It is no secret that social media offers a world of opportunity, from simple communications to sophisticated marketing. Sometimes, however, those opportunities are best left undiscovered, as one law firm found out all too well.
Most of us will look at the message above, perhaps screwing our faces slightly or gently shaking our heads. On the other hand, some will see opportunity, as was presumably the case of the unnamed social media user speaking on behalf of Sheffield’s Broad Yorkshire Law on Tuesday. The tweet came just moments after reports of an accident on the Smiler ride at Alton Towers theme park, resulting in several serious injuries.
Within hours the tweet was broadly criticised by other social media users and found its way onto the Mail Online. Also included in the article were a selection of other tweets posted by the firm over the past few months, including timely references to Nigel Farage and a curious tweet offering services to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, had they been unable to agree on a name for the Royal baby (#divorce).
As with many stories on the Mail Online, the comments section provided a dark insight into the public’s prevailing psyche, and this was no exception. Most of the comments focused on the transgressing firm, which deleted the tweet and issued an apology professing that it would ‘never try to profit in such a way from such a terrible accident’.
Others were more wide-ranging: ‘Ambulance chasing pond life’, ‘callous and insensitive’, ‘IDIOTS SICKOS’, ‘at least rats and vultures serve a purpose’, and ‘greedy lawyers are ruining Britain’ – you get the idea.
I was reminded of hearing Andrew Twambley, founder of InjuryLawyers4U, speaking at a conference on the personal injury consortium’s marketing strategy in March: ‘You need to be first in line before the blood even dries.’
In a world where news is reported first and fastest on social media, will tweets such as this become more acceptable and should they?
Social media can be used by firms and lawyers in a positive way, but for every good example there are any number of careless, ill-informed or poorly-judged messages posted in the public domain.
In only a short time the profession has gone from having a zero advertising policy to what seems like an unregulated, free-for-all on television, in the press, and online. Whether the profession should be self-regulating in this regard, or governed more tightly by the Law Society or Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), is open to debate, but perhaps that debate should start now.
The next time you consider writing a tweet, responding to a message or even commenting on a story, we must all remember the obligations we have to our firms and our profession as well as to ourselves.
Of course, many more people will now have heard of Broad Yorkshire Law, which raises the age-old question: is there any such thing as bad publicity?
This article first appeared in the Solicitors Journal and is reproduced with kind permission
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/95142644@N00/258946973″>Rita, Queen of Speed</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>