Whether you blog, keep a Twitter account or post videos to YouTube, you are creating a community with your law firm social media efforts. This may not be your intention, but it’s what will happen. And those communities must be treated with respect.

A public radio station where I live airs a three-hour morning show on Saturdays and Sundays that covers the local arts and culture scene. The show takes a broad approach to this mandate, and any given weekend morning will offer stories offering gardening tips, interviews with local artists and chats with guest chefs.

The show has a very loyal following, and this became all the more apparent when the host created a Facebook page. It quickly became a focal point for listeners, who post a constant stream of comments and updates throughout the show and during the week.

Then something interesting happened. The host of the show missed a weekend. Then another. And another. The show had capable fill-in hosts, but nothing was said about the reason for the beloved regular host’s absence. The listeners on Facebook, however, were not so silent. The page erupted in updates and comments asking about the host and where she was. The fact that her absence coincided with a five-week political program that temporarily took the place of the last hour of the Saturday show did not help. Rumors began to circulate on the page. Conspiracy theories were hatched. Was the show being canceled? Did the host know something the listeners did not?

Only after several weeks of this went by did a representative of the station come onto the Facebook page and explain that the host was on an extended leave of absence and would hopefully be returning soon. This was too little, too late. The response to this was almost uniformly negative. After several more updates from the station and the fill-in hosts regarding the regular host’s status the Facebook page has slowly returned to normal. But there was a lot of goodwill expended to get back to this place.

The lesson for law firm social media here is that you can’t merely create a Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. … and ignore the community you create. Social media is a two-way street, and this has its pros and cons. Cared for properly, the communities you create can amplify your messages and gain you broader awareness. But it’s imperative that you respect these communities. The consequences of not taking the feelings and needs of your social media communities seriously can be dire.