Social media is an area of business that is wrought with conflicting opinions. Some say that it is an essential marketing strategy for all businesses. Some say it is a total waste of time and not right for their industry. And then there are those who have the right idea – the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
The reality is, like it or not, social media is here and it is here to stay. The challenge for any business in any niche becomes finding the right channels for your particular industry and your particular business-specific situation.
Those who are anti-social media consider it to be a waste of time, not easily measured in terms of ROI, and perhaps see it as just a passing fad. Some of this type of thinking could be because many business people are intimidated by the idea of social media either because they don’t fully understand it or perhaps they are from the old school marketing mentality. Marketing today should consist of a well-integrated mix of many different marketing channels including the Internet. In order to be successful today, business owners must adapt to the changing business world to achieve and maintain a competitive edge.
Social media is a set of tools – it is not a means to an end. It is the tool-set professional services firms (and others) use to:
- Build awareness
- Gain exposure
- Engage in conversations
- Build relationships
- Inform, educate and/or influence
- Establish industry leader status
If looked at in this light, professional service providers will see that the role of social media is indeed important and valuable to getting more clients. Did you know that Corporate Counsels read blogs? Well they do and you can read about some interesting statistics on Corporate Counsel Read Blogs? Who Knew?? The article states:
“Nearly 70 percent of respondents aged 30 to 39 expect their consumption of business and legal industry news through social media platforms to increase within the next six months.”
This article also discusses an increased use of Facebook amongst younger counsel (30-39 year olds) which is interesting in that Facebook tends to merge personal and professional lives together as opposed to a site like Linkedin which is completely professional. It will be interesting to see how the increased use of Facebook works out for professional services groups, as this author, is a little wary of mixing business with personal information.
With the jury still out about social networking on personal sites like Facebook, there is no doubt that blogs and industry forums provide a highly visible online means for professional service companies to:
- Increase their online presence
- Establish themselves as an industry expert
- Build and maintain relationships
- Increase brand visibility
- Distinguish themselves from their competition
- Build their reputation by letting potential clients SEE their expertise rather than simply hearing about it
- Establish themselves as an industry thought leader
Keep in mind that the more visible your professional services firm is, the more likely you will able to benefit from cross-selling opportunities. If you are a law firm providing entity formation services for a client, it is not unreasonable to assume that this same client might not be aware of other legal services your firm offers.
If you consider social media as channels of communication, you will realize that utilizing these channels to inform, engage, interact and influence your target audience will eventually translate into a higher conversion rate and increased profits. Connect rather than collect. Build relationships and nurture them. People like to do business with people they know and professional services firms are no different. Introduce yourself to your target market via social media channels, engage them in conversations through meaningful interactions, and let them see for themselves what you are all about. Share your knowledge with your potential clients. This knowledge doesn’t necessarily have to be your own original content. Sharing others’ knowledge (with the credit given where it is due) will only help your reputation and others’ perception of you as a provider of knowledge, valuable information, and someone they will want to do business with.