If you do not manage your online reputation, someone else will.
Every second there are 63,000 internet searches. Every day there are 5.5 billion searches. Ninety-four percent of people only look at the first page of Google Search results. Therefore, the content that appears on the internet when a law firm or attorney is searched is critical to continued growth and success.
Presenters Sameer Somal, CEO & co-founder of Blue Ocean Global Technology, and Anthony Lopes, managing partner of Lopes Law and founder of The Self Made Strategies Podcast, provided effective tips on how lawyers, law firms and their clients can take action to improve their online presence during the January 16 CLE program, “Introduction to Online Reputation Management for Attorneys and Clients.”
Ethical and Effective Communications
Somal noted that we live in a time of digital revolution. Professor Richard Foster, a lecturer from the Yale School of Management, has observed that the average lifespan of a company in the S&P 500 has gone from 67 years in the 1920s to 15 years today.
Legal tech is growing faster than most other industries. Mobile access and improved user experience will fuel growth. As such, attorneys must adapt to changing norms when communicating with clients and marketing their expertise.
NYSBA’s Commercial and Federal Litigation Section report on Social Media Ethics Guidelines for Lawyers states, “Indeed, a lawyer cannot be competent absent a working knowledge of the benefits and risks associated with the lawyer’s use of social media.”
“We have to think about how we communicate with our clients, ethically but also efficiently,” said Lopes. “As we shift to a more client centric model, we have to be focused on how we can maintain our ethical standards but also grow with the industry. We have to be more flexible and offer customer-focused products.”
Bad Google Review, Now What?
The Research Intelligence Group’s recent Attorney Selection Research Study found that 76 percent of adults who have looked for an attorney in the past year have used online resources during the process. This includes Facebook and Instagram, as well as sites such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer.
Attorneys must pay attention to their Google reviews in today’s world, particularly if an unwarranted bad review occurs. The emergence of social media allows negative comments to be circulated among large numbers of internet users. Repair work must begin immediately if you receive an unfavorable or defamatory review.
“It hurts when a client posts a negative review, especially when it’s not your fault,” said Lopes. “You have to be cautious. It’s an opportunity for you to show the world how you deal with a negative response and conflict.”
Lopes advised for attorneys to consider apologizing to the client for feeling that way, but also to consider reiterating to the client that you are willing to find a resolution that helps the client feel like they have been made whole. The first place to start is by taking the discussion offline, while showing that you care about your client relationships and outcomes.
Lopes cautioned for attorneys to use discretion and not to disclose any client information in your response.
“Picture it like posting upon the screens of Times Square,” said Lopes.
Somal added that customers value interacting with businesses and service providers with a positive online rep.
“By actively monitoring your brand and rep, you can prevent adverse news or negative commentary from influencing business decisions,” said Lopes.
What You Can Do
Lopes noted that people engage more with personas than brands. As an example, Elon Musk has more than 30 million Twitter followers, whereas the Tesla company he co-founded has just under 5 million followers.
“Create a volume of positive information about you or your firm that you can share and push to search engines,” said Lopes. “Awards and rankings are not as important as online reviews.”
Attorneys should consistently post positive, high-quality blogs that share how your legal practice is creating value.
“Helping people is a key pillar of a positive digital presence,” said Lopes.
Somal also advised attorneys to allocate resources for their communications and marketing efforts. A positive reputation management and crisis budget is important to communicate effectively. Having a mobile-responsive website is key for business development.
“It’s a simple thing but it’s the foundation of your strategy,” said Somal. “Your online reputation is a strategic asset. Use your online reputation to enhance your offline marketing.”