A few weeks ago the Casey Anthony verdict was handed down and people across the nation voiced their opinions online. Twitter exploded, Facebook went haywire and people from California to New York, and everywhere in between, seemed to have a take on whether or not the jury rendered the correct verdict. Justice or legal failure aside, what most people missed was the role her defense team said social media played in the courtroom and how it should impact planning and ongoing marketing campaigns.

It’s being said that the defense team for Casey Anthony would monitor 40,000 blogs, chat rooms and message boards for conversations about the trial and then incorporate that sentiment into their defense strategy. While it’s unclear what percentage any of this played in the final verdict, it’s clear that the notion of crowdsourcing sentiment in order to create a strategy on the fly worked. The notion here is that the bloggers and conversations being monitored online were representative of what the jury may be thinking about the direction the trial was headed. Pretty smart move, considering that while there are early adopters of technology, the numbers don’t lie – a lot of people are using social media to voice their opinions.

What’s interesting is the initial reaction from the defense co-counsel who, presumably not used this technique before, said, and I quote –‘Do we really need to do that?’??”

Sound familiar? I’m sure you’ve heard this before when ongoing monitoring and responding has been suggested — or worse, when Legal puts the handcuffs on and won’t let you respond.

The defense team combed through negative comments that they felt needed to be addressed.

“I didn’t want to hear the good stuff,” she said. “We needed to give the jury enough weapons to bolster their opinions. I didn’t want to be singing cowboy music to someone who wants to sing opera.”

While I do disagree with the “good stuff” piece – it’s important to know who your advocates are – understanding and acknowledging the negative conversations online can help your campaigns succeed. Think of it like going into a football campaign with a set game plan and not making any adjustments – it’s be unthinkable to play your concussion-prone quarterback again after he gets knocked out. Having your head in the game is what makes campaigns work. A wonderfully wise client once quoted Thomas Edison by saying that “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” And doing ongoing monitoring during campaigns is hard work – it requires weekly status calls that go beyond reporting impressions and media placements, but one that challenges teams to think of how to continually optimize or recommend a change in the direction of the program.

That being said, in the case of the Casey Anthony trial — much like some other social media campaigns that try and take all of the credit for the success of a brand — it’s not always all about the online chatter:

Another Miami criminal defense attorney, Mark Eiglarsh, gives trial consultants and their use of social media some credit for the defense win, but thinks the lack of evidence and the jury’s reasonable doubt was the overwhelming reason.

“There’s no question that all of those things — social media, Twitter, all of it — are valuable, but at the end of the day, they could only prosecute with what they had,” he said. “I’m sure the guy who sold Jose his suits will take some credit too, and some might say the prosecutor’s bullying affected jurors. But first and foremost is always, is there sufficient proof to tip the scales?”