Does my professional service firm need a social media presence? Is an active social media presence even possible? And is it worth the effort? These are some of the questions that you may be grappling with as you come to terms with developing a social media strategy.
The dramatic increase in marketing of services through social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter has rapidly changed client expectations. They increasingly expect firms to communicate with them via these platforms. At the same time, they expect engagement to be timely and relevant and have high standards for how well professional service firms effectuate their digital strategy. As a result, marketing success and profitability in the B2B sector often demand much more. It requires a bit of science – the science of developing a solid social media strategy. This primer details the critical attributes of social media, and provides tips on how you can make the most of the social media channels that will ensure you generate more leads and drive growth in the ever-changing digital marketplace.
Introducing Social Media for Professional Service Firms
According to data from Statista, 70 percent of the U.S. population has at least one social media profile. The same study estimates that the number of worldwide social media users currently stands at 2.5 billion. If you knew that members of your target client segments spent time in a particular place, wouldn’t it make sense to post a blog, article, or advert there? That’s what social media brings to professional service firms but in a whole new and improved way. Unlike traditional marketing channels, which are usually targeted in a general way, social media creates a meaningful conversation with a particular and broad audience but in a personalized manner.
Let’s now describe an ideal plan for a professional service firm spanning the what, why, and how of a solid social media strategy.
- Create value for your clients
A solid social media strategy is all about creating a dialogue with your clients, listening to them carefully, and understanding their challenges and needs. That calls for transparency, authenticity, and honesty when communicating with both clients and prospects. Assess the impact and opportunity that social media can bring to your business model, understand how your clients and potential clients are using the various social channels and map out how you could use social media to build relationships. If your firm’s messages are not clear enough to allow an authentic conversation with your clients and you don’t create value for them, chances are you will be ignored.
The emphasis here is you shouldn’t treat social media as just another platform to post your sales messages. Instead, you should use social media to offer personalized, one-to-one interactions with your clients. Through these interactions, you can quickly tell if your services are meeting client needs or expectations and also be able to integrate customer input into your service development and delivery cycle. To make sure you provide value, adopt the following tips:
- Maintain relevancy– to achieve this you need to frequently update your social media platforms with the latest industry trends, breaking news, content offers and features (think infographics, blog posts, white papers, e-books, etc.) as this will ensure you maintain client interest and a steady supply of repeat visits. If you can, establish a social media team to manage social communications and content and make sure the team posts new messages & content frequently and answers clients’ feedback and queries in a prompt manner. Data from Twitter, for instance, indicate that B2B audiences are much more likely to engage on Twitter after repeat exposure to messaging. That is, a prospect who has seen a firm’s message four times is 335 percent more likely to click on a link in a Tweet by that firm than a prospect who has only been exposed to the message once.
- Choose your hashtags correctly– as you add hashtags to your social media content, using too many of the similar hashtags will only get you in front of the same audience. Broaden the range of topics your hashtags cover to get in front of new audiences. Add those that reference your industry, the features of the product you’re promoting, and the audience you’re trying to reach.
- Enhance sharing– to achieve this you can organize discussion forums, chats, newsletters, and Q&A sections on your clients’ social channels to make it easy for them to share their views and provide feedback about your services.
- Ensure accuracy and keep it exciting– Professional service’ buyers expect relevant and accurate information about the firm in which they are interested. Develop a social media policy that will ensure you keep the information posted about your firm’s services, activities, and promotions accurate and up-to-date. To attract clients, you also need to make your social media channels exciting. According to HubSpot, visual content is more than 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content, and that’s why a majority of B2B marketers (51%) prioritize creating visual assets as part of their content marketing strategy. Use images, videos, and live streams to provide interesting facts about your services and tips on using Leverage competitions, games, and blog posts to get potential buyers interacting with your social media platforms.
- Know when to post– Studies suggest posting at noon, so you increase your chances of catching business professionals on their lunch break. But early evening between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. is also regarded as a good time because users are winding down their workday. The worst time is between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. since this is typically the dead time in the business universe.
- Re-structure your organization and examine your internal culture
Social media works by creating conversations with clients that cut across service lines, sales, and marketing boundaries. That means professional service firms need to move beyond their functional silos. They need to embed their social media strategy across the entire organization for it to take root. On a similar note, professional service firms need to examine their internal cultures to achieve maximum impact and value from social media. Many firms are not comfortable with the level of empowerment social media gives to their workforce. If employees are communicating with your clients directly, say via Twitter, a level of trust and confidence is required that many professional service firms are not comfortable. However, this should not be the case as adopting social media presents opportunities for internal knowledge sharing, productivity growth, and collaboration.
- Leverage the best channels and optimize for each social network
You are probably using a range of social networks, which is not a wrong move. However, common mistakes professional service firms make is to replicate updates and re-share them on different social networks. That is not a good strategy as audiences on various social networks are unique, and the content they expect is exclusive too. We will discuss three social platforms- LinkedIn, Twitter, and SlideShare- that we believe will ensure maximum impact and thus bring more value. We’ve also provided tips on how you can optimize for each of the three social networks.
LinkedIn has more than 562 million users in more than 200 countries around the world and is the world’s premier B2B social network. Statistics show that an estimated 80% of all business-to-business (B2B) sales leads come from LinkedIn. Here’s how you can make the most of LinkedIn.
- LinkedIn gives you three areas to include websites, so if you have more than one site, include up to three of them in this section. If you only have one website, you can still take advantage of all three. For example, you may set one to go to your homepage, another to a service page, or perhaps to a landing page for a download you are offering. That will encourage people to visit the specific pages where you can provide more information about your business offerings.
- Know what content length performs best. According to findings from a study by Noah Kagan of OkDork.com on viral LinkedIn posts, aiming for long-form but not too long-form can prove to be a game-changer. His results showed 1900 word articles got the most shares, so aiming for between 1700 & 2100 words should give your content a boost. The findings also note that how-to posts get almost 2x as many views as question posts. So when you’re creating content with LinkedIn views in mind, you should focus on how-to posts and list style posts and steer clear of question posts.
- Having a compelling LinkedIn profile is essential, but make sure it includes a CTA that answers one question: What do you want the reader to do next? Without this one small detail, most people will leave your profile, not taking action. CTAs can come in different forms and with different purposes. You can create a CTA to invite your readers to download a free resource, subscribe to a newsletter, schedule a consultation, email, or call you, and so on. Add a CTA to your LinkedIn profile to help you get leads and facilitate further engagement between you and your potential clients. Make it easy for potential prospects to know what to do next by telling them precisely what you want them to do with your CTA.
According to data from a study by Content Marketing Institute on B2B firms, Twitter is the second most used social media platform for content marketing purposes, coming in the right behind LinkedIn. 67% of B2B marketers view Twitter as one of the three most effective social channels when it comes to helping their organizations achieve specific objectives. Here’s how to get the best from Twitter.
- When someone replies to or re-tweets your content on Twitter, take the time to send them a short and sweet thank you reply. If they comment on your content with their thoughts and opinions, continue the conversation. Use tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite to optimize the process.
- When someone re-tweets your content, you can respond using Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards to prompt them to sign up immediately. These users are already primed for your content and show interest in your writing, so they’re highly likely to want more of what you’re giving. By providing a personalized thank you and a frictionless one-click sign-up, you can drive more leads/email sign-ups for your blog.
- The love your users give you on social media is a secure form of social proof; you can take advantage of this to grow your business. You can embed Tweets from happy users on your site as a way to show new visitors why everyone loves your products. It’s an easy and effective customer testimonial that increases trust and credibility.
- Whenever someone Tweets at you, use services like TweetFull to automatically favorite their Tweets. By doing so, you’re encouraging users to Tweet about you more often, resulting in more engagement for your social media presence. Be careful to filter out any NSFW (not safe for work) Tweets.
- Leverage Calls To Action (CTAs)- Click to Tweet is a call-to-action (CTA) in which you prepopulate a box with a key quote or idea from one of your posts that users can then tweet out at the click of a button. Prompting your readers with a quick and easy way to share the main message from your post is a simple way for users to share your content and spread awareness of your brand among people who are more likely to engage with it.
- How many tweets should you send in a day, and what is the best time to tweet? According to data from Track Social, the optimum value is between 4 and 15 tweets per day for businesses that cater to multiple time zones, and about four times a day for local companies. Research shows that the most popular time to tweet is between noon and 1 p.m., while the least popular time is between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. So tweeting during the lunch hour may provide you with a broad audience.
SlideShare has 70 million unique visitors a month; in fact, the site is now among the top 100 most visited websites in the world. This social media platform allows users to upload videos, documents, infographics, and presentations in various formats. Here’s how you can get the best from SlideShare.
- Design compelling title slides that can be seen at a small size. Consider using Buzzsumo to help determine the topic of the presentation.
- Utilize CTA slides. Inserting CTA slides at the end of a SlideShare presentation will help direct the traffic you get from SlideShare. That can be particularly useful for B2B leads: “SlideShare has up to 5 times more traffic from business owners than Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and even LinkedIn!”
- Put your keywords to better use. Using your keyword as a filename can be a good move. For instance, to upload your presentation to SlideShare, you have to save it as a PDF. When you save the PDF, use your keyword as the filename. You can also include your keyword or phrase in the title and description of your presentation, as well as the tags. Make your keyword the first tag for the presentation, and then choose carefully related tags to follow.
- Anytime you post a presentation on LinkedIn, share it as a status update in both your profile and company page. You can also add your SlideShare content to your LinkedIn profile’s Summary page. Just click ´Edit´ on your profile, then click the box with a plus sign beside it and add a link to your slides. Once you add the link to your presentation, you have an attractive way to stand out from other profiles and encourage people to click through for your content. Share within your blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages and also make clickable buttons back to your website home page.
- Understand the power of Social Analytics
It is now possible for professional service firms to capture social “noise” and distill it into meaningful and specific client insights. By using social analytics (think Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn analytics, etc.), your firm will become more efficient and agile in today’s evolving marketplace as you will be able to design services that are predictably relevant to your clients and hence generate significant value for your business. In essence, with social analytics, you will be able to achieve the following:
- Make more informed and better decisions– Social analytics will allow you to test different advertising, pricing, and social scenarios; as a result, you will be in a position to make fact-based business decisions related to marketing campaigns, sales forecasting, and pricing-and to adjust your decisions in real-time.
- Know your clients better– If social media is a forum for professional service’ buyers to share their views, then social analytics is a way for professional service firms to listen. Prospective clients use social media channels to tell brands what services they want and how to market and sell those services to them effectively. By using social analytics, you will get a 360-degree view of your potential clients and thus understand them better.
- Ensure a positive return-on-investment (ROI)- By utilizing social analytics, your professional service firms will be able to target marketing campaigns more effectively and hence, make better use of your marketing budget. Additionally, social analytics can help you determine the real ROI for different marketing categories (think television, digital channels, and out-of-home), so you know which ones are worth the investment.
The Bottom Line
There is no arguing that social media marketing has increased, and that’s why professional service firms must reinvent their traditional marketing approaches. According to a study by Talkwalker, McKinsey, for instance, is an example of a professional service firm that is making the most of social media platforms. The firm was one of the top performers on Twitter, using insightful infographics to draw in their audience. It also placed a strong focus on gender equality in the workplace and utilized Twitter to promote their research on this subject. The result was remarkable as the firm received 78 retweets per post, the most engagement per tweet of any of the companies examined. By leveraging the above mentioned social media strategies, you will be able to extend the reach of the marketing and sales department, and, by extension, the reach of your brand and its value proposition. You will achieve greater collaboration, increased productivity, and better client engagement.
Is your social media marketing strategy not bringing in the desired return-on-investment? Let the experts at COMPANY EXPERT help you with marketing through social media.