Online Reviews: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The real cost of getting client reviews
Online reviews are an essential component of any digital marketing campaign. Positive client reviews create what is known as social proof. Social proof or informational social influence “is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation.” The idea is that if something has been accepted or liked by others, then more people will be motivated to use that product, try that business or use that service. In addition to reviews, social proof can be offered by trusted industry leaders recommending a service or product, testimonials or even social media followers. A large percentage of people go to yelp before trying a new restaurant. Consumers regularly rely on google reviews before purchasing a product. It can be tempting to solicit positive reviews by whatever means necessary. The problem is that it could get you in big trouble.
Client Reviews: The Good
As we mentioned, client reviews offer social proof that your business is well-liked and that you are good at what you do. As attorneys, word-of-mouth has been an essential component to getting new clients. You do good work for your client; they tell others, you get new clients. Enter the digital world and an ultra-competitive market. Word-of-mouth referrals are no longer enough to keep most firms afloat. You must have a robust online presence and a comprehensive digital marketing campaign to compete. Even if you are getting old school word-of-mouth referrals, those prospective clients are still going online. The original personal recommendation may have gotten them to your website, but the social proof will be what makes them give you a call.
Online Reviews: The Bad
When asking clients to leave reviews, or even when you don’t ask, you run the risk of receiving a negative review. It could be a legitimate client who feels that you performed less-than-adequate work for them. It could be a competitor (which brings a whole other set of ethical concerns). It could even be a disgruntled ex-employee or girlfriend or anybody with a keyboard. The internet offers anonymity and while review sites such as Yelp, AVVO and Google are working hard to stop fake reviews, they still exist. If you do receive a negative review, you need to take steps to address it. Responding immediately out of frustration or anger is never a good idea, but you do want to take time to issue a rational response. If you feel that an actual client did not leave the review, you can petition the site to have it removed.
And Now… The Ugly
Attorneys have to be very careful when dealing with online reviews. There are definite ethical considerations in soliciting client reviews that can not only get your highly sought after positive reviews removed from a review website but can also get you in hot water with the state bar association. Most Rules on Professional Conduct prohibit offering any money in exchange for reviews or endorsements unless it is marked as a “paid” endorsement. Some ban it altogether. Review sites have started to take action as well. Google recently removed nearly 100 positive reviews solicited from an attorney who offered free zoo tickets as an incentive.
That being said – we in no way want to discourage you from getting online reviews. They are an essential part of your online footprint. They can serve a crucial role in getting new clients and are a great way to establish your firm as an industry leader. We only caution against an all-or-nothing strategy. Do good work, have a reliable system for closing out case files and asking for reviews. The rest is easy. Well, not easy, but worth the effort.
Learn more about the importance of social proof from Amicus Media Group. We are a full-service legal marketing firm. Our network of media relationships is unparalleled. We will work directly with you to develop a customized ad campaign to get you more cases at less risk. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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