As the world becomes more connected, the value of trust, authenticity, and credibility is rising sharply. But who can you trust?
A recent Travelzoo study in the UK seems to indicate that 81% of vacation planners base choice of hotel on web reviews. However, it's been very well-known, for quite some time, that a significant number of online review sites contain fake reviews.
The truth is, the web provides an excellent platform for the unscrupulous. At least for now. However, this trend is rapidly changing. And in the end, to the trusted, go the spoils.
So, what does this mean for legal professionals? First, in my humble opinion, publishing or paying for, fake online reviews and testimonials is a clear violation of ethics rules (false and misleading statements). Second, even if you escape your state bar unscathed, the moment that your scheme is revealed, you have lost all credibility with your audience, your colleagues, and Google.
Google? While perhaps not nearly as important to many of us (despite the fact that an overwhelming number of lawyers sacrifice professional reputation to "get rankings") as our reputation to prospective clients, current clients, and peers, breaking trust online will eventually hurt your reputation with Google. Which means, you guessed it, lower rankings and less visibility.
Legal blog meister Kevin O'Keefe writes:
But as social media evolves -- as people learn to follow people they trust and more people share information via social media -- we're going to go with people we trust over search. Google knows this. As I blogged last month, social media is receiving higher priority in Google search results. LinkedIn knows this. That's why they're launching LinkedIn Today.
And so, for even those that "pray at the alter of Google", building trust remains of critical importance. Don't believe me? Ask Google.
And trust is one of those things that takes a very long time to build and a very short time to destroy.
So, while the allure to engage in practices that break trust may be enticing, it's simply not worth it. It's not worth your credibility, it's not worth your reputation, and it's not worth your law license.