Professional services firms have been very good clients for me over the years. With many firms, I am charged with improving their marketing results. One of the topics that often comes up is social media. Many billable hour professionals struggle with making the commitment to initially launch a social media presence; others with how to optimize what they have. Kevin O’Keefe, who blogs about the need for lawyers to blog, is someone I follow on Twitter. Kevin wrote a blog post some time back wherein he referenced Steve Robinson, a small business specialist for Constant Contact, whom I also follow.
O’Keefe summarizes Robinson’s top recommendations to small business bloggers, with an emphasis on how to apply the principles to a professional services firm:
- Find your target audience. Before you set up a Twitter account or create a Facebook Business Page, research who’s participating there and ask your clients and their influencers (reporters, bloggers, association leaders) which forums hold their attention. You may find they like blogs and email as opposed to Twitter and Facebook. Once you determine where they are, follow them to their preferred destinations.
- Focus your efforts. Identify the top two places where your audience is most active and fully engage them there as opposed to spreading yourself too thin across a variety of social media platforms. Professional services firms often want to do a little bit of everything resulting in going a mile wide and an inch deep. Following relevant sources and subjects via readers such as Google Reader or Flipboard; truly using LinkedIn; and blogging will enable professionals to build relationships and enhance their reputation. Other social media tools can follow.
- Identify the most active participants on your target social media platforms. Then initiate conversations, respond and repost their messages, follow their feeds, comment on their blogs, and cite their blog posts on your blog. Third parties have tremendous influence over your clients and prospective clients. If you can get these third parties (bloggers, reporters, business association leaders etc) referencing and sharing what you are saying online, your stature and reputation is only going to go up. When people get your name from a referral source, they’ll Google you and see positive references by the influencers to what you have shared via social media.
- Balance social media with other marketing efforts. Social media should be part of a balanced marketing effort that includes online and offline activities. Leverage the enhanced reputation you are establishing by going to networking events, speaking to groups, or even asking to have coffee or lunch with someone you’ve met via LinkedIn or other social media. Share your blog posts via email to relevant clients now and again to show them you are thinking of them. Social accelerates relationships and reputation, but talking with and meeting people is needed.
- Don’t mistake silence for disengaged. A lot of social media is built around listening and responding only when it makes sense. If you aren’t getting a lot of responses to your blog posts or items you share online, don’t assume that your audience has tuned you out. Ask questions, inquire about your followers specific interests, and reach out on a one-on-one basis.
- Position yourself as an expert resource. This is what it is all about. Individuals, businesses, and trusted advisers to your clients are looking for a reliable authority in their field. Don’t be afraid to focus on a niche area, industry area, or client issue that you truly enjoy working in or on. What may have taken 15 years or more, if ever, to establish a strong word of mouth reputation in a niche has been greatly accelerated via social media.
All of this makes such great sense that I chose to excerpt it almost verbatim from an O’Keefe blog post. Hope it’s helpful for you!