You are a professional working independently or within a small or medium sized firm.
Perhaps you sell HR and recruiting services. Or you’re an architect, an engineer or a designer. Maybe you’re in the financial services space – an investment advisor, insurance advisor or a planning specialist.
If you consult anyone about anything, chances are that your success is significantly driven through your business relationships and networks. You already invest significant amounts of your time and money in these networks and relationships. They are, in many ways, the lifeblood of your business.
Social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ enable you to extend – through digital and mobile technology – the relationship building and nurturing activities that lie at the heart of your enterprise.
Virtually every professional services business has some clients and prospects that are active in the social space and each of these individuals is a gateway to another network. Any business without a social strategy for engaging these socially active clients is taking a risk. You’re taking for granted the loyalty of these clients and forfeiting opportunities in the online space to translate that loyalty into engagement and referrals.
In what follows, I outline 3 key strategic principles and 7 tactical elements of an effective do-it-yourself social strategy for virtually any professional services firm.
First, aim to grow your social capital in the influence economy.
Social networks have given rise to an influence economy within which people create value and accumulate social capital. Your social strategy should be built around actions that steadily grow the social capital of your firm and the individuals with it.
Second, build personal brand and networks within a corporate setting.
The key building blocks of the influence economy are personal networks built around personal brands. By supporting and guiding the personal branding activities of your key employees, you will also grow the social capital of your firm’s brand.
Third, attract clients and prospects by adding value, giving and helping.
Outbound push marketing has been replaced with inbound attraction marketing. Instead of pushing out mass media messages, concentrate on stimulating conversations by adding value to discussions and helping target audiences understand issues better. Being generous and giving knowledge freely triggers a powerful desire to reciprocate.
Seven steps to implementing a DIY social media plan
Small and medium-sized professional service firms have a unique opportunity to integrate their corporate social media initiatives with personal branding and content micro-marketing strategies.
Here are 7 key elements of a DIY social strategy for your firm.
1. Define your target audience.
The first priority is to sit down as a team and decide: who do we want to reach? Then, dig into those personas in great detail and specify what concerns and interests those audiences have. The foundation of your social strategy should be a clear understanding of who you want to reach and what matters to them. And don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect right out of the gate. Social strategy should be iterative, so you can (and should) tune up and expand your target audience definition periodically.
2. Understand your brand identities, both corporate and personal.
Notice, I didn’t start by saying: sit down with your team and decide what is your message? That’s because in social media spaces it’s more effective to be your brand values than it is to tell people about them. Thus, it is critically important to understand the relationship between your corporate brand that defines the collective values for your team and the individual personal brands that express these values through sharing content and interacting online.
3. Curate content that meets the needs of your target audience.
Formalize a content curation process within your organization. Start by appointing a suitable person to lead and coordinate finding and sharing great content that your target audiences want. Some skills that make for a suitable curator include: avid reader, creative thinker, unbridled curiosity, subject matter knowledge and/or being a quick study on any topic. Once content starts flowing within your team, other individuals will also emerge as lead curators from whose finds the team can benefit.
4. Distribute curated content through social networks.
Once your organization is consistently sourcing great content that your target audience wants, there are a variety of ways to distribute this content including:
- Email newsletters
- LinkedIn sharing and Groups
- Twitter feeds (personal and corporate)
- Google+ pages (personal and corporate)
- Facebook pages (corporate)
- Pinterest and Instagram for more visual content (personal and/or corporate)
Note: While corporate accounts can be used as part of this distribution plan, personal feeds and sharing by individuals within their networks is key to activating each person’s social network.
5. Establish a blog and use it to create content that adds value to discussions your target audience is already having.
Blog publishing is a great complement to curation because it gives you a platform to express your unique view, while adding value to a discussion. A collective corporate blog may be the best way to go in many situations because you can plan your editorial calendar around multiple writers within your organization and more easily maintain a steady stream of content.
6. Continuously improve the social media skills and knowledge of your team members.
Social media is a constantly evolving space. Strategies and techniques should be constantly reviewed with an eye toward focussing in on what’s working and what’s not. The personal branding skills of your team members and how they are being applied in online settings is also a key factor in the success of your corporate social strategy. Regular collective skill-sharing sessions and even individual coaching and mentoring within the team can significantly improve your results.
7. Track success in terms of key performance indicators.
Determining the success of any online strategy is a product of defining success meaningfully and then measuring appropriately. When building relationships and brand, you need to set benchmarks and have appropriate time frames. Building trust and social capital, whether online or offline, doesn’t happen overnight. But beware of defining your success solely in terms of online metrics. Make sure you are defining and tracking key performance indicators that have a real impact on your business.