Business development and marketing

Seven top tips on managing negative social media comments

If negative comments are made about your firm on social media, how can you manage the conversation to avoid lasting damage to your business? David Gilroy explains.

People talking with coloured speech bubbles above their heads

Maintaining your online reputation as a law firm is crucial. Understandably, reputation management is imperative in the legal sector, and when we see news stories of Twitter scandals and bad reviews, it can make us increasingly wary of what we do and how we would go about handling these situations.

When it comes to your social media presence, you must keep track of all conversations that are going on about your firm. This means you have to choose a selection of keywords to keep an eye on, such as: firm’s name; website address; services provided; names of senior lawyers; close competitors; and common expressions (eg '[firm name] was rubbish').

There are plenty of free social media monitoring tools you can use, such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite, MonitorThis and SocialMention. The beauty of these services is that you can see the homepages for all your social media profiles, whether that be Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s useful to set up alerts and searches so you’re constantly notified when one of your keywords crops up. This keeps you in the loop and ensures prompt responses.

Although this probably goes without saying (I hope!), post relevant content regularly on your social media profiles. This will keep your audience engaged and remind them that you’re a credible thought leader in your field and can be trusted. A good way to get your content out to a wider audience and to enhance your brand is to get other team members to post it on their personal LinkedIn pages. And keep an eye out, through your monitoring services, for any conversations about your industry that you can get involved in; get your name out there in a positive light.

What do I do if I get negative social media comments?

It can be difficult to recover from a social media scandal. But if you follow a few simple steps, you can help diffuse the situation and avoid any significant lasting damage.

The key is to get involved – if you receive a particularly grumpy tweet from someone, there’s nothing worse than ignoring it. Just ensure that your replies are speedy, well informed, pleasant and proactive. Below are my seven top tips for managing negative social media comments or conversations.

1. Respond ASAP

24 hours is a lifetime in social media time, so ensure there’s always someone on hand to respond straight away.

2. Own up

Address the problem, fully admit to your mistake, and be open and honest.

3. Don’t get angry

It can be easy to lose your cool when responding to a comment, especially if you do so instantly. If you can’t control your emotions, take a little time (but not too much!) to step back and collect your thoughts, or try to find someone more calm and circumspect to respond. And never reply after a drink of the alcoholic kind!

4. Don’t be patronising

You’re a law firm. Anyone who goes ‘up against’ you in a complaint or social media argument is going to have to be pretty sure about their grounds, seeing as you ‘do the law’ for a living. Although you may know more than your audience about a specific legal matter, it’s important to be personable and understanding. Put that legal jargon away. Argue your case clearly, concisely and accurately.

5. Take it offline

Try to get the conversation out of the public domain as soon as possible; offer to phone the person, for example.

6. Be proactive

Don’t let all your energy online go into managing the crisis – keep posting positive things on your social media platforms, too. Social media is not there just to promote your firm every now and again. It’s there to build and maintain relationships.

7. Take stock

Analyse what went wrong and use what you’ve learnt from your mistakes to build a better campaign next time.

A longer version of this article, also covering online review websites, was first published in the November 2016 edition of Managing for Success, the magazine of the Law Management Section.

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