Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 5: Social Media
By Aaron Taylor
The professional services marketplace is undergoing fundamental change. Today's buyers are relying on the power and convenience of the Internet to find and vet professional services firms. As marketing moves away from traditional referrals and toward a practice of sharing knowledge, a firm's reputation depends increasingly on its command of ideas. In this fifth of a multi-part series, we explain social media's role in modern marketing.
Social media is a big topic. It's scope is enormous — much too broad and complicated to cover in any detail here. Instead, I want to explain how social media makes modern professional services marketing more effective. In fact, it is one of the engines that drive content marketing, engagement and awareness.
There are a boggling number of social media tools at our disposal today. But most firms need only concentrate on two. While these tools have many uses for professional services firms — including networking with and nurturing leads online — they serve one vital function in online marketing: promoting your content.
If you are in business, you should be on LinkedIn, the world's largest business-focused social network. In our study of 500 professional services executives, we learned that it is favored above all other social media tools by the fastest-growing, most profitable firms.
LinkedIn provides two different ways to promote your content. You can post new blog posts and content announcements to your page, where your followers will see them. And perhaps more important, you can join groups of like-minded professionals where you can share links to your content with targeted groups of people, many of whom may need your services.
The trick, however, is to avoid selling your services or promote your content in a self-serving way. Your job is to be scrupulously helpful, offering thoughtful insights and answers to people's questions. Find interesting conversations and join them. Only when appropriate, offer up a link to a piece of content you or someone else at your firm has written on the topic. But a naked link isn't going to win you any friends. Instead, use it in a comment to support the point you are making. It should feel natural. That's how you build trust online and promote content.
To learn more, download a free guide to professional services marketing with LinkedIn. (See how that works?)
This microblogging platform is popular in large part because of what you can't do. Let me be concise. You can't send a message longer than 140 characters. People love it because it allows them to broadcast bite-sized chunks of information. Easy to write. Easy to digest. Which makes it an ideal platform for quick-hit messages and promoting new content.
Because of the way this service has evolved, you can be a little more self-promotional on Twitter than on LinkedIn. Go ahead and announce new blog posts, as well as any longer-format pieces hot off the presses. It's particularly well suited to the promotion of freshly minted content.
But if every “tweet” you send contains a link to your content, you may want to back off a bit. No more than 20 percent of your tweets should contain these sorts of links (links to other people's content, however, is just fine). And when you tweet your content, try to communicate some of the benefit of the piece so people feel compelled to click the link. Another tactic is to tweet interesting tidbits from the piece you are promoting.
Twitter won't do you much good, however, if nobody is following you. You will need to spend quality time finding Twitter members in your industry and interacting with them. Like LinkedIn, if you want people to follow you, you need to engage in conversations and bring your experience, insight and generosity to the table.
Don't know where to start engaging with other professionals? Here are 33 professional services leaders you can follow on Twitter.
Best of the Rest
In the second rank of social media platforms for professional services firms, three services stand above the rest.
Facebook is the largest social network in the world. With 900 million users, its sheer size and popularity makes it a serious contender for your attention. Many firms invest heavily in Facebook marketing activity, and some have genuine success. If you have the resources, we recommend you give it a try. Use it much like you would use LinkedIn.
YouTube can be an essential platform for publishing any videos your firm produces. Next to Google, it is the second most trafficked search engine, so if you take the time to optimize your videos for search, you'll have another opportunity to promote your services through search.
Pinterest is a bulletin board for sharing (or “pinning”) items or collections of items. It is used for displaying visual things: photos, infographics, websites, books (covers) and the like. So the service is probably best suited for firms that can benefit from sharing visual materials. Many architects and construction firms have had success with Pinterest.
How much time should you devote to social media? That's a tough question, because “it depends” lurks around every corner. But if you want a rule of thumb, try this: plan to spend at least 30 minutes, five days a week on each social network. If you follow our recommendation and participate in Twitter and LinkedIn, that's 5 hours a week.
That's a lot of time for a busy executive. Even if you can only manage half that, you should reap rewards. If even that sounds impossible, then delegate the task to others — but they will need to smart and credible enough to build trust online. Find a way, and you will never regret it.
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 1: Research
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 2: Positioning
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 3: Content Marketing
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 6: Analytics
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 7: The High Performance Website
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 8: Email Marketing
- Elements of Modern Professional Services Marketing 9: The Role of Traditional Marketing Techniques
- The LinkedIn Guide for Professional Services Executives