Every firm knows about social media. Many have some sort of social media presence but very few have implemented a successful social media strategy that maximises the potential benefits. For law and accountancy firms, social media can be a useful tool to help you build relationships with potential clients, increase the responsiveness and effectiveness of your service and find new and creative ways to generate more clients. Social media can be effective if approached in the right way.
For a long time, professional service firms have mostly thought of social media as a secondary channel for marcomms. In a number of firms, I’ve seen marketing departments ‘palming off’ the social media cause to junior and even temporary staff. Which tells me there’s still a feeling that social media isn’t considered important enough to warrant a proportional amount of time, money, or – importantly – expertise.
These are the top issues I come across:
Firms still making excuses. “Social media doesn’t work for our profession.” “Our firm is different.” “We tried for a few weeks and we didn’t get any work”. I hear these statements too often. This is a “can’t do” attitude. Change it. Social media is here to stay. Embrace it or be left behind.
Management support doesn’t exist. Firms’ management have been largely distanced from social media – be that through indifference, ignorance or pure cynicism. Whatever the reasoning, I have to wave a red flag here: maintain this distance at your peril. Social media cannot succeed as a one-man or marketing project. Firms need to build a model that projects social media as a valuable business tool. Someone in a leadership function needs to create a vision of what social media looks like for the entire firm.
Confused objectives. Business imperatives should drive the use of social media, not just the technology itself. Client activation, re-activation and retention should be the primary goal guiding the use of social media. Secondary objectives could include awareness, establish relevancy, increasing conversion, generate involvement and create ongoing engagement.
Firms don’t understand all the benefits. Most firms view social media as a way to interact directly with clients. In addition to that function, there are other business opportunities that can benefit your firm both internally and externally through communication, collaboration, collective intelligence and community opportunities. Internal firm networks like Yammer and Chatter can enable employees to form virtual work groups and exchange ideas on centralised messaging boards – making relevant content accessible and searchable for the entire firm.
Firms are too scared of the risks. Social media can open a firm up to possible risks including PR and HR issues. While these risks are very real, it’s essential not to let them inhibit progress. The key is to develop a sound social media policy that identifies the risks and mitigates them.
It’s difficult to automate messaging. Social media demands personalised content over generic pitches. On the social web, space may be unlimited, but attention is hard fought. To attract readership and potential leads, lawyers, accountants and their marketers need to create more content than ever before. But it’s a labour-intensive, ‘creative’ task that fee earners aren’t usually interested in taking up alongside their daily chores. One blog post a month just doesn’t cut it. Many firms find themselves under-equipped to keep up with the content demands. Firms need to shift some of the budget to content creation resources.
Poor websites. Firms could be doing well, attracting traffic to their websites through social media activity. But if the destination website isn’t spot on, it’s probably doing more harm than good. Firms need to conduct user testing on their websites to ensure proper communication of their products and services. They need to continuously examine their on-site conversion paths. The aim is to increase the conversion of visits from social media sites into business leads.
A failure to make the boring exciting. Enough said on this one. Do people really want to read war and peace about some obscure and highly technical piece of legislation? Write what will be of use and interest to your audience. For example, if you are prepared to provide a compelling piece of content, you need to explain its relevance to the audience. Remember, you’re fighting for attention.
Over-looking ‘paid-social’ to bolster organic efforts. Advertising shouldn’t be a dirty word in social media marketing. Instead, paid social media marketing efforts on platforms such as LinkedIn can be used to bolster your organic marketing investment. These platforms offer sophisticated audience segmentation tools – more advanced than print publications – allowing you to focus your activity – and budget! – to your target demographics. You can use advertising to attract new connections on social networks. They will see the content you are sharing and engage with it to increase your lead generation.
Not looking at the right data. Weak metrics like followers and engagement numbers aren’t helpful. Firms need to look at social media as they would any other marketing channel and consider key metrics like visitor-to-lead conversion rate by social channel, as well as visitor-to-client conversion rates.
The Rokman opinion
Social media is here to stay. To get the right social media strategy in place, each firm should identify which platforms suit their sector and then listen into the relevant conversations that are happening across those platforms. This will generate insight that can be used as a starting point for engagement strategies.
Don’t get me wrong, social media works better for some industries. It’s arguably easier for retailers to ‘get it right’ because they’re better set up to link social media with traffic and sales metrics. Compare this with professional service sectors where the benefits are ‘softer’, like brand awareness and reputation management.
My advice to firms is that social media isn’t a quick fix – it’s a long term process requiring a well thought-out strategy. It takes persistence, time, confidence, tweaking and a positive attitude. It’s about having realistic expectations. There’s no getting rich overnight. As long as you get into it with the expectation that social media is not a panacea for lawyers and accountants with an immediate need for new clients, and that it will take some time to develop strong relationships, you’ll be fine. And if you’re going to do social media, do it well, and do it with a can-do attitude.
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