Is your firm maximizing the value you receive from social media marketing? Many firms think it’s enough just to have a “social media strategy.” You know that document that firms distribute telling everyone what they can’t do on social media, but not telling them how to get value from it. I’ve never once seen a qualified lead come from a 10 page strategy document, but I might just be missing something. Other firms, recognizing a trend from the outside, have setup Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, and post firm news and updates. While this might be a way to start, most firms who don’t go any further quickly become disillusioned with social media, wondering if tangible results are truly worth the effort.
Of all of the firms that I’ve had the opportunity to speak with over the last several years who believe they have a social media marketing program, very few are showing demonstrable results. Yet a select few firms are leveraging social media, online marketing, and their website to generate 20percent or more of their qualified new leads. In the last year, more than a quarter of new revenue at Catalyst started with leads that came from blogs, the website, or social media. So what is the key to generating real value through social media?
Going Beyond Promotion
As with most things above the level of 5-6 year-old YMCA basketball, mere participation is not enough. The entire concept of “social” is contradictory to how many firms approach social media. There is nothing social about posting updates or newsletters on a Facebook page. If you are honest with yourself, there probably aren’t a lot of visitors hitting your firm Facebook page on a daily basis. And most of your “likes” are probably firm employees and their family members.
So how do you go from participation to engagement?
Social Engagement is the Key
Conversation is the key. It is essential to find, facilitate, and participate in conversations that provide you and your team with opportunities to add value and make new contacts.
Firms that are benefiting from social media are participating in discussions. Some are facilitating discussions. Some are actively seeking out discussions with key terms that indicate a potentially qualified prospect. The concept works for any professional service firm, whether you are a marketing agency, a CPA or a specialty tax provider.
Where are the Relevant Conversations?
Where are these leading firms finding opportunity? LinkedIn Groups and Discussions are a great place to start, especially within specific niches. Look for groups and discussions where 1) you can provide valuable insight and 2) discussions tend to center around areas where you can provide service. Don’t be afraid to start groups and start discussion topics. Invite clients and prospects to niche based discussion groups. Lead, facilitate, and participate. Don’t look at every conversation as a potential lead, but don’t ignore service opportunities when they present themselves.
Twitter is another great place where conversations can be found. Firms are out there successfully generating leads from Twitter. But they aren’t generating leads simply by tweeting and re-tweeting. They are actively searching Twitter for conversations with specific words and phrases that indicate a potential to add value and perhaps provide service.
Ready to Participate?
Like so many areas of accounting marketing, far too many view social media as a box to check. But if you expect to get benefit, you’ll need to move beyond participation and into actual conversation. Find the right conversations and make it a point to participate with a plan for converting participation into opportunity. Social media opportunities vary for every organization based on the services you provide, your target market, your geography area, and the resources you have to commit to them. For many firms, LinkedIn is a great place to start participating. Get your people to start looking at LinkedIn as a conversation. It is like a great big cocktail party filled with qualified prospects looking for advice and service. You just have to find the right party and start talking.