Here is the 2nd part of my review of social media management for professional service businesses, derived from typical questions posed over the past few months.
Q. How do you inject personality into a firm’s twitter account to encourage engagement?
A. Many large corporate organisations adopt a mechanism of allowing their social media team to leave their initials or first name after tweets. This works well for customer service related posts and responses to queries, concerns or complaints. I recently had a very lively exchange with Aviva’s twitter team proving they were confident in their personas and on top of my particular issue. If you don’t have the scale of resource that makes that possible you could nominate a member or members of the marketing/ PR team and let them be the face of the firm. The only danger with that in professional firms is that there can be an expectation that the person posting has direct experience of the law, surveying or accounting practice and is not a marketer. It can therefore be too easy to come across as somewhat “fluffy” lacking in substance and rather more preoccupied with cake and lighthearted matters than the business to which they are charged with promoting.
If you think you need to create a professional persona for your twitter account you may wish to consider the following.
Ask yourself…”What is the culture of the business?” If it were a person how would it behave in a meeting, socially and when presenting generally?
If you find that too tough a concept or you’re heading toward a rather schizophrenic answer try asking a few trusted clients. Humour can be an excellent mechanism for injecting both personality and creating interest but beware the fine line between laughter and tears. Avoid contentious points and consider the maxim of steering clear of core topics of sex, religion and politics.
If there’s no obvious personality traits to hang your online identity to try the following more direct approach;
a) Identify a personality in the firm that clients warm to and has proven successful.
b) If not familiar with social media introduce them to the basics and the essential do’s and don’ts
c) share posts with the “personality” and ask them for their view on how they would present it to an audience, keeping to their own style and not adopting a corporate persona.
d) Test, refine and seek feedback from networks it’s an ongoing process but over time those promoting the firm via social media will start to adopt the personality and it will become established as a clear identity. It may help to give it a name.
Q. Do professional firms properly understand their audience?
A. Honestly the answer to this question is too often no. Many firms, be they big city affairs or regional niche practices, measure their success by their number of followers/ connections. Of course you’ll make no headway at all without a network of a certain size but it’s not just numbers it’s proper connections with those who will add value.
Your target audience is client (decision makers), client (staff influencers), 3rd party influencers/ opinion formers, potential staff for your firm, potential suppliers/ supporters, sources of sector specific news and information.
There are a number of techniques that can help identify the above but the advice should be to grow your network steadily over time and continually monitor the membership profile.
Q. Do firms drive enough conversation on social media or are they guilty of transmitting rather than communicating?
A. Too many broadcast because of a lack of quality home grown content and ignore the opportunities to listen to their networks. We can all be guilty of it but at heart know ourselves when someone is truly listening or just waiting for their next opportunity to speak.
Social is as much listening as sharing, it’s a vital element of effective social engagement. Social selling is not traditional selling its consultative, relationship based and takes time. Trust is key and that’s built over time. Broadcasting puts your brand out there listening and responding intelligently elevates the brand perception of your network.
Q. Which channels should firms focus on? How should they adapt to different channels?
A. LinkedIn is the classic professional networking portal but is awash with samey articles as the platform has morphed into a publisher of original posted content. As a result you need to work hard to retain a profile and audience interest. Consider taking your LinkedIn connections to another space….e-mail. There is a much underused tool on LinkedIn which provides the ability to download connections and their contact information to a spreadsheet.
Twitter has merit in keeping your profile raised and there is an expectation now that every business should have at least one main account. Twitter can provide a client service measure notably one to watch for both positive and negative feedback. As mentioned in previous points time needs to be given to thinking about the audience and how you might properly increase traffic to the website.
Facebook – If only to own the space and name the firm should have a page. Staff are far more likely to engage than clients but no harm in that. Often used effectively by law firms to show their community engagement, work with charities and staff achievements such as fund raising or extra curricula activities.
Google+ worth retaining a presence and keeping a watching eye on developments – has not realised its goals, unfinished business. The vast majority of firms in the UK use Google+ primarily to enhance their main Google ranking.
YouTube – Video is becoming an increasingly important medium for communicating to online audiences but thought needs to be given to its execution. No hour long death by PowerPoint presentations but 5 minute nuggets of information.
Persicope / Blab – interesting developments in video streaming and great for events but always a potential risk when “live” streaming so needs to be carefully managed.