There is often a question from attorneys that ask about the negative exposure the firm will experience in social media if the advice they provide goes wrong.
To illustrate how this can go bad, I’m going to tell you about my experience with a car service centre that I feel charged excessively for the work done on my car. To cut a long story short, after the service I got comparative quotes from other service centres in the area and found out I was overcharged. I made an appointment with the owner/manager and the sales manager to voice my concerns face to face. That ended with both parties feeling they were correct and nothing was resolved other than realising how each side felt about the matter. I then emailed and telephoned often asking them to reconsider – nothing changed.
Now to the point that is relevant, I decided to tell my side of the tale on Facebook and Twitter. I picked a few bad reports from Hello Peter (great site to help you resolve issues with suppliers www.hellopeter.com) and added my comments about these poor people that have been wronged by the service centre – nothing that was derogatory or in poor taste, just highlighting the issues again, but in the social media space – on their Facebook page and also copying them in on my tweets. After the first day, the owner/manager came back to me, as his marketing department had told him to sort it out, and offered me a third of what I had claimed. My answer was that it was not worth the enjoyment I would get from helping the others who were also wronged. The second day of my social media reporting, resulted in another phone call accepting my full claim (which was extremely fair I thought) and they arranged payment into my account. I did post on these social media platforms and Hello Peter that the issue had been resolved.
In short, the social media platform gave me, the consumer, a great place to be heard and for the debate, if they so wished to be aired publically for all to witness. A shock to the service centre I’m sure, but in the end, I think both parties were happier – me because I ended up paying a fair price and them because they had me off their back and if you look at their site now, the social media tale has a happy ending as they heard my plea and corrected the problem – which looks good to others wanting to use their garage.
What has this got to do with an attorney firm?….Nothing other than to show you how the social media network can turn around and bite you if you do not manage the forum properly. The above could have been stopped a number of times before the social media saga, then once in social media, by acknowledging my concerns and taking it offline to discuss, resolve it and then to report back to social media that it was sorted.
Right…what about the attorney posting comments or advice and then being held liable as the information caused problems?
First off, your livelihood is derived from your advice; I really doubt that as lawyers you are going to dish out legal advice without the opportunity to bill for your time.
Second, your experience, knowledge and common sense tell you that you should not just offer people legal advice where you could be held liable, so I would imagine you would not do this in a social network either.
Third, if you really are concerned about you or other attorneys in your firm posting comments that are going to end up in court, make sure your disclaimers are easy to find on your social media profiles and web sites. If you know your comment is border-line, post a link to your disclaimer.
Fourth, not every Tom, Dick or Harriett should be allowed to post as your firm, about your firm or to your clients. You should have a dedicated person who is responsible for your firm social media, and if something needs a partner decision, your escalation should be quick and effective. Having to get the “OK” from more than one partner is a disaster waiting to happen.
If a client or prospect has something bad to report about your firm or service, it is far better that it is known and dealt with than having the negativity fester and spread without your knowing.