Recently, when speaking with a group of lawyers about marketing on the internet, one lawyer said to me, “I’m afraid to enter into the world of social media because I think it will open the door to allow disgruntled clients or other naysayers to put bad things about me on the internet.”
My response to this is that you cannot prevent disgruntled clients or crazy people from posting negative reviews on the internet. Not participating in social media or other outlets on the internet cannot prevent this, and indeed, these kinds of bad reviews are a good reason why lawyers - particularly those in small firms or with solo practices - need to participate in social media and other online outlets.
Precisely because you cannot prevent those kinds of postings, and often once they are posted, the damage is done, even if the post is eventually taken down. But more often than not, they cannot be taken down unless the lawyer can prove that the posting is factually false – opinions are exempt. And if you don't participate, the only content about you on the internet will be controlled by others, and it is very likely that the message they put out about you will not be the message you want.
One of the only ways to counteract negative reviews or complaints is to flood the internet with positive content about you, whether that content is directly generated by you or is a result of collaboration with others online or through opportunities for clients and colleagues (where permitted by your jurisdiction’s ethical rules) to post positive comments about you and your work.
If you are not participating in social media and actively searching for information posted online about you, it will be nearly impossible for you to manage your online reputation. And the fact is that whether you participate directly or not, you do have an online reputation. Why not participate directly and make that reputation a result of your own words and actions, rather than the words and actions of others?
At the Massachusetts Super Marketing Conference last month in Boston, Conrad Saam, Director of Marketing for the lawyer rating site Avvo expressed a similar point - you cannot erase content on line. The best thing to do is to overcome it with good content that you control.
According to Saam, the worst thing you can do is make a big deal about it or "play the lawyer card" because usually that strategy blows up in your face, and the negative content "goes viral" and gets repeated over and over. Trying to suppress content on the web makes it proliferate more, and posting negative responses to negative comments on line only sends an additional negative message about you online.