Some Comments On Comments

(And Why Law Firms Should Embrace Them)

Ah the comments section!

The wild west of internet marketing.
A variable that cannot be predicted, yet must be accounted for.

Attorneys often fear that a negative comment will derail a well-crafted marketing message, laying waste to their best-laid marketing plans. It’s no surprise they want nothing to do with them.

But the way attorneys react to and interact with comments (or don’t) can actually determine whether a comment becomes a liability or a benefit to their firms. You see, the real value of comments has almost nothing to do with the people leaving them. [tweet this]

Who Are Comments For?

When you wonder if comments are worth the risk, remember that the number of people stepping up to the podium is proportionally very small compared to your readership. Even though there’s a wide net of potential influence, any back-and-forth you participate in isn’t about winning the argument. It’s not even about the nature of the conversation. It’s about swaying the happenstance visitor who stumbles upon the discussion in the weeks, months, or even years to come.

Think of comments like a public debate or even a juried trial. The people doing all the talking aren’t trying to change each other’s minds. They’re trying to influence the spectators and convince them to return an opinion in their favor. In the online world, the “jury” is everyone who takes a moment to read the comments and see how the attorney responds.

Be Not Afraid of Negative Comments

Now I’m sure some of you are still skeptical and worried about negative comments. From a marketing point of view, those are the ones that everyone frets over.

And yes, negative comments can certainly do damage in isolation – though not always. In my experience, attorneys and law firms are often too quick to shy away or turn the other cheek when faced with a public complaint. But the big question isn’t whether to respond, it’s how, and more importantly to whom do you respond?

In that case, remember that the reason you’re responding isn’t to change the mind of the person who spoke up, but the minds of those who didn’t. Address the challenge, but do so in a way that proves your mettle and displays your tact.

A Case Study in Dealing with Negativity 

In our recent white paper on social media, we explain that one of the main reasons people seek out businesses on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other interactive, social platforms is because they want to learn more about whether they emotionally resonate with a business. Particularly with businesses like law firms, people increasingly want to know what the client experience is like.

In essence, legal consumers want to see interactions first hand, and there’s almost no better place to demonstrate this than in comments. A smart, measured and tactical response to even the most mean-spirited comment can be powerful. It is an almost perfect opportunity to get in front of people who are close to make a purchasing decision, but want to validate that they like the firm.

Consider this interaction between some negative commenters and an immigration attorney that shared a video advertisement on social media:

Blog_083116_InLine_Comments

It’s an understatement to say that many of the comments in the thread were … challenging. But, the law firm was exceedingly disciplined in responding to both positive and negative comments, and staying on message to their brand. (In case it’s not clear, the firm’s response is highlighted in yellow.)

It seems unlikely that the firm changed a lot of the negative commenter’s minds, but the ad and follow-up post were very effective nevertheless. The post received 128 likes, numerous shares and had a notably low Cost-Per-Click. In short, the negative activity didn’t lead to negative engagement and click-thru signals.

The people who were responsive to the firm’s core message seemed to respond positively, if not vocally, to the way the business conducted itself under fire.

An Opportunity That Should Not Be Missed

I’ve worked with numerous clients who have received negative comments like those shown above. Their gut reaction was usually to delete the comments completely and it’s not hard to understand why. But then and now, in the vast majority of cases, that initial response is wrong.

Think of it this way: As an attorney, you create some content for your firm (an ad, a blog post or a social post) and as luck would have it, some of the people who read your content want to keep on reading. This is the mindset people are likely in when they go into a comments section. You’ve sparked their interest, and they want more.

As a business, your response to a comment, good or bad is an opportunity to provide more material for that primed audience. What matters at that point isn’t whether you change the minds of the commentariat. It’s how you impact the third-party viewer who was interested enough in your original piece to stick around and scan the comments. Those people are the ones you should think about most. They’re the folks most likely to be moved closer to a conversion by your strong, smart response.

That’s a marketing opportunity that doesn’t exist very often, and shying away from comments of all kinds is to give that opportunity away.

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