With the online marketing revolution that’s taking place in the professional services industries, social media can’t be ignored. It’s a means to build business relationships, increase firm reputation and visibility, and generate referrals. And while many firms recognize its importance, they’re still struggling with reaping social media’s full benefits. If this rings true for your firm, take a look at our five steps to develop a social media strategy that aligns with your other marketing efforts.
1. Determine the purpose of your social media program
You need a strategy, but what it will be is dependent on your firm’s specific needs. Are you looking to develop new relationships with industry influencers or your target audiences? Will your strategy be based around promoting educational content and new ideas, or are you hoping to attract more visitors to your website? Are you trying to recruit new talent or wanting to learn more about your competitors’ position in the marketplace? Social media can accomplish all of these things and more. So before you start, get everyone from executives to your creative team on the same page regarding the goals for your social media strategy.
2. Specify and research your target audiences
Social media’s reach is seemingly limitless, so it’s essential to clearly define your target audiences. You’ll need to strike a balance between being too narrow or too broad with your focus. Most B2B sales involve multiple decision-makers, so zooming in too closely on potential deciders can leave prospective advocates out of your corner. With this in mind, do some formal research such as polling and online monitoring and dig around in relevant profiles on LinkedIn to find out what groups your target audience members participate in.
3. Select the appropriate social media channel(s)
Part of that research you just did on your target audiences was finding out just where your prospective audiences are hanging out online. While it’s not necessary to be on every social media platform, be where your audience and prospective clients are. If your focus is B2B, LinkedIn is often a good place to start, as it’s often considered the premier social network for professionals. Twitter and YouTube also fit a great many B2B strategies. Facebook is a worthwhile platform to showcase your firm’s brand and personality. Young hires, non-profits, and direct consumers are sometimes better reached through Facebook as well. And keep in mind that many industries are involved in specialized and private social forums. Seek those out as well, and get connected.
4. Pinpoint program goals and measures
Maybe you’re hoping for retweets or a particular number of followers and shares. Whatever your goals, keep track of your performance regularly and adjust when necessary. There are generally three categories of measurable goals to set:
- Activity. This is what you do. How many discussions did you start this week and how often are you tweeting? Keep up your efforts because without a significant contribution to these channels, you won’t see results. Tracking activity keeps you on a schedule that will deliver results.
- Reach. Are prospects responding? This tracks your followers, fans, likes, comments, re-shares, retweets — all the ways your audience engages you online. After all, there’s no point in being active online if no seems to notice.
- Results. Have you become more visible in the marketplace? Have you found recruits? Seen increased leads or conversions? Whatever your goals are, there are some great tools to help you track website referral traffic, leads from social media, and more. Knowing what’s working will help you hone your efforts for even greater results.
5. Develop implementation tactics
Looking for ways to automate or better measure your social media efforts? Curious about best practices or want to know exactly how hashtags work? Luckily, social media is full of experts willing to informally share advice — it’s a built-in benefit of online communities. But if DIY is not for you, social media consultants are readily available, as is outsourcing. Rather than taxing your staff with work outside their areas of expertise, it may be worth your while to enlist outside help. It’s often effective to piece together internal engagement and external expertise. This helps you provide a voice authentic to your firm, while gaining the insights and skill-sets of social media professionals.
Whatever you’re hoping to gain from social media, forming a coherent strategy with measurable goals is crucial to making it worthwhile. In this new digital landscape, networking and referrals are as necessary as ever — it’s just the means of making them happen that has changed. Remember, your competition is likely involved in social media, so if you’re not, you’re missing connections, leads, and growth.
Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D., is managing partner at Hinge, a marketing firm that specializes in branding and marketing for professional services. Hinge is a leader in rebranding firms to help them grow faster and maximize value. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or 703-391-8870.