by Kirsten Hodgson
Image courtesy Danilo Rizzuti @ freedigitalphotos.net
If your current marketing efforts are working, why should you even consider using social media in your professional services firm?
It's a good question.
Here are three compelling reasons why lawyers, accountants and other professionals should at least think about it:
1. Managing your reputation - yes, it's important to know what, if anything, people are saying about you, your firm or your service online and it's also important that all your online profiles clearly position you, but a focused approach to using social media can also help you to build your reputation.
Regularly sharing content (both that you, and others, have generated) that your clients, prospective clients and referrers will find valuable and that relates to your area(s) of practice, or industry specialisation helps to position you as an information source.
Helping others by answering their questions or contributing to discussions enables you to begin to build relationships with prospective clients you may not otherwise have met.
If you focus on a particular area, and combine what you do offline with what you do online, you have a better chance of positioning yourself in a certain space. For example, if you've presented at a conference you can share that presentation via social media or turn it into a blog post, article or video (and again share these via social media). You can invite comments to try to engage others. If you want to build your reputation then why wouldn't you use all the available channels open to you that reach those people you want to target? You just need to find out which social media platforms they use and focus on these.
And if you want to monitor what people are saying about you, you can set up google alerts for free or can choose from a multitude of other monitoring and measurement tools out there – Ken Burbary's Wiki of social media monitoring solutions provides a comprehensive summary of what's available currently.
2. Research and planning – if you're going to a new business meeting or you know there is an important RFP coming up for review, monitor social platforms. Viewing someone's LinkedIn profile, their recent activity and their company's activity can provide some really good insights. Again you can use monitoring software (for those in law firms check out Manzama) or you can go into relevant social media networks and search there. For example, LinkedIn's Signal is brilliant for this.
If you are doing some key client, industry sector, practice group or personal planning then searching the social media platforms can be really helpful. From finding out who you don't know within an organisation but need to, to working out how to get in front of those [directors] you want to target over the next 12 months; from understanding how your clients are using social media, to what their key focus is, social media platforms will quickly give you many of these answers. Often you'll be able to plan a way forward too, using your connections and/or groups to connect with key decision makers and influencers you need to reach.
3. Boosting the success of your planned marketing initiatives - social media can help you increase your reach. For example, if you are running a seminar you can let your network know, share the details via relevant groups, tweets or your Facebook page. You can ask others to share this information on your behalf and include a link to your registration page, to attract more attendees.
If you've put together an article or blog post you can do the same thing. This can help you to amplify your messages. However, bear in mind that social media is about networking and engaging and, while it's fine to share information and content that others will find valuable, you also need to help others and engage with them rather than solely pushing your own messages out.
A focused and intelligent approach to using social media for business development and marketing purposes, that's integrated with your other activities can also help you generate business enquiries and build a pipeline of leads that you can then nurture. Ultimately you can get new work…but it takes time, consistency and commitment. This is another post in itself and one that I'll tackle one day…
Why else do you think professionals and professional services firms should consider integrating social media in what they do?
Or do you disagree entirely?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.