Why Professional Services Firms Must Embrace Social Media

@tedbirk94

When it comes to social media communications, it’s not why or when…it’s how and where.

Overly aggressive regulators, elusive prospects and skeptical leadership are just some of the reasons professional services firms have largely avoided the realm of BtoB social media communications.

As a strategic communications firm that caters to professional service firms, we’ve heard it all. “We are a conservative brand with conservative clients so social media is not right for us.” “Our clients aren’t using social media so why should we?” “Social media is for consumer brands, not professional services firms.” “Social media poses too much risk and too little reward.”

Sound familiar? The objections are plentiful and the excuses are easy; however the rewards for those that do it right can be handsome.

If your firm – be it law, consulting, finance or accounting – has stumbled out of the gate trying to create a meaningful social media presence, or is considering stepping up its efforts, you have questions. And here are answers to three questions that your senior leadership team is likely asking.

1.) How can my company and employees publish and circulate content over social media and not run afoul of regulators?

Regulators are often cited as one of the top reasons why professional services firms – especially ones that operate in highly-regulated industries – don’t embrace a proactive social media effort. However, technologies and platform companies such as Hearsay Social and CommandPost make it easier for firms to track and report social media activity and adhere to strict compliance demands. What’s more, proper social media training and focusing content on thought leadership rather than ‘conducting business’ will also help manage compliance issues and avoid the wrath of regulators.

2.) How do I convince the naysayers in my firm that social media is a worthwhile investment when our clients – who are mostly senior level business executives – don’t use it.

If one of your communications goals is to enhance and increase the quality of media coverage of your firm and its leaders, social media is a vital tool. It is the conduit for the brand and its lead spokespeople to engage with media on topics and issues that are driving much of their coverage. If you’re not present on social media, you’re missing a golden opportunity to build relationships with media, analysts, academics and other influential figures.

Yes, it’s accurate to say that most senior-level business executives are not visibly active on social media, but more and more are passively using platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to discover smart news and commentary. And almost all executives (or their assistants) consistently use it to find information about pressing business issues and individuals with whom they may do business. This is precisely why digital profiles of professional services firms and their leaders are so important—particularly considering how search engines are increasingly giving weight to content from social media.

3.) How do I develop, on a regular basis, content that my audiences will actually care about and provide a healthy ROI on social media communications?

Professional services firms must act like publishers and get to know the content needs of their audiences. Success in social media requires an altruistic approach to providing content that will add tangible value to the reader and focus on the needs of the audience, not the marketer. In other words, you have to be able to address the content needs of your audience…which, most often, isn’t information about your products and services.

What topics and issues will resonate most with the audience? What complex business problems are they eager to learn more about? What type of content do they prefer, and what devices do they most often use to consume it? Answers to these questions can help marketers develop a targeted content strategy that results in the best content formats, the most effective content channels and the most relevant topics on which to focus.

As marketers, our job is to educate, influence and prompt action among prospective clients or those who influence them. An insufficient amount of social media in the marketing diet can limit a company’s ability to achieve success in raising awareness, differentiating itself and driving interest working with the brand.

Ted Birkhahn is a partner and president of Peppercomm. He is responsible for client services and managing agency operations for the 100+ person integrated marketing and communications firm. During his 15-year tenure at Peppercomm, Ted has managed some of the firm’s largest and fastest-growing accounts, launched a number of Peppercomm’s practice areas and spearheaded the firm’s acquisition strategy. Give him a shout at tedb@peppercomm.com or (212) 931-6119.

 

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