Welcome to our SAQ Article Series. An SAQ—or “should ask question”—are the questions we wish law firms would ask.
It is inevitable that referrals will continue to go online to find more information about the attorney or law firm that they were referred to before they contact them.
We see the same behavior in every other market. Think of the last time that someone referred a product or restaurant to you. Did you immediately make a purchase or visit the restaurant or did you first go online to find more information?
I have a friend that I’ve known since we were kids. We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to school together, he was the best man at my wedding. Needless to say, he knows all of my likes and dislikes, especially when it comes to books and movies. Recently, he recommended a book to me that he just finished and told me that I’d not be able to put it down until I was done. I thanked him and what did I immediately do?
I pulled out my phone and read reviews from strangers on Amazon.
Why would I disregard my friend’s recommendation in favor of strangers on the internet?
When we step back and look at why we tend to trust strangers more than friends, it comes down to our personality traits. In psychology, they use the Big 5 Personality Traits—Openness, Agreeableness, Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Conscientiousness—to describe people. Many people are high in 2 or 3 of the traits and either low or moderate in the other two.
When we take a look at generational traits in regard to the Big 5, we see the reason why people trust strangers. In general, both Millennials and Gen X have high Openness and Agreeableness traits. In a study by Markus Freitag and Paul C. Bauer, “Personality Traits and the Propensity to Trust Friends and Strangers”, they found that individuals who are high on Openness and Agreeableness tend to trust stranger’s opinions, oftentimes seeing good underlying intentions and trust in them, especially since there is no data to compare them to.
Interestingly though, Millennials and Gen Xers don’t trust friends or family as much because of their history with that person. There have just been too many times that their friends or family has recommended something that didn’t work for you. The stranger, on the other hand, has not led them astray in the past.
Protecting Your Referrals with Online Reviews
Obviously, gaining more positive reviews online will help protect your referrals. But how many do you need? What average rating should you have? Where do you get them?
In a Brightlocal survey based on data collected in 2017, 46% of people say that a business with a higher number of reviews compared to their competition would influence their decision to contact or patronize a local business. This is up 11% from 2016.
When we focus on the number of reviews for your firm, quite simply, you want to have more than your competition. I usually recommend getting twice as many reviews as your local competitors.
The quality of reviews matters as well. If you have nothing but 1 and 2-star ratings, the likelihood of people choosing to retain your legal services is extremely slim.
In the same Brightlocal survey, 49% of consumers said they need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business.
That isn’t to say that a negative review or two is bad. In fact, having a few negative reviews seems to legitimize your law firm. If your law firm has 50 reviews and every one of them is a 5-star rating, it looks fake to consumers. Truth is, people are pretty understanding and seem to actually seek out bad reviews to get a more holistic look at the business.
While people buy on emotion, they like to justify with facts. Therefore, reviews are a great way to validate any purchase we make. From buying a new book, a car, or a house, we want to see the flaws so that we can rationalize our purchase. If the negative outweighs the positive then people overwhelmingly will pass. It’s not just in the items or services we buy, but in the company we keep. We do the same thing to people.
The choice of which attorney someone will choose to call for their legal need is never set in stone, even if they were referred. Having positive reviews helps validate their choice. Hearing what other people have to say about you helps remove previous bias, and can even create a positive bias in your favor.
Using Social Media to Protect Your Referrals
You may be skeptical of social media, especially newer social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Don’t worry, they won’t bite.
I always get asked, “what social media site should I use?”
The answer is quite simple: the site your clientele uses most frequently.
If you are a business or commercial litigation attorney, your clientele might be on LinkedIn more than the average market. If you are an estate planning attorney, Facebook is the place to be.
Not sure of where your clients are? It’s a pretty safe bet that they have a Facebook account, so that is where I would start.
The most important aspect of social media is just having a presence. Set up a business account for your firm and update it with your basic information. When people search for you online, they may use Facebook to check your business hours or address, and you want them to know you are an active business.
Taking it a step further would be using your social media profiles to express your firm’s brand.
Now, how we typically see law firms use social media is not what we would recommend. Social media sites like Facebook are not a place just to share your blog posts about legal topics. No one on Facebook (except other attorneys) cares about the latest changes to bankruptcy law in your state. If your idea of being on Facebook is posting your blogs and telling people to check them out, you are in for a rude awakening.
The truth is, agencies like ours, we can’t execute your social media for you. Social media has to be genuine, meaning that YOU have to be the one to put in the work.
It’s simple. What is social media? It’s a place for people to connect and share stories, ideas, pictures, and stay connected. That is a very natural human phenomenon that can’t be faked.
People go on Facebook to see what their family and friends are up to, look at pictures, and see what is new. Your social media presence has to be the same. Connect with people who have similar interests. This is your chance to humanize your law firm, show that you are made of people.
Your social media profile should support the good things your previous clients are saying about you to their friends and family. Chances are, they’re recommending you because you delivered excellent customer service and a good outcome. There’s a better way to express this than through bland blog post links.
The internet has drastically changed the behavior of referrals to your firm. But, you can prepare for this change in behavior by making sure you’re giving a potential client what they’re looking for.
Curious to see if your law firm is protecting your referrals online?
Download our Protect Your Referrals checklist to get started.