Dec 4, 2015
Social media adoption has exploded across the business community with those serving consumer-led markets far out pacing professional services. Many firms have capitalised on this phenomenon by developing an active online presence however the professional services industry as lagged behind its corporate peers leaving many struggling to understand whether to engage and if so, how to harness social networks and unlock their potential. Many often harbour concerns relating to risk, confusion, security and relevance. These are all legitimate concerns and resolving them would help businesses promote brands, generate leads, demonstrate their expertise and importantly win new business in a competitive marketplace. Firms with tailored polices and procedures that do not inhibit successful social media initiatives still face social media paralysis often due to the following common myths:
Myth 1: My contacts are not on social media.
Although social media may not be on every one’s radar, Twitter has over 200 million active users of which 14.8 million are in the UK, surpassed by LinkedIn with 19 million UK users. The benefits of using social media channels are ample, for example research shows that companies using Twitter are twice as likely to generate leads, companies with 1000 followers drive six times more traffic to their website.
It is possible that all of your customers aren’t using social for business however with @AccountingWEBuk has 20,000 followers, @AccountancyAge has 34,000 followers, @TheLawyermag has @65,0000 @lawsocgazette has 62,000 followers, it is highly likely that they are on social media. The ICAEW has recently launched an interactive campaign to identify the top UK online influencers within the accountancy sector. #ICAEWROAR
To find out which of your clients and contacts are on Twitter or LinkedIn upload an export of your contact’s emails. https://support.twitter.com/articles/101002
Myth 2: You have to spend hours a day on Twitter
Building a social media presence from scratch may feel like a daunting task. Understanding the mechanics of working a social media channel, then searching through thousands of Twitter accounts for followers, monitoring, posting, retweeting, understanding firm policies and guidance, it is often enough to talk yourself out of starting in the first place. Setting a realistic and achievable plan with objectives and measures will focus efforts in the right places. There is an inevitable upfront time investment in understanding how to maximise your efforts and build up your profile of followers however this should be offset by the value gained over a prolonged period of time. There are also a number of time saving tools to schedule tweets, classify or source followers. It is important to be selective about your choice of social media channels. There is no benefit to spreading yourself too thinly if your community is not engaging in a particular network. If you’re new to social media, Facebook, Twitter and, LinkedIn all have expansive demographics and usage rates to help with channel selection.
To maximise your efforts there are three groups to target; industry influencers who have a large following and actively engage through blogs, comments and shares, secondly ‘power-users’ or amplifiers which are people most likely to share your content and finally your target audience, contacts and clients. The real power of social media is to not only reach your own followers but to reach the followers of your industry influencers.
Myth 3: Social media is for broadcasting
Social media can be likened to a virtual pub. You enter and there are many people already in the pub having conversations across a wide variety of topics, you talk to your own friends or join another conversation, then you leave to return another day. It is unlikely that you would enter the pub, face the wall and strike up a coversation. Online it is all too easy to fall into the mistake of blasting messages in one direction. Social media channels should be used to build brand awareness and reputation through engaging comments, expertise and insights. Content should reflect your industry knowledge, share ideas, solve problems, solicit feedback and prompt engagement. Social media is a two-way dialogue, if you are talking to the wall you probably shouldn’t be there.
Myth 4 You can’t measure ROI on social media
One of the main challenges facing social media is there is no common metric by which all social media activity can be measured against. Although social media feels instant, often the desired outcomes take months or longer to achieve. The fundamental first step is to align the social media strategy to your business goals, set out clear objectives, decide on metrics such as reach, engagement, traffic and brand sentiment. There is a wealth of free tools available to assist in measurement from simpler options such as Google Analytics to more customised dashboards such as bitly, Hootsuite, SocialMention, TweetReach and Klout.
Myth 5 Saying the wrong thing will ruin my career…or worse
For an industry built on reputation engagement with social media can be a daunting prospect. Public social media blunders have led to bad press, loss of clients and even company failure. There are some simple tactics, which can prevent social media disasters. Understand the firm’s social media policy, promote interaction rather than broadcast, focus on quality rather than quantity, evaluate the implications but do not over think, respond to feedback – especially negative feedback, remember Tweets are permanent even if you delete them, avoid sensitive and confidential information and seek advice if you are unsure or something does go wrong.
Social media is playing an increasingly important role in how people, communities and businesses share information. In professional services, it has the potential of transforming reputations, building profitable relationships, enhancing capability and credibility, increasing brand awareness and gaining information about target audiences.
By resolving concerns and dispelling common social media myths, professional services firms can catch up with their more socially active peers and start to unlock the potential of social media.