Author Archive: Colleen Nichols

What To Do About Social Media Fake Reviews

While social media platforms are extraordinarily useful for growing businesses, there are a number of pitfalls almost impossible to avoid. In this age of misinformation — and outright lies — fake ratings and reviews are more common than ever. Many people even accuse big businesses of stymieing the growth of smaller businesses by paying for reviewers to leave bad ratings. This can deter customers and clients. 

Big tech has done very little to counter or investigate such claims, which means a larger battle can be expected in court. Small business owner Bruce Billson said governments should look into these claims too. So far, he hasn’t received much help in Australia.

Billson said, “Our office is particularly concerned by the posting of negative reviews that are not founded in real customer experiences (‘fake reviews’). These reviews damage business reputations and cause distress to staff and business owners. Our office has assisted more than 30 businesses dealing with fake reviews in recent years.”

Jones Gregg Creehan Gerace is the only one law firm acknowledging these issues. One anonymous second-year associate said, “We’ve started to find more and more clients who are interested in solving this problem. Resolving business disputes in and out of court is common for our firm, but targeting fake reviewers? That’s not as easy because there aren’t many regulations or laws governing policy.”

Because social media operators like Facebook sell the platform all over the world, changing the rules in one location makes it far easier to change the rules the same way elsewhere. And that’s what lawyers and business owners are trying to do.

Remember the plot to inflate Gamestop’s share prices last year? Innumerable fake reviews were left on the Robinhood app as a result, and Google removed many of them.

Billson said, “We recommend that digital platforms build out tools that prevent fake reviews as well as create a more accessible and transparent review system. This should include giving small businesses more transparency on the evidence they need to provide a digital platform to have a fake review reviewed and removed.”

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recommended that the Australian government work to prevent and resolve related disputes, and urge tech companies to implement these tools to prevent damage from fake reviews. Authorities agreed. So far, no new programs have been green-lighted. 

Unfortunately, there may be conflicts of interest. Palmer United Party MP Craig Kelly is on the committee that determines such matters — and you might remember the name since he was once of the guys promoting unapproved drugs over mask wearing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Another wrinkle? Many fake reviewers aren’t even human. They’re bots, designed to leave bad advice or misinformed opinions to take down competition. And these bots can do more than just write bad reviews. Remember when Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series S were released? Bots purchased the vast majority before actual people could input all the information. And when artificial general intelligence can perform these actions, it hurts business in general.

Should Your Social Media Posts Reflect Customers’ Beliefs — Or The Truth?

Being an attorney means providing clients with a vigorous legal defense even when you know they’re guilty. And that means you can’t always choose clients who support your own beliefs. For some, it means catering to the widest audience possible. Should your social media posts reflect your customers’ beliefs — or the truth? It’s a tricky situation to navigate when you know how many clients might have radical beliefs.

First and foremost, part of being a lawyer is nobility. You might be a shark in the courtroom and in defense of your client, but that doesn’t mean you can resort to lies and deceit outside the courtroom. It could get you disbarred.

That means on social media applications, your best bet is to stick with the truth. You might be a criminal defense lawyer in Washington D.C. — and that might mean defending clients who stormed the U.S. Capitol nearly a year ago — but that doesn’t mean you can post about Biden being an illegitimate president. That’s because it isn’t true. 

Conversely, you might be forced to represent an environmentalist who resorted to civil disobedience to send a message to the government about the need to tackle man-made climate change before it’s too late. You can absolutely post about the latter. But what you can’t do is post about civil disobedience being okay — even if you think it is. 

The most important thing to remember is that you’re a foot soldier for the law. The law is steeped in truth. It means using both sides of the story to arrive at a middle ground, closer to the truth than either the prosecutor or the defendant will admit. Both sides (are supposed to) use only the facts to achieve that middle ground. And what you do outside of court is at least as important as what you do inside.

Personal beliefs shouldn’t get in the way. Keep it real. Tell the truth.

Is Social Media Regulated?

You might think the obvious answer is “yes” when someone asks whether or not social media is regulated. And of course technically it is. But many others would roll their eyes and say “obviously not.” This is the result of many years of media attacks against social media platforms, some justified, some not. While social media creators and the platforms themselves of course have some level of responsibility to the content disseminated across these platforms, they can’t be held responsible for the level of perfection desired by the media and governments. There are billions of posts across many platforms everyday.

According to Tufts University, social media “refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”

The Federal Communications Commission is one such entity that provides a level of oversight into Facebook and other social media platforms. Lawyers need to be kept apprised of ongoing FCC activities, investigations, and consumer alerts. They can do so through the FCC’s website.

Many proponents of regulation believe we should actually limit how much social media consumers digest each day to reduce the negative effects. The legal issue, of course, is whether or not such regulation would be in line with the First Amendment.

According to Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, some laws aiming to regulate social media are already under fire in the lower court systems and we can expect to see these legal challengers filter up to the higher courts in the next year or two. 

Jaffer said, “These laws impose extensive transparency requirements on major platforms. They give users all kinds of rights with respect to content that’s taken down or accounts that are taken down. The Florida law restricts platforms from deplatforming or shadow banning — which is not very well defined in the law — political candidates or media organizations. The Texas law prohibits viewpoint discrimination.”

Shadow banning means that a user or a user’s posts are blocked from being shown without that user being notified (at all and especially of the why and how). Although this type of ban can reduce dangerous “fake news” or lies (for example, those disseminated by a certain former president of some notoriety), it is the one most likely seen as a direct assault on the First Amendment. 

Technically, social media platforms are businesses — and therefore they are bound by the same laws and regulations as any other business. The problem is that these laws and regulations were not written with any respect toward the novelty of social media platforms. They were written for more common businesses like restaurants or retail establishments. Social media platforms are neither.

One of the biggest issues for clients of a legal firm is that a family member or someone involved in a case will post something they shouldn’t. Most lawyers will advise clients to refrain from using social media at all when litigation is ongoing. Visit website for additional information on this topic.

How To Balance Social Media Marketing With Mental Health

Respect for your clients should be the number one priority, right? That means you need to keep a few things in mind when advertising using social media. First, you do need to advertise and social media is one of the most effective ways of doing it. Second, new research shows that social media use can have a serious impact on mental health. Third, any social media marketing strategy should also mitigate these impacts. Making life worse for your clients isn’t an option.

In a way social media is like porn. It can leave users with unhealthy or unrealistic expectations of how people should look or act. It can result in lower self-esteem or self-image. It can also make some users believe that everyone else is living life while they’re stuck at home (even though they’re only posting pictures of non-routine vacations or events.

So what can you do?

Sadly, there isn’t much. You can definitely limit how periodically you make a post. Use different platforms to get your message across. Don’t publish anywhere more than once every day or two. Let your clients know consistently that while you use social media to connect with them, you would much prefer to communicate in person, over the phone, or even via video chat. Even email is better. These are all much healthier forms of communication.

And it’s also worth keeping in mind that social media — in moderation — can have benefits. Various platforms have been used to keep in contact with friends and family who live afar. They can be used to find new friends or old-school pen pals. It’s especially for those who live in isolated areas of the globe and need a social element in their lives. And lastly, it can be a tool for those who already require emotional support but cannot obtain it in person.

However you choose to advertise, your goal should be to do no harm.

What Social Media Platforms Have The Most Users?

Before you consider bolstering your law firm with social media networking, it might make sense to research where your requisite demographics spend most of their time. For example, if your firm happens to target Gen Z as its client base, you won’t want to use Facebook — because they make fun of their parents for using that. You would want to stick with Instagram or TikTok to disseminate your message to various prospective clients.

Facebook still leads the pack with nearly 2.8 billion active users. Then YouTube with nearly 2.3 billion, WhatsApp with 2 billion, Facebook Messenger with 1.3 billion, Instagram with nearly 1.3 billion, and WeChat with 1.2 billion. You might expect TikTok to have more active users, but it comes far behind with only 732 million active users. For comparison’s sake, the platform “Telegram,” which is popular with conservatives, has 550 million active users. 

If you wanted to target older women, you would spread your message using Facebook. A surprising 77 percent of women in the United States use it. Only just over 60 percent of men do. Those with a college degree are more likely to use Facebook than those without.

Overall, younger people are still much more likely to use a social media platform. In 2021, nearly 85 percent of those aged 18 to 29 use at least one platform. Only 45 percent of those 65 and older use any platform. Social media use doesn’t seem to change much based on race. 76 percent of people who live in urban communities use social media, while only 66 percent of those who live in rural areas do.

According to Pew Research, 71 percent of those aged 18 to 29 are on Instagram regularly, versus only 13 percent for those 65 and over. Nearly half of those aged 65 and over are on Facebook, and 70 of those 18 to 29. Those aged 30 to 49 and 50 to 64 use Facebook slightly more than those younger millennials: 77 and 73 percent, respectively.

Facebook users are more likely to use the site daily, while Twitter users are the least likely.

Although these demographic data points should shed some light on where to place the most of your efforts, it’s worth remembering that different platforms are better for different messages. For example, you might want to use Facebook for community recognition. But you might want to use YouTube to provide that same community with direct information they might want to hear — especially when there’s more of it. 

Instagram might be the better choice when you want to showcase your happy client base interacting with your legal team. Maybe Instagram is also a good choice when showing off new renovations, a location change, or anything else more…picturesque. 

You can visit our website for more information on how lawyers approach social media. Use the site “search” feature to find specific pieces of information if you have any questions.

How To Approach Clients To Schedule New Meetings After Coronavirus Restrictions

Cases might be on the rise, but coronavirus restrictions are being lifted all around the country. That means clients will want to see your face again. Social media can be the perfect way to approach clients new and old in order to schedule those first face-to-face meetings in a long time. But some will need assurances that your law firm is being careful — and that means you need to actually be careful.

How do you coronavirus-proof your legal offices?

First and foremost, everyone working in the office should be wearing a mask at all times. These won’t prevent you from getting sick, but they can greatly reduce the opportunity for you to get someone else sick if you’re already infected but don’t know it.

Second, anyone who can work from home should be asked to do so. Enclosed spaces with lots of people provide the perfect incubator for this virus, so you want to make sure there are fewer people in that space.

Third, place plastic shielding between desks and make sure that everyone has easy access to hand sanitizer. Make sure surfaces are cleaned several times throughout the day, and sanitize the entire office overnight.

Before clients come to the office, let them know that you have a “no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service” policy. Sounds fair, right? You don’t want them getting you sick, either. Ask them to visit the hand sanitizer station before entering the building. Post signs about preventing the spread of germs, because many people will need that extra reminder to keep their hands away from their face.

Speaking of clients, make sure to only meet with those who absolutely require the face-to-face to conduct business. If electronic signatures and ten minutes on the phone are enough for some clients, then you don’t need to bring them into the office and expose everyone to greater risk. It’s not worth it.

How To Approach Social Media Campaigns During The Coronavirus Outbreak

Caution is the name of the game these days. The new coronavirus outbreak resulted in a gigantic worldwide question mark. This is something Americans have never experienced before. Because we’ve never experienced it before, we don’t know how anyone really feels about the pandemic that is infecting and killing more people each day than the day preceding it. This makes the building of social media campaigns especially difficult.

For example, you won’t want to alienate potential new clients — or ones who’ve been by your side for years — by saying or doing the wrong thing amidst this crisis. For some law firms, that means a few tips on how to get a client’s business through the outbreak with the least damage possible. For other law firms, it might mean silence.

The choice is really up to you — and your clients.

What do we advise during this outbreak? It can be a good time to approach potential new clients. The reason for this is simple: there will be a veritable tsunami of coronavirus-related litigation in the months and years to come. They will exist to fill the void of uncertainty left in our hearts and minds after this is over.

The world economy is teetering on the brink of collapse. Views on benefits, paid sick leave, rent, etc. are all changing seemingly in an instant. That means that this outbreak might represent the right time to give more than you take (when it comes to your employees).

Any social media campaign should make clients aware of potential pitfalls ahead, such as employees suing because they were forced to work while sick, a lack of sick leave when it was needed the most, wrongful termination, or an unsafe workplace. Legal entities should do their best to ensure potential clients have all the right information they need to run a smooth operation during one of the most chaotic eras in American history.

It doesn’t matter where you display this information. In fact, many of your advertisements — whether they appear on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn — should appear as public service announcements. “Advice” makes more sense than a sales pitch right now, and it will more likely net your business more new clients in the long-run anyway. 

Last but not least — if your own law firm can survive on a skeleton crew while most legal associates work from home or take time off, then it should. Remember, we’re all in this together. It’s our responsibility to mitigate as much of the damage from this outbreak as we can.

How To Use Social Media Effectively

We answer this question all the time — but not generally. We try to be more focused when discerning the many uses of social media, because law firms approaching our managers usually have a decent idea of what they might need or want. But even big firms or other businesses might be running under a few misconceptions about what is or isn’t possible using social media to communicate with customers and clients.

So we’ll start there.

Social media is all about communication. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are obviously the most popular tools for businesses to use. They often forget about other platforms like WordPress or other journal and blogging sites. How do we use these tools to communicate? We do it using information, often in the form of photos and video. These are the best ways to capture attention. Businesses can even use podcasts, which are taking off in a big way.

Social media can also be used as a way to showcase an opinion or testimony. A law firm’s website might provide cold, hard information and a handful of testimonies from happy clients, but social media is a better choice for businesses who would like to garner interest by relying on emotion over facts. You do that by selling stories and opinions instead of a product. 

Social media is also a great way to showcase or monitor a business’s brand. New businesses don’t always have an obvious path to success. Social media is a great way to try out new tactics. Not sure what kind of message you want your law firm to send? Try building a number of platforms on different social media websites and see which one works the best. When you have a good idea of where you want to go, you can nix the ones that didn’t work out and pivot toward the one that did.

Social media can help lawyers build relationships in non-traditional ways. It’s not always about the law firm, but the people who work in it. How do they interact with potential clients? Use social media to entertain the demographics of people whose business you would like the most. Did one of your associate’s adopt a puppy? It might seem silly, but…everyone loves puppies. Post an adorable video of the associate bringing that puppy home to his or her kids, and you’ve put your law firm in a more human light by relying on emotion. 

Social media is also a great place to advertise. You don’t always have to do this directly on your business’s page. Use the landing page to interact with the clients you already have. Use paid advertisements to bring new clients to that landing page!

Law Firms Are About To Absorb A Whole New Demographic

Have you heard about the efforts of SpaceX, Google, and Facebook to bring Internet to those regions of the world that haven’t yet gone online? SpaceX has made the biggest splash to date, having already begun launching dozens of satellites to make the dream a reality. But fewer people have actually begun to analyze the lasting consequences of this massive effort. Half the world is still offline. What happens when the people who live in those dark areas suddenly have access to the Internet?

Well, a lot of things are poised to happen all at once.

Africa is perhaps the darkest region of all, but many companies are investing significant resources into the continent’s future. Billions live there. Those people don’t always have access to high technology like we do here. That’s why they aren’t always educated. They soon will be. When that happens, new companies will open their doors in Africa, and the economy could see a lot of growth depending on how resources are allocated.

Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook, which obtain most of their revenue online, will see an immediate and enormous boon to their businesses.

For law firms who use social media, millions of new clients will appear all at once.

But there are still obstacles to these goals. For example, dictators who rule in Africa often limit Internet access as soon as it develops. You can expect to see regional conflicts in Africa increase exponentially in the years ahead. It would hardly be surprising if bigger world powers in Europe of the United States of America begin to insert themselves into those conflicts in an effort to drive business ventures. Money buys politicians, and politicians go to war on behalf of the people who got them elected.

Countries like Chad, the DR of Congo, Gabon, Sudan, and Zimbabwe all shutdown Internet connections. New tech will face more obstacles in the next few years in trying to circumvent the lack of connectivity, while citizens of these countries will have to wait just a little longer to get on social media, where they can meet business leaders all over the world and change their lives in the process.

The speed of the Internet when it does get implemented is another obstacle. Most areas of Africa don’t even have 4G yet, which means it’ll be many years until they begin to make the advances that our own providers are making today with the implementation of 5G across much of the country.

Google and Facebook would like to lay high-capacity underwater fiber-optic cables around Africa, which might help somewhat. But only time will tell.

Are The Golden Years Of Social Media Behind Us?

Recently, a wave of lawsuits has swept over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Many were aimed at the rampant dissemination of fake news in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, while others spawned from the growing problem of sexual harassment (sometimes controversially but conveniently squashed by nondisclosure agreements) in big tech companies. Luckily for the law firms that use social media to attract new clients, the lawsuits are mostly falling flat.

But is that a good thing in the long run? Are social media platforms gaining new users — or at least keeping old users interested? So far, it seems to be the case: Facebook reported a whopping 2.45 billion “active” monthly users, or those who logged in at least once during a thirty-day time period.

Trends, of course, describe changes over time by their very definition. Just because Facebook is keeping their users for now doesn’t mean they’ll hold on to them for much longer. And that’s an important thing to remember, since some of those lawsuits resulted from a spate of violence committed by terrorists.

Most of the lawsuits are somewhat absurd. AboveTheLaw described “one of the dumbest. The brain geniuses at Excolo Law convinced a client this would be a winning strategy: claim the shooting of some cops by a shooter in Dallas was Twitter’s fault because possibly the shooter though terrorist group Hamas was pretty cool.”

The lawsuit read: “Micah Johnson was radicalized by HAMAS’ use of social media. This was the stated goal of HAMAS. Johnson then carried out the deadly attacks in Dallas. Conducting terrorist acts in the United States via radicalized individuals is a stated goal of HAMAS.”

Naturally, the lawsuit — and 12 just like it — provided absolutely no material evidence to support the erroneous claim that the shooter was somehow linked to Hamas OR that Twitter somehow allowed Hamas feeds to influence users. Does Hamas have Twitter feeds?

Eric Goldman said that the court “expressly does not reach the Section 230 defense.”

The dismissal of that lawsuit read: “This case is the latest in a string of lawsuits that Plaintiffs’ lawyers have brought in an attempt to hold social media platforms responsible for tragic shootings and attacks across this country — by alleging that the platforms enabled international terrorist organizations to radicalize the attacks’ perpetrators.”

It concluded: “The Court dismisses this lawsuit with prejudice. Although the complaint here alleges additional facts not found in Pennie, the complaint nonetheless suffers from many of the same deficiencies discussed in Pennie. Plaintiffs here have not and after multiple attempts, clearly cannot connect Hamas to the Dallas shooting.”

The court essentially casually dismissed almost every aspect of that particular lawsuit. As mentioned, many others just like it have been dismissed as well. Now, we must wait and see how users react to these cases — and their expected outcomes.