Listening to professional service firms across the UK, I hear time and time again of their frustration with social media.
“I just don’t get it, everyone talks about it but no one has the time to do it, even when I do spend time on it I’m not really sure what I’m doing.” Views that may well resonate in your firm. But what is the answer?
You have five main options:-
1. If you haven’t started just don’t bother
2. If you have made an attempt, opened the odd twitter, facebook or linkedin account, stop right now and do no more
3. Hire someone to do your donkey work and outsource your social media activity
4. Instruct all fee earners to embrace social media and open a variety of accounts, throwing your firm head long into all things “social”
5. Introduce a workable approach to using the most appropriate platforms for your firm by setting a plan and working to it
With so many people, businesses, clients, competitors actively involved in social media can you afford to “not bother?” You may well be frustrated by the lack of response to your initial efforts but it’s like trying to drive a car in a busy town centre without having had a lesson, scary and likely to put you off getting behind a wheel forever.
Getting someone else to drive your activity may well be a good way to start but ultimately most platforms require a personality and connection that would be hard to replicate and pretenders are often quickly found out. However compelling the sales pitch and attractive the thought of delegating tweets to third parties, it’s not the way to grow a trusted network.
As for the stick theory, demanding fee earners to “just do it” will result in some activity but for many it will be with reluctance and without effective training, plans or analysis, it will engender a widerspread feeling of hopelessness and confusion.
So that leaves option 5, it seems and is, a sensible approach but that short line of a few words does no more than sentence the one charged with making it happen to a period in solitary where they’ve nothing to do but work out “what the hell do we do about this social media malarkey?”
That in a nutshell is the problem – advice is cheap but effective action is priceless. The added complication is that in general, those working within the professional sector like certainty, don’t like taking risks, however well calculated, and this new communication medium seems fraught with danger.
On the upside there’s no shortage of help out there but a word of caution, not all who speak with marketing tongue can walk the social media walk. Alterian’s annual survey of 1,500 marketers, agencies and consultants last year identified that amazingly a third didn’t understand how to manage social media. A staggering 70% were simply not reporting on its effectiveness to senior management or clients. So beware the sales pitch
The reasons to strive to understand the medium remain compelling. The statistics ever impressive with millions of “friends” “followers” and contacts to “link to” we ignore social media at our peril and risk being left far behind.
A few mind bending stats that suggest social media is far from a fad or momentary medium used by niche groups:-
- Linkedin – Launched 2002, 90 million members, 200 countries, 5m in the UK
- WordPress – Launched 2003, latest version of the website downloaded 32.5m, 13% of the World’s top 1m websites use WordPress
- Facebook – Launched 2004, 500 million users, 48% 18-34yrs, av. 130 friends (big rise in 35+ users)
- FlickR – Launched 2004, 5bn photos, 50 million accounts,
- YouTube – Launched 2005, 490m users, av. user 20 minutes per day,
- Twitter – Launched 2006, 190 million accounts, 55 million tweets per day
- Foursquar – Launched 2009, 381,576,305 check ins 2010
If your fear is it’s already too late DON’T PANIC, there is still time for new joiners or those who’ve just scratched the surface to quickly seize the initiative. The truth is that a large number of professional service firms have leapt to join in but not truly understood the potential of the various social media platforms. Trust in your instincts and apply the same level headed approach to this marketing discipline as you would to any other. The focus is all about the conversation, the connection and the trusted network you can build within which, on occasion, you can introduce messages that promote the practice and the people who deliver your services.
I view social media marketing as an altenative form of broadcasting. You have multiple channels, a wide variety of potential audiences and no shortage of material to consider to put “on air”.
Consider your twitter strategy with this broadcast analagy in mind. Which of your fee earners will be tweeting, what is their ideal audience, how best can you hope to engage with that target, what source of material could be of interest and how frequently do you want to send a message promoting the firm or specific service?
Very few of us want to watch a channel that is 100% adverts. But we will tune in to a broadcaster offering interesting comments, observations, news and support and interactivity within the network. Our rule is generally one promotional tweet to every six offering alternative content.
Please don’t worry about how you become a trusted, entertaining broadcaster. The vast majority of twitter accounts are run by ordinary people who have simply spent time understanding the language, tone and appropriateness of the medium. There is no short cut alternative to gaining experience of social media platforms. Many so called specialists in the field can offer advice and training but there is no substitute for getting your “hands on” and starting the process.
This is marketing as a truly participative event, no arms length seminar, newspaper column or e-mail campaign. Here you are engaging in a direct manner and developing not only your firms brand by adopting a social media strategy, but critically establishing yourself as a brand that your network can trust and call upon for advice.
Ready for your close up? Don’t worry no make up required, well not until you establish your YouTube channel.
David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer Twitter @davidlaud LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidlaud
Managing Partner – i2i Business Solutions LLP – Marketing Consultancy for Professional Service Firms
& CEO of Samuel Phillips Law Firm