Effective social media engagement is becoming table stakes for many businesses, even more so for business leaders themselves.
Unlike other tools, technologies and strategies, social is not just a tactic that is employed to market and promote and, ultimately, sell products and services. In order to be effective, social media demands to engagement and participation in relationships with your markets. After all, markets are conversations — and you need to be participating in them to be relevant.
So how does a small or medium-sized businesses get into social media if they’ve been sitting on the sidelines for a while?
Mark Schaefer addresses this question in his excellent piece: How does a small business move into social media marketing? I’ve used Mark’s basic responses as a framework and tailored them to the specific situation of professional practices in financial services.
1. Do my clients even want to engage in social channels?
Ask them. Conduct a simple survey to determine how many of your clients use social media and for what purposes. Or just ask them yourself. In your regular meetings with clients, ask if they are on LinkedIn and how they use it. Do they get value from their social media use and, if so, how do they describe that value. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Don’t just assume that your clients don’t use social because of their age — or because YOU are projecting your own discomfort using these tools. Let your clients tell you how they want to interact with you.
2. Improve your own social media skills and understanding.
You don’t need to become an expert or guru of social media, but you do need to pay attention to what is happening in social and how it’s affecting interpersonal communication. Especially if you are in the relationship business. Know enough to be able to ask the right questions and steer clear of strategies and tactics that don’t support your brand values. Everything you ever wanted to know about social media is available at your fingertips online. Make it a priority to learn about it.
3. Align social media efforts with real goals of your business.
Success in the social space can be defined many ways, but to be meaningful social needs to be tied to your business goals and objectives. Define key performance indicators that make sense in your business: new leads, closer relationships with key clients, more interaction with clients, more referrals, etc. At the same time, allow for realistic inputs of time, effort and money in order to achieve your goals. Don’t expect to move the social needle overnight.
4. Get professional help.
Know what you don’t know. Leverage external experience and knowledge to get started. Schaefer says it best:
“It’s like strapping yourself to an instructor the first time you skydive. After a couple trips, you’re ready to go it alone.”
But don’t expect an external professional to do it all for you. The point is to use external resources to expedite your learning process and increase your capacity — not to replace your need to invest time and energy.
5. Don’t view social as an “add-on”.
You are probably doing a variety of things to market your business and promote your brand, as well as inform and service your current clients. Look closely at your expenditures and the returns you are getting. Similarly, look at your investments of time — both yours and your staff’s — and measure that against returns. Chances are, there is room for improvement and reallocation of resources to social strategies and engagement. Don’t just dump social on someone who already has a full role. Not prioritizing your marketing activities and not making strategic decisions because you’re overloaded and too busy IS a decision with implications for your business.
6. Reframing the social opportunity.
Social media affords small businesses and professional practices with many opportunities to move the yardsticks — to differentiate from competitors, to add value to clients and to punch above their weight in the marketplace. In the old days, marketing and branding initiatives were launched and then you and your team sat back and waited for the business to come in. Today, smart social strategies should be focusing your efforts on building and strengthening your networks and priming them to be lead generation engines.
Social is not going away because it’s driven by people’s need to communicate. And that isn’t about to change.