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Leveraging social media for trial strategies

November 5, 2013 // Law, Social Media

engagementBy Amy Singer, Ph.D., Diana Greninger and Kemberlee Bonnet

In last week’s article (Using social networking during voir dire, October 22, 2013), we described how people’s social network information is useful in jury de-selection. Online social networking sites are now being considered to be the world’s largest focus group and this can be leveraged in a variety of ways. This week we will discuss how information gathered from social media websites is also beneficial to attorneys during trial proceedings and in forming a presentation strategy.

Social networks provide an attorney with access to information about people they would not otherwise obtain.  This type of monitoring is becoming ever more important due to the social media-induced phenomenon of abandoned social restrictions in which people share information that they normally would not share – information that reveals biases.

Knowing biases in the members of a potential jury pool in trial proceedings provides the attorney with information for how he or she should position specific arguments during trial. Data mining of social media information can enhance the content of analyses that are provided to attorneys by trial consultants. For example, social media sites can be used as a means for shadow jury “audience gathering” in that the consultant has more control of their audience selection, having access to much detailed information about the individual shadow juror.

In today’s technological environment, high publicity criminal cases (think Casey Anthony, Jodi Arias, George Zimmerman, to name a few) are being televised and/or broadcasted online, often with a chat window beside the video. Viewers are encouraged to log in with their Twitter or Facebook account and comment on what they are seeing and hearing.  Not only are we able to get people’s thoughts immediately as proceedings are happening, we are also able to view their social media profiles, their likes and their interests.

With this incredible technology, we have learned that people’s comments generally fall under one of six categories: observations, questions, emotions, relating, judgments and game changers.   These comments, in turn, help shape trial strategy.  Observations of attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants and witnesses help us determine how they should dress and what mannerisms appeal to or repel potential jurors.  Questions guide what information should be presented and at what time.  Emotions tell us people’s unwavering affectively driven responses. Relating tell us what kinds of jurors can become leaders (influencers) in the deliberation room.  Judgments tell us how people are perceiving information. Finally, game changers tell us what might make someone change their mind and favor your side (pivotal points).

However, not every case is a televised high publicity case, so you might be asking yourself: how can you use this knowledge on any regular case? By running a SimulJury – a simultaneous online audience during a focus group.  While running a traditional mock trial or focus group, you can now take advantage of today’s technology and simulcast the proceedings over a secured channel to an online audience, who will provide you with the same type of information the millions of viewers provided during the Casey Anthony trial, for example.  We have found that the information gathered through the use of SimulJuries has more external validity than a simple focus group has on its own.  We can’t be sure as to why, but our best guess is that the online audience is able to let their guard down knowing their responses are anonymous and sending their opinions from the comfort of their own homes.

The result: instantaneous feedback about proceedings, something an attorney never gets during a trial.  Our clients often tell us they cannot read the jury during trial proceedings and would do anything to be a fly in the wall in the deliberation room.  Now they can.  By running the information by enough people, with the right controls in place, you are able to get an idea as to how things will play out in court, what information to add or abort and how to present the information the jury needs to hear to find in your favor.

Some attorneys desire a more structured systematic means of social media data and data management. Wizpor® offers data mining of social networks and customized analyses specific to an attorney’s criteria. Analyzed and interpreted data are presented to the attorney and organized on a customized analytic dashboard. Wizpor® also provides services such as password-protected and customized propriety networks for effective engagement. These features require custom analyses, only offered by Wizpor®.

Technology indeed has changed and enhanced the way that attorneys conduct trial proceedings.  Online social networks are highly beneficial in extracting significant information related to juror bias, attitudes and sentiment. Many attorneys are taking advantage of this information and applying it in trial proceedings and in presentation strategy by leveraging specific points of information about bias and attitudes within individual active jurors.


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