Is creating content something professionals have to do to generate leads from social media?

by Kirsten Hodgson

…or is it enough to simply be present and have conversations?

I posed this question to members of the ‘social media for lead generation in professional services firms‘ group on LinkedIn.

What came back was that each has a role to play and should ideally work together as part of an integrated approach. Ros Morshead said;

Ros Morshead on LinkedIn

“…professionals need to share original content, as well as being present…social media interaction assumes both the professional and their target audience are technologically literate. If a professional relies on the social media band-wagon, then…the professional risks overlooking some or all of a target market.”

To get mileage from your activity you need to share it more broadly than just on social networks including on your website, with clients who will be interested etc, regardless of whether or not they are active on social networks. However, social networks can be a great source of good content.

Gihan Perera on LinkedInGihan Perera adds “I don’t think it’s an either-or or a better-worse. Have genuine conversations with some solid content backing it up. Yes, you CAN generate a lead without content backing it up (just as you can by chatting to somebody at a barbie), and you CAN generate a lead with content but no conversation (just as you can by publishing a high-quality article in a magazine…). But the sweet spot is when you have both.”

I agree with Gihan. Engaging with others is how you build relationships and gives you the opportunity to show a bit of yourself. This is important because, as Tony Vidler comments, “…people tend to do business with people whom they like and trust so it is A path to business.”

Tony Vidler on LinkedIn“However content creation is THE path to establishing credibility as an expert, or professional at the top of their game…Content curation is a strong method of delivering valuable information and resource and being seen as knowledgeable and informed.”

Content curation

In fact, given how busy professionals are nowadays, content curation is often a good place to start according to Bryn Hughes.

Bryn Hughes on LinkedIn“Time pressure/lack of time is often the biggest reason that lawyers give for not writing content…given this, surely content curation is a good place to start to help professionals (i) find their feet in social media networks and build confidence in using these channels and (ii) begin to become known (build their brand.)”

Shelley Dunstone on LinkedInHowever, it’s not enough to simply forward content with no accompanying note. Shelley Dunstone put it well when she said “Curating content is a good way to be seen as a source of interesting news, but don’t just send it with the note “FYI” – say why you think it’s interesting and relevant.”

Oli Moore on LinkedInAnother advantage of curating other people’s content is it shows you are interested in others’ opinions. Oli Moore, like others who commented in the discussion thread, believes there needs to be a mix. “After all, if all you do is create and do not curate, then for me that would show a lack of engagement and interest in other peoples opinions.”

Which brings us back to engagement.

Engagement

As Oli says, “commenting and engaging with others is paramount to engaging and creating that environment where people will come to you.”

Emma Partington on LinkedInEmma Partington believes “being present is MORE important than creating content – the content is also a bonus. Being present is what is lacking in professional services social media…especially within firms.”

She’s right. You only have to look at the Twitter feeds of some large firms to see it’s all about them. There’s often no sharing of others’ content, no conversations and, seemingly, no knowledge of anything beyond their own ‘push strategy’ tweets.

The content you share doesn’t always have to be work related. Don’t underestimate the power of the occasional personal post: People like to laugh and be entertained, and as per Tony’s earlier comment, people do business with people they like (or, I have heard it said, people do business with people like Kelly Madden on LinkedInthem.) Kelly Madden (and his firm) uses a combination of professional and personal content “We try to provide useful and educational content in our efforts to build trust and online relationships that may develop into future business…and sometimes I just post fun stuff about things that make people smile.”

The content curation versus content creation debate

Does it really matter whether the content you share is your own or someone else’s?

Sheena Sarkar on LinkedInSheena Sarkar doesn’t believe so. “I think the key is relevance to your target market. If you can tell them something that is relevant to them and that they may not have heard before, I don’t think it really matters if it is content you have generated yourself or something that you are curating/reposting.”

One way you could make use of curated content to help your clients and prospects is to create a searchable directory of curated content on your website. This would allow visitors to quickly and easily access any content of interest to them and position you/your firm as a source of valuable information.

Julie South on LinkedInJulie South said something that I’ve also found to be true, “I’ve read (& learnt from) more relevant information as a result of what I’ve discovered through social media…than from traditional teaching…

She went on to say, “Sure, it’s important to verify the varacity of each article/author but IMHO [in my humble opinion - I had to look it up!] anyone who writes their own content (or repositions – in a relevant and meaningful way someone else’s content – and cites it) earns more street cred and thus, improves their opportunities for more leads/sales.”

Why create your own content?

Despite the value of content curation there’s little doubt that creating your own content is really important if you want to establish credibility and be considered an expert on a particular subject.

Bryn Hughes on LinkedInBryn Hughes believes “Professional brands should seek to produce their own content online, as part of their marketing mix (no less as effective SEO to aid visibility in natural search!) If done well, generating original [content] does gain more traction for your brand in terms of exposure and engagement online…that hopefully aids conversions down the line.”

Greg De Simone shares how regularly creating content has helped his business,

Greg De Simone on LinkedIn“I can’t say for sure that my content has directly created a lead because all of my strategies overlap to create multiple touches in my target market. But I have noticed that since I started blogging once a week vs once every 6-8 weeks, my web traffic has doubled and my engagement on my site has increased by 25%…since I’ve began creating content, my prospects have a much better idea on what I do and it makes my sales conversations much easier (i.e. conversions have improved by about 10%).”

I find that really interesting. Does it mean that people have almost made up their minds before meeting you that they want to work with you, based on your blog posts? Is the meeting just to check whether you’re someone they’d like to work with? i.e. is it yours to lose rather than yours to win? If so, that’s a pretty compelling reason to create original content.

But professionals are busy. How can you find the time to write or video or record something on a regular basis?

You probably already have some content in the form of Q&A’s, presentations, White Papers etc. A good starting point is to re-purpose this content. As Bryn Hughes points out, generating original content shouldn’t be the responsibility of one person, “In helping to share out the workload and providing varied original content, a … firm could put out an original content strategy together that includes content from its own lawyers, lawyers from other firms (perhaps on the other side of a big transaction), key referral partners, bought in content, instruct third parties to write on their behalf, their clients…”

So, where should you start?

Social media can be daunting and it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ve always believed that you should build up your use of it in stages – start small and build out from there. It seems Bridget Greenwood agrees. She shares some brilliant practical advice to those just starting out, to stop you feeling overwhelmed,

Bridget Greenwood on LinkedIn“…Step 1 show up! Listen, engage, get comfortable with one platform first.

“Step 2 start curating and sharing other peoples content. If you just RT it or share it across networks without adding commentary you’re missing out. If you choose to target the audience who will most benefit from the content you’re resharing, then even better. This can be to individuals, as part of an ongoing group discussion, or shared with specific groups WITH your own comments added as to why you’re sharing and what your view point is.

“Step 3 it’s now not a big leap to make your comments more than one or two sentences and start creating your own content.

“Step 4 collaborate with others to create and share content (both internally at your work place and externally with other relevant professions).

“Add other platforms…as your influence on your current network grows. All that we’re really doing on social media is extending our circle of influence. Showing yourself as an authority is a great way to extend your influence and, ultimately, I believe you can do that best by following all 4 steps.”

Key findings:

- Engaging, content creation and content curation all have a role to play.

- Engaging is how you build relationships and gives you the opportunity to show a bit of yourself.

- Curating content can position you as a source of good content but the content you share has to be relevant and you have to say why it’s relevant by introducing it with your own comment.

- Creating content enables you to establish credibility and helps you get more attention/traction for your brand in terms of exposure and engagement (again, provided it’s relevant!)

- Creating content (within a PSF) should be the responsibility of lots of people.

- If you ONLY create content and don’t share other peoples, it conveys a lack of engagement and interest in others’ opinions.

- Think beyond the social network(s) you use. Share content with individuals who may be interested in it (regardless of whether they are on social networks), on your website etc. Consider setting up a searchable directory of curated content on your website.

- Build up your use of social networks in stages and follow Bridget’s 4 step process to really position yourself to generate new work.

What would you add? 

To what extent do you agree with the comments in this post? 

 

 

Specialising in professional services and law firm marketing. I help firms to retain and grow existing clients and attract more of their ideal clients. My core services include social media for lead generation, voice of the client programmes and tender strategy and development. Outside of work I love to run. I’m a bit like Forest Gump in that I’m not that quick but can keep going for ages. I also enjoy coming up with new inventions. Unfortunately, most of them have already been invented! | * Professional services marketing consultant | * Legal marketing consultant | * Law firm marketing consultant