Potential Clients Are Always Looking Over Your Shoulder — So Don’t Be a Douche Online

spam comments blog 300x200 Potential Clients Are Always Looking Over Your Shoulder — So Dont Be a Douche Online

On Gyi’s Better Blog Commenting post, Kyle Smith responded seriously to a joke comment about spamming blogs. I think he missed the joke, and when I responded that I think spamming blog comments makes you look like a douche, he revealed that “the douche-factor isn’t that much of a concern” because “I think that the average comment isn’t going to be seen by your clients … .”

Whoa there. It’s okay to be a douche if you don’t think your clients will discover it? Maybe that’s not what he meant, but that’s what he said.

Here’s better advice:

  1. Don’t be a douche. This is an important rule for life, not just blog comments.

  2. Assume your past/present/future clients will see whatever you post online. In other words, always behave as if potential clients are looking over your shoulder. Because they probably are.

  3. If #2 doesn’t do it for you, assume Redditors, bloggers with better PageRank than you have, and your colleagues will see whatever you post online. Because even if your clients don’t, chances are decent that someone else will call you out for being a douche if you act like one.

I don’t fully understand why so many people seem to think things they put on the Internet won’t come to light. Even Randi Zuckerberg, of all people, made that mistake the other day when she screwed up her Facebook privacy settings (LOL). (Then she responded as if she had a right to have everyone leave her alone on the Internet.) If you put it online, people will find it, even if you aren’t as well-known as a Zuckerberg.

I am regularly surprised by things I’ve put online that people find. I’ve tried to follow my own advice (including on privacy settings), so it’s nothing alarming. Just stuff I never expected to show up on searches or during casual browsing. But it does, and it’s foolish to think it won’t.

Murphy probably has a law for this, in fact. The less likely you think it is that someone will see something, the more likely they will. Which is why I think it is useful to always have potential clients, the ethics board, your best friend, etc., in mind when using the Internet. I once heard from a friend that a senior lawyer once told him never to send a letter unless he was comfortable with it showing up on the front page of the New York Times. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but you should use a similar rule for the Internet: never put anything online if you wouldn’t want it on the front page of Reddit.

Back to Kyle’s comment. I regularly get spam comments from people I assume are outsourced SEO consultants working for clueless or indifferent lawyers. They flatter, they misspell things, they sign their names as if they were the lawyer they work for. I don’t post them because I am too lazy, but there are plenty of bloggers who do. The marginal increase in SEO value you might get by spamming blog comments will be vastly outweighed by the destruction to your reputation that will follow a single post from Simple Justice or Popehat with your name in the title.

And, of course, spam comments probably aren’t worth it in the first place. I’m not an SEO expert, but I know a little bit, and I know it would take a pretty substantial effort to build up enough spam comments to boost your SEO more than a single well-written blog post that gets a natural link from a high-PageRank blog (like, say, Simple Justice or Popehat).

Besides, Google hates spam. It is constantly trying to figure out how to eliminate any advantage you might gain from low-quality posts, comments, or links. Why pollute your link profile with crap Google will one day find and penalize you for? Save yourself (and your reputation) the trouble, and focus on putting cool stuff online, instead.

And don’t be a douche. Never be a douche.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xiaozhuli/4442319130/)

Legal Ethics, Legal Marketing

  • http://www.HowToMANAGEaSmallLawFirm.com/ RJON ROBINS

    Yeah, it really sucks when someone who doesn’t even know you, fails to give you the benefit of the doubt and then says bad things about you online. Social media is supposed to be just that “social” with give & take and a friendly, generous spirit.

    But too many lawyers treat it like contract negotiation. And you’re absolutely right, too many really DON’T think that any of their clients, potential clients, friends or even their conscience, is going to see the way they treat others when separated by a computer or a discussion forum.

    Fortunately, I have found that the sort of people most of us probably prefer to be doing business with (i.e. the best clients), are able to see-through that sort of treatment for what it is.

    That’s why I always keep in mind the advice given to me years ago, by one of my mentors who also happened to be one of the most successful rainmakers I’ve ever met…and keep in mind this was before any of us ever heard of “social media”…he taught me:

    “Always pretend there’s a video camera recording you when you’re talking about someone else and not just a court reporter taking down the words. Then comport yourself as if you know they’re going to see the tape. That means your tone of voice, facial expressions and body gestures too. And that you’re going to have to explain all of it, to their mom.”

    I wonder how many online bullies would still talk so tough then?

    Happy lawyers, really DO make more money though so that’s good news for the rest of us :-)

  • http://www.kylesmithlaw.com/ Kyle Smith

    This is an interesting post and it proves Sam’s point of our prior discussion—you don’t know how widespread your comments may be viewed when you make them. I do think, however, that this post is somewhat discourteous to the Lawyerist’s commenters. I was trying to provide someone who asked a question in the comments with a genuine answer. Although, admittedly, I may have missed the joke. I would encourage any readers to view the original comments.

    It is unfortunate that clients might Google me now and immediately see my name and the word “douche” in the title of a post that opens with a discussion of my comments. The context of my conversation with Sam was whether spam comments that you pay for can harm your reputation with clients. I stand by the fact that they probably won’t and that the bigger concern is whether they help your search visibility (they probably don’t). I have never Googled someone and found their spam comments, even when I know they pay services to spam blogs with linkbacks. I was not encouraging people to make comments acting douchey or suggesting that you should go online and make douchey comments. That’s what anonymous Reddit accounts are for.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I wasn’t trying to ruin your search profile, which is why I didn’t link your name to anything. I also allowed for the possibility that you may not have meant your comment exactly how it came out.

      • Kyle Smith

        I appreciate that.

  • http://www.HowToMANAGEaSmallLawFirm.com/ RJon

    Kyle,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it. I think the sort of people you probably prefer to have as clients are smart-enough to form an opinion of you based on you whole body of work. I’ve had plenty of people who don’t even know me, have never done business with my company and who, to the best of my knowledge I’ve never even met them, but they seem to have created a cottage industry out of saying unflattering things about me.

    I have also enjoyed a few quiet laughs to myself when one of our members tells me they first discovered How To Manage A Small Law Firm because of one of those attacks, but they were smart enough to see through what was really going on.

    Do good. It really does come back to you. And give the rest of us the benefit of the doubt that we’re smart enough to do the same for you too, and everyone else who has ever been the victim of a smear campaign. Which I don’t even think Mr. Glover was attempting to smear you. I just think he likes to use the word “douche”.

    • Kyle Smith

      Thanks for the response, Rjon. I didn’t mean to suggest that Sam was smearing me in this post; he’s not. My only points were that: (1) it doesn’t seem like a good idea for the Lawyerist to make an entire post critical of a specific comment or commenter of the blog, and (2) the focus of the original conversation was about whether spam blog comments can hurt you, not whether you should go around the Internet acting like a douche.

      On the first point, it’s more a criticism of the managerial wisdom of making a post like this. In other words, if I were running a blog and someone made an attempt to meaningfully contribute to the discussion, I wouldn’t then make a post calling them out in a way that potentially makes them look bad or harms their reputation with clients or peers. It could cause the blog to lose a regular reader–one that may have purchased products from the blog’s advertisers or recommended the blog to other attorneys.

      On the second point, I just wanted to clarify the context a little. To add to that further, a paid-for spam comment, like what we were talking about in the original conversation, is usually gibberish or something along the lines of “Very informative, good post!” So, when we were talking about a comment being douchey, it was just the transparent act of spamming that was potentially douchey, not the content of the comment itself. This post makes it seem like I was saying: “It’s okay to say douchey things to people as long as your clients don’t know.” The ability of clients to find the comments is certainly an important factor in deciding whether to engage in this kind of campaign, but we were talking in the context of relatively harmless comments.

  • Turk

    The marginal increase in SEO value you might get

    Stop right there. There is no marginal value since comments are coded as “no follow.”

    In other words, page rank does not pass to a linked site or url in a comment. The benefit is zero. The costs if you are busted by a blogger, on the other hand, can be quite substantial.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Not all comments are nofollow, which is why some blogs are inundated with spam comments (well, more than others, anyway). I’m guessing there are lists of such blogs circulating in spammer communities.

      Then there are lots of people who don’t have any idea what nofollow means, so they go on trying to plant SEO spam anyway.

  • Turk

    Not all comments are nofollow

    Just the ones that have a page rank greater than 1?

    The most remarkable part about blog spam, is that there are people actually wasting time/money doing it when there is no benefit.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Oh, I agree. But there are a few decent-pagerank sites out there that haven’t nofollowed their comments. Bitter Lawyer was one (PR 3 or 4, at the time), before we took it over. And it was infested. I assume those links carried a decent value, unfortunately.