by Kirsten Hodgson
If you could only give one piece of advice to a professional looking to use social media for lead generation what would it be and why?
I posed this question in the LinkedIn group: Social media for lead generation in professional services firms, which garnered some great responses.
So, for any of you wondering how you can leverage social networks to grow your practice, here are some top tips from various group members.
Get the rest of your online presence right first
“Social media is a magnifying glass on your business.” says Gihan Perera, ”People might find you first on social media, but then they’ll want to follow you in other areas – e.g. blog, newsletter, Web site – to really connect with you before deciding to do business with you. If you don’t get the other things right first, your social media efforts will merely magnify those weaknesses. But if you do get those things right, social media can help to amplify those strengths.”
Ensure you have a website with lead-generating tools in place
Julie South advises all professionals to make sure they have a website first “BEFORE you jump into any social media space…it does need to be current and it MUST have lead-generating tool(s) in as many places as appropriate”
This is vital if you are to build your contact database and manage the risks of having your online presence in third-party owned properties.
“…all the SM spaces (except YouTube) require people to be members (which means you’re excluding many potential customers who don’t play in the same space). If you’ve got all your activity happening in one of these *free* spaces and they decide to change the rules and make free suddenly become beyond-what-you’re-prepared-to-pay, what would you do then?…What’s your Plan B to put into action without missing a beat? [If you've got a website already working in tandem with your SM activity this would happen [almost] seamlessly].”
She goes on to say “…building a list (of contacts) is pretty much impossible within each SM space: the only way you can connect with people is within each space…which means your message needs to be repeated across all SM spaces to be heard (time consuming)…AND growing / building a database within any space is damn hard.”
Produce content your audience will find valuable on a regular basis
If you’re not already doing so, you might want to consider blogging, says John Grimley as an active blog will enable a professional to “consistently demonstrate his or her expertise.” He also recommends identifying “potential clients and reach out to them where you have the ability to be of assistance. Whether it’s help them achieve a commercial objective, avoid a problem, or other matter – and where you will generate revenue by assisting.
Create blogposts around those opportunities/dangers to support your outreach efforts. That’s where your offline and online BD efforts come full circle and meet each other.”
Tony Vidler explains why producing valuable content is so vital;
“The primary benefit of social media in the marketing mix is the personalisation of the marketing, which is critically important in a vastly crowded and noisy marketplace. The average Australian consumer today receives some 3,000 marketing or advertising messages daily aparently, so cutting through that clutter can only be achieved…by providing content that engages your target market because it is relevant to them – it must inform, engage or improve them meaningfully.“
Getting your own online properties in order, producing content that’s going to inform, educate and help your audience, and ensuring your offline and online efforts all link together is key.
But then what?
Taking it back a step, you’ve got to be clear what you’re looking to achieve and to focus your efforts. Spend time where those you wish to engage are. If you don’t know then find out.
Have clear objectives in mind and pick your platforms carefully
Jennifer Myers says “I have heard from a more social-media-savvy friend that Facebook can be a great lead generator for Business-to-Consumer, but perhaps not so great for Business-to-Business.”
My view? If a lot of your prospects are on Facebook then you may want to have a presence but it may not be the best place to start. You’ll need to make that call. If you do use Facebook then don’t solely rely on your business page to bring in the work. Again, seek to create a community of people interested in a particular topic or issue and then look to build each relationship one at a time.
Build your presence slowly and be consistent
Tessa Hodson advises busy professionals to build up their presence slowly, “…everyone is at such different stages of engagement with social media, but there is always room for more – more focus, more activity, more platforms. Trying to go from having no engagement to full engagement too quickly can be confusing for the professional and disingenuous to your audience. You risk burn out and lack of consistency. My advice…is to know where you are at, know what the next step is and take it.”
Don’t overcommit, says Nicola Jones “Do it right and do it consistently.”
Greg De Simone further pushes the importance of consistency, “Be…consistently active. Consistently listening for the needs of your market. Consistently addressing those needs and adding value to the market.”
Schedule time for your social media activities
He advises professionals to schedule time for their social media activities.
“I would also recommend that you schedule your social media time much like you would a networking event…If you look at social media as one large networking event and work it consistently to create opportunities to meet face-to-face (or phone-to-phone due to geography) leads will consistently follow.“
Interact with others and focus on building relationships
Being active on social networks was a recurring theme. Rhetta Akamatsu advises professionals to “Get a Twitter account and keep it active. Really interact with your followers and retweet interesting and relevant tweets from others. Don’t make every message be a commercial, but provide links to your website and other social media.”
Building relationships one-by-one is a key way to generate leads from social media. That involves getting on people’s radar, conversing with them, helping them out where you can and seeking ways to move the relationship beyond whichever social network you’re using.
Get the basics right
But before you can really engage with others, you need to ensure that your profiles on social sites are complete and clearly position you. Otherwise people can’t easily make a call about whether you can help them and whether you’re someone they’d want to do business with.
“…the background section of your profile [within LinkedIn] is a key thing to get right, says Angus Ogilvie, “This is a superb opportunity to sell yourself and the firm. People who skim profiles will be drawn to a good background statement that outlines key skills, areas of interest and the way you do business. So often I see bland background statements that are little more than generic bullet points. It is such a lost opportunity.“
I’d also advise including a call to action at the end of the summary section within LinkedIn. Inviting people to get in touch with you can provide the push they need to do so.
Think like your clients
Justine Parsons summed it up superbly;
“…remember that social media is as much about personality as it is your offering. Be sincere, be honest and be transparent. While our audience can be in the millions, look to connect one on one. One person reading your post, update or discussion can be that difference between being a success – or not…Be in the space, think like your clients think, solve their problems for them and have fun. Social media is a two way conversation that the whole room hears!”
Which of these tips have you found most useful?
What others would you share?