By Loraine Kasprzak, MBA
“How can we use social media?”
That’s a question I often get from partners and owners of professional service firms. They think social media is something they should be paying attention to, yet they are unsure where to start, or even if they should start, using it.
For retailers and other businesses that market products entirely to consumers, social media marketing – through Facebook, Twitter or even YouTube – has become accepted practice. It lets them to get closer to their customers, provide better service and earn positive word of mouth. But what about professional service firms? Is there value for you in social networking? If so, which of the many social media tools is relevant for you?
Thought leadership and social networking
If you run a professional service company, perhaps the greatest value in participating in the social media world is the opportunity to present your firm as a thought leader. You can do this by creating content that is useful to your prospects and customers – white papers, case studies, tip sheets, how-to videos, etc. When you share useful content in the social network, it helps your firm get known as the “go-to” experts.
I recently worked with D.G. McDermott Associates, a compensation consulting firm, to promote Bulletproof Your Compensation Plan, a white paper targeted at New Jersey middle market businesses. Our online campaign led to well over 40 white paper downloads, exceeding our goal. More importantly, over 40 companies became aware of McDermott Associates’ compensation plan expertise. (What we did to keep these prospects engaged will be the subject of a future blog post.)
Engaging in relevant social media
It’s a good idea to do some research before selecting the social media tools you will use. You don’t want or need to be on every social networking site. According to David Meerman Scott, author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR, “For most people and organizations, it’s better to be active in a few social networking sites instead of creating profiles on dozens of them and being too busy to spend much time on any one.”
An easy approach is to ask your customers which social media they are using when they are buying or talking about services such as yours. Are they using Twitter? Reading blogs? Posting updates to LinkedIn or Facebook? Whatever they’re using should be part of your plan.
Professional associations often have websites with social networking capabilities and you should visit and evaluate these sites. For example, the Institute of Management Consultants has a members-only section where members can post profiles and share content with other members.
Although it might be considered heresy in the social media world, the truth is, some prospects and customers aren’t discussing your type of service online. It could be out of privacy concerns, or a lack of time or interest. For example, I have one client who offers executive coaching to Fortune 500 firms. Although there are countless Twitter and blog posts about executive coaching, it’s not the corporate HR Vice Presidents – who typically hire executive coaches – who are engaged on these sites. For this client, social media marketing is a much smaller component of his overall marketing effort.
In the next post, I will provide a simple framework for fitting social media into your firm’s overall marketing plan, and some tips for getting started in social media.
Does your professional services firm need help getting started in social media marketing? Contact the marketing experts at Advantage Marketing, we’d be glad to help.