Big or small, it’s unlikely that your firm doesn’t have at least some level of social media activity. And for good reason; whether your marketing strategy is focused on brand development or lead generation, social platforms will offer a level of audience access that few other channels can match. That should be exciting stuff, but my guess is that excitement is just about the last emotion the words “social media” elicit. In fact I bet the words evoke instead a slight but immediate sense of nausea as you know you’re just not making the most of it for your firm, leaving money on the table as a consequence.
Here are 7 things you need to do if you’re to switch that nausea to excitement…
1. Understand that this is all about your content
There’s no mystery about social media. Those professional service firms that create awesome content that people want to engage with do well. Those that create rubbish content (which includes perfectly professional and technically accurate content that happens to be devoid of emotion and personality) do badly. That really is 90% of the equation.
The trouble with social media is that we’ve become obsessed with the medium. It’s rare to go to a networking event now where there isn’t a “social media expert” or “LinkedIn guru” selling their blueprint for success. The trouble is, it’s all bollocks.
The blueprint is this – have a clear sense of your brand position > create insanely interesting content that communicates that brand position > post it up on whatever channel your audience happens to be active.
So what does “insanely interesting content” look like:
- It’s probably not saying the same thing as everyone else. In fact it may even adopt a slightly contrarian stance on many of the big issues.
- It’s going to elicit emotion. That could be fear, shock or hope but actually, the emotion that typically has the most enduring shelf life is humour.
- It should tell stories rather than list facts. The human brain is wired to see everything in stories.
- It’s probably going to leverage the growing role of influencers in the professional service space. If you’re wondering who they are, just imagine the kind of people who speak at the events and exhibitions that your audience attend. More on this later.
2. You can’t bore people into engaging with you
I’ve kind of covered this in my first point but this is worth highlighting. You cannot be boring. You simply must create stuff that triggers an emotion. You must be ambitious and willing to take risks. You must set a goal for your content that is so audaciously lofty that people cannot help but take notice.
To be clear, simply posting videos of dogs in wheelchairs doesn’t cut it. The fact that LinkedIn is looking increasingly like Facebook is not inherently a bad thing (people are people, whether they’re at work or at home and highly emotive content will always do well), but posting videos of dogs with an X-Factor-esque backstory is just cheating. Stop it.
In all seriousness, people see though this bullshit. It will get you some likes and shares but unless you created the content yourself people will only remember the story and not you or what you actually do for a living. You need to find a way to make you and your product interesting.
3. Remember that you are building your house on someone else’s land
The big social media platforms are among the most profitable companies ever to have existed, in large part because they have a global unpaid workforce. And you’re part of it.
Every tweet you write, image you share and video you publish, you are giving them one of the world’s most valuable assets – content.
This content engages their customers, drags in traffic from the search engines, and enables them to make billions from advertising.
In 2021, you have little choice but to be part of this ecosystem. That’s fine. But let’s be clear, that LinkedIn post with 500 reactions. That tweet you sent that went viral. That Facebook page with 30,000 fans. You don’t own any of them.
For this reason, as tempting as it is to get drawn in by what we call “vanity metrics” (fans, followers, likes, shares, etc), in the medium to long term we should only be measuring our social presence by its ability to do two things:
- Drive direct leads/sales
- Build the digital asset you actually own – your email list
4. Dale Carnegie’s rules still apply
If you’re a world renowned expert whose name precedes them, then you probably don’t need to worry about this. Just as in the real world, people will gobble up everything you have to say, just because it’s you saying it.
But for the mere mortals, it doesn’t work that way. We get out what we put in, and it begins with our ability to ask great questions and to listen. Think about it, who are the most popular women and men at your local business networking event? Are they the loudest? The ones that make it all about them? Or are they the ones who genuinely show an interest in others?
Because we’ve been told we’re now “all publishers” in the digital world, we believe our success will be determined by our ability to publish. And of course it will, But if we want people to listen to us, first we need to listen to them. So if there is one thing I’d encourage you to do if you’re just getting started, particularly on LinkedIn, it’s find 5-10 minutes a day to scroll through your news feed and react (by which I mean, like, comment, share, etc) on someone else’s activity. Ideally, this will take the form of an insightful question. One that shows you’ve really considered their statement.
5. If it’s worth creating, it’s worth promoting
It always strikes me as a great irony that people whose job it is to think rationally, approach their marketing with such fuzzy thinking. There is probably no better example than when it comes to promoting content via social media. Let’s look at some numbers – If a firm of accountants invests in stunning content that requires 10 hours of somebody’s time and you value that time modestly at, say, £50 an hour, then that’s £500. In all probability the firm will then do little more than publish it on their blog and maybe share it organically via their social channels, resulting in a handful of people seeing it. However, if they invested the same sum of money in the promotion, it would be seen by tens of thousands of targeted individuals. In fact even if they just put £50 into the promotion it would still be seen by thousands, resulting in a tiny cost per impression compared to that achieved by non-promotion. Far better to reduce your investment in content creation and dedicate a proportion of that into promotion.
6. Engage with influencers
A significant trend for professional service firms in recent years has been growing role of influencer marketing. I’m not talking about instagrammers in bikinis or video bloggers on YouTube, but serious heavyweights in the world of professional services that can wield tremendous influence over decision makers. Examples of such people include:
- C-suite directors of large multi-nationals.
- Founders of exciting tech start-ups.
- Subject matter experts with deep technical expertise.
- Even the occasional “celebrity” who may be able to apply their non-business experiences to the world of professional services (an iconic footballer talking about leadership, for example).
This has been perhaps the fastest growing area of professional service marketing over the last few years and for good reason:
- The stories and metaphors help to bring otherwise dry subjects to life.
- The brand in question inherits significant credibility from the influencer relationship.
- The influencer may well have access to the audience you wish to get in front of.
- It will provide you with the best content you could ever hope to get your hands on.
- These influencer relationships, if well nurtured, can be leveraged across just about every conceivable channel, from social media and podcasts to email and events.
- In some cases, where the influencer sits within your target audience, the engagement may even represent a direct BD opportunity.
7. People are probably going to engage more easily with you as a person, than they will with your brand
This is particularly true on LinkedIn & Twitter. So as important as it is for your brand to have a strong overarching strategy for its content, you also need to train your team to do this stuff for themselves.
As ever, there is no single strategy for making this work. Just as with offline networking events, some people will be great connectors, some will have genuinely insightful stuff to say that people want to hear, some will ask great questions, some will simply do such a good job of showing up every day that you can’t help but take notice of them.
While your brand should provide some direction and guidelines to ensure this personal activity does not undermine the positioning or values of the brand, it’s important to give people a level of autonomy so they can allow their personalities to flourish, even if that sometimes means pushing the boundaries a little. After all, remember point 2!