media: 6 Tips for Expert Witnesses

Social media plays a big role in our lives. While social media can be a useful tool, there can be downsides to using it as an expert witness. We discuss the dos and don’ts of using social media for expert witnesses. 

Sare Mills, J.D.

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— Updated on July 27, 2022

Balancing the Risks and Rewards of Social Media: 6 Tips for Expert Witnesses

Attorneys often consult with professionals who are experts in their fields. Experts help attorneys understand medical, scientific, or business issues in their cases. Experts also provide testimony during litigation. This helps the jury and the court understand relevant factual issues and provide context for the evidence. Expert witnesses are an invaluable tool. Additionally, providing expert witness services can be a great way for professionals to generate supplemental income.

Providing expert testimony requires more than just being an expert in your field. Once you take the stand as an expert, your personal and professional reputation is also subject to scrutiny. This means that social media, a valuable tool for research and marketing, can become a professional liability. Even the most experienced litigation consultant may be unaware of the implications of their social media activity. To avoid becoming that expert, check out these six crucial dos and don’ts for expert witnesses.

The Dos

Do Use Social Media to Market Your Services

It’s free, it’s widespread, and it’s an excellent way to showcase your skills and knowledge directly to potential clients. One great way to engage with potential clients is to post short, informative content on your subject matter of expertise. This includes written content or engaging visuals such as infographics. You can also set alerts for specific topics and participate in discussions and events in your area of expertise. If you publish expert content on a blog or website, you should share these posts on your social media pages to reach a wider audience. You can also republish the same content across multiple platforms.

Do Target Professional Platforms

It is important to be strategic about the platforms you are using. For example, you might use Facebook to connect with family, follow news alerts on Twitter, and find art on Instagram. For most experts, however, these platforms are not the best target for business development. Some attorneys and legal services providers have successfully leveraged TikTok videos. However, most experts should stick to more professional platforms. If your clients are attorneys, you should be on Linkedin. Almost 90% of practicing attorneys have Linkedin profile pages. Build your network by connecting with attorneys you have worked with in the past. Follow industry leaders to learn about current trends and share your own knowledge. The wider your network, the more credible you will appear to potential clients. Linkedin’s search filters will also allow you to target attorneys in the right geographic location and area of practice.

Do Check Your Privacy Settings

Assume that anything you post on social media can be discovered, but don’t make it easy. You may have different privacy settings across different platforms, but you should know what they are. On Facebook, where you are more likely to share personal content, you should keep your account very private. Only accept friend requests from people you know and restrict the visibility of your posts and pictures. You should also block your profile from being visible on search engines. If you use Facebook for business, consider making separate profiles: one for personal connections and one for business. You also want to employ good cybersecurity practices. Use different passwords for all of your accounts and use a password manager. You don’t want your clients to receive Facebook messages from a hacker.

The Don’ts

Don’t Get Lulled Into a False Sense of Security

So you have followed the steps above to secure your accounts. Certain profiles are anonymous, and you only connect with people on Facebook that you know in person. You should still assume that anything on the internet can be discovered and be careful what you post. Opposing counsel will use social media investigators and experts to find anything they might use to attack your credibility. Use your discretion and professional judgment: avoid posting anything that could hurt your reputation and credibility. Remember that even your “likes” are visible, and they may paint a picture that opposing counsel can use against you.

Don’t Post Anything Related to Ongoing Litigation

Social media posts about ongoing litigation can seriously interfere with the case and damage your credibility as an expert. You should not post topics related to the subject of your testimony, even if you omit case-specific details. Wait until the case is over and then offer a professional postmortem online. Just make sure you are not sharing confidential information and get permission from the attorney on the case. Similarly, take a bird’s eye view of your past posts to make sure they paint a consistent picture of your research and viewpoints. If you have publicly taken a position contrary to the one you now hold, discuss it with your client. This will allow the attorney to strategize and prepare you for cross-examination.

Don’t Forget to Check Other Publicly Available Information

Information that can be used to undermine your credibility is all over the internet, not just on social media. Investigators can find your political donations, past addresses, criminal convictions, and a great deal of other publicly available information. If you have any concerns, you should run a report on yourself before accepting expert engagements.

Social media can be a powerful tool and a potential liability. If you take social media risks, you could lose the case for your client. But if you target the right platforms, protect your privacy, and post prudently, you will reap the benefits.

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