Tag Archive linkedin

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professionals Part 3

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

Q1.      How do you keep a level of consistency in your message and retain engagement on a long-term basis?

A.

  • Be clear about your target audience and ensure your network includes a healthy proportion of those key individuals and organisations.
  • Listen, share, originate, post [repeat].
  • Measure your social engagement on Klout, Kred or Buzzsumo identify what works and repeat that approach and for whatever fails to hit the mark avoid doing it again.
  • Keep up to date with platform developments and regularly run sessions for departments to share successes and lessons.
  • Ensure those charged with posting for your business have the knowledge and capability to maximise commercial opportunities and identify appropriate content to share.

Q2.      How should firms organise accounts on platforms like Twitter – one single one for the business? Regionally? By practice? By service type?

A. No set right or wrong method but try and avoid confusing the audience. Consider those with whom you want to connect and if a distinct account is merited due to personality, service offering, sub brand or language and location go for it. My advice is “keep it simple” quite often firms can have internal conflicts or demands which require separate accounts but consider the content that is being created and the objectives. If goals can be equally met by one account rather that two or three stick to the single offering.

Q3.      Can a firm have too many channels/ platforms?

A. I would advocate experimenting on a small scale and certainly seeking to secure an account name for the firm for protection and readiness for future action but decide within reasonable time-frames if any new channel requires the investment.  Some law firms may consider channels such as Pinterest or Instagram as irrelevant and a waste of time but ignoring their potential without properly evaluating is the real folly.

If an account such as Instagram is able to present a positive reflection of the firm’s brand then ask yourself why you would not want to at least try it.

A large number of professional practices are getting to grips with Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and that seems to many to be enough. If you’re limited in your resources identify which is most likely to be a platform that your ideal audience would be attracted to. Then take time to understand and develop a presence within that medium.

Q4.      How do you maintain and protect your firm’s reputation on social media?

A. Great question. No simple answer. You cannot possibly guarantee to protect the reputation but you can ensure that those charged with using the channels on behalf of the firm are appropriately experienced, trained and aware of the consequences of any breaches of your policy. [You do have a social media policy, don’t you?]

As for all other staff they too need to be aware that social media can be a dangerous area to express personal, particularly strident or abusive views. The media channels all too regularly report on examples of dismissals for inappropriate posts. There’s no harm in sharing these examples with your staff as and when they hit the headlines to remind them of their obligations and consequences of breaching the rules.

As we know all too well, social media has its dangers especially in the hands of the opinionated, erratic, drunk, naive, angry or untrained users. Equally it can be a very positive tool to help raise the firm’s profile and effectively engage with those with whom you want to build lasting relationships online and offline.

Take great care in deciding on those charged with managing your online presence and as owners or managers in the firm take an active, ongoing interest in the content that is being broadcast in your name.

Byadmin

Social Media Management for Professional Firms – Part 2

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.

social-media-marketing-for-professional-services

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.

Byadmin

Bad Connections – Social Media Rules of Engagement

Recently we witnessed the media storm related to an exchange between two “professional” individuals on LinkedIn.  By professional I’m talking about a barrister and a senior solicitor.  No lightweights in the legal world.  An associate tenant barrister working toward a doctorate in Law & Sociology at Cambridge University, supporting her research in the fight against FGM and a strong background of working with vulnerable women in a variety of matters.  The solicitor is the joint chair of International IP Litigation & Head of European Intellectual Property at a global law firm.

Bad Connections

So how could two so well connected individuals find themselves at the centre of a media storm relating to the appropriateness of social media communication?

It’s actually quite simple.

The context is key here.  The male solicitor requested to connect with the female barrister on LinkedIn, a common enough action and no issue as the request was accepted.  What happened next is where their online relationship rapidly unravelled.

The solicitor immediately took the opportunity to message the barrister via the platform thanking her for accepting the connection request but then continuing to comment on the quality of her profile picture.  Prophetically he went as far as to say “probably horrendously politically correct” and used the word “stunning” and that it would “win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen”.

In receipt of such a message you could respond in any number of ways including:

  1. Ignore
  2. Reply privately and thank him for the compliment
  3. Reply privately and suggest he needs to think before sending such a message and disconnect from the sender via LinkedIn.
  4. Reply and also post the message and reply publically via twitter

As you will no doubt be aware or have worked out the barrister took option 4.  It’s actually not terribly surprising given her work and the undoubted shock at receiving this message on a platform such as LinkedIn.

Once posted on twitter the media quickly stepped in, spotting an opportunity to create a heated debate centred on a middle aged lawyer and an inappropriate post on social media.  The act of taking direct action via twitter added fuel to the ire of those defending the solicitor and accusing the barrister of an unnecessary overreaction.  The story appeared over the next few days in print and online in The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Daily Express and reported on BBC radio 4, newsbeat on radio 1 and radio 5 along with many other sources.  In addition there were continual re-tweets and favourites of those for and against the actions of the barrister.

I have no issue with the initial response and in fact I was included in the Independent report with a screen shot of my response on twitter.  The difficulty I have is that the media involvement,  rather than raising a very pertinent issue of how we perceive and value roles  in the workplace and the need to communicate appropriately, simply polarised the argument by using terms such as “Feminazi” and digging up unnecessary archive posts on Facebook.

What happened?  In essence a lawyer made a couple of inappropriate comments in a brief message to a recent contact on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is not a dating site nor is it a platform for lightweight banter.  It is NOT Facebook or for that matter Twitter.  It is akin to a professional networking environment where those you know and work with connect and exchange information with similar minded individuals.

The context in this conversation was entirely wrong as the lawyer did not have the relationship with the barrister that could in any way explain the comments.  By contrast “Friends” on Facebook can frequently participate in lively highly personal exchanges and yes at times they too can be offensive and require intervention.  Users of Facebook understand that there is a level of familiarity with the social interactions on the site. Whilst companies do have their own Facebook pages most users on the platform use it to keep up to date with friends and family and only work colleagues they are particularly familiar with and trust.

With all social media sites there are unwritten rules of engagement, understood by frequent users of the platforms and on occasion those rules are breached either deliberately to cause offence or unwittingly through naivety or lack of experience. This is why it is so important to be aware of the social media rules of engagement.

Apologies have been submitted by the solicitor and his firm.  I would now hope we can move on having learnt something from the incident and not lower the debate into a fight between so called “men haters” and “misogynists”.

How We Use the Main Social Media Sites

LinkedIn – Professional business to business social networking platform, exchanges akin to formal or informal meetings but all within a workplace context.

Facebook – Personal platform for keeping friends and family up to date with your life.  Socially led with focus on activities outside of work, leisure time not concentrating on work.

Twitter – Can be both work focussed and socially focussed but users tend to have either one type of accounts or another.  Great care should be taken in posting both work related content and activities of a more personal nature as it may cause to undermine the professional efforts.  With careful management it is possible to balance both.  In general terms Twitter is less formal than LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Byadmin

Business Development – Why You Need to be Thinking LinkedIn

There are no shortage of “top tip” type posts extolling the virtues of marketing you or your business on social media platforms.  Many offer useful practical advice and are indeed helpful whilst others appear to offer nothing other than the basic, obvious and on occasion not all together accurate nuggets.

In this latest post I’m sharing my advice for busy professionals who are already on LinkedIn but have yet to enjoy positive engagement or would like to improve on the current level of activity.

Before I begin there is the all-important question, why bother with LinkedIn?  I’m not going to assume that you’re already a fan of the platform and just raring to go.  You might be rather cynical and need to be convinced of LinkedIn’s worth or have adopted a more passive relationship with the site.   Alternatively you might be super keen but as yet just not “cracked the code” and finding a lack of solid engagement frustrating.

In the current connected world we live in it is becoming increasingly difficult to find time and space to develop new business opportunities, make new contacts and re-introduce yourself to old acquaintances.  We need to make use of tools that help organise our lives and for me there are few better than LinkedIn. It provides a five star Rolodex, virtual environment connecting you to a world of opportunity.  The beauty of LinkedIn is that it is very likely those companies and decision makers you want to stay in touch with are already using the site.

OK, you get it, everyone’s gathered in this global networking thing and you should get more involved…but how?  You’ve connected with people you work with, clients, university chums and a few professional contacts you picked out of your e-mail address book.  You’ve liked a couple of posts and updated your profile, even changed the picture.  What you’re struggling with is the “next step”.  You see a number of regular contributors and they seem to spend a great deal of time pushing theirs and others content, but you don’t know if it’s generating anything for them other than the obvious recognition they get.

The truth is there is no set rule or winning formula to create a stream of new business opportunities.  If anyone suggests this they’re over promising and very likely you’ll quickly become frustrated at the results…or lack of them.

For me the key is in identifying the business development methods that work for your organisation offline and adopting a similar approach online.  For example if you work in professional services it’s unlikely that bombarding prospective clients with sales messages will do it for you.  Delivering useful information via seminars and following up on enquiries generated as a result would be one example more suited to the sector.  In this example you can use LinkedIn to post content reflecting your particular expertise and encourage engagement through comments to start a conversation.

I would also strongly encourage you to have a plan for your online activities and set a target for creating new business opportunities.  This will help to retain a focus on why you would invest time online and avoid time stealing distractions that don’t move you toward your goals.

Before posting any content it’s worth reviewing your profile and making sure that it accurately reflects how you wish to be seen.  Often we focus on job titles and our internal corporate terminology to describe a role but it might not be clear to others exactly what you do.  Create your own elevator pitch that clearly explains who you are and what makes you somebody that others would want to connect with.  There’s no harm in checking out other profiles and adapting elements you like into your own if it’s an aspect that you’ve previously struggled with.

When you started on LinkedIn you probably, like me, got terribly excited and started joining dozens of groups.  The fact is we don’t always have the time to give to all the groups and over time you’ve realised they’re also not very active.  Give your groups a refresh, be ruthless and stick to those where you feel you’ll have the best possibility of engaging with potential new clients/ customers or those who’ll refer you to others.

Groups offer an opportunity to join a conversation on topical issues that affect a sector or service you have an interest in.  Try and avoid joining groups that you feel comfortable in because they’re populated by others who are in a very similar line to you.  Ask the question “What will this group bring to my business?”  If there isn’t a clear answer don’t join.

We all have connections in our network who are prolific bloggers, some offering very useful and reliable quality content, but it is hard to keep to this standard if you set out to post every day.  You should consider posting your own content but keep it to topics that are relevant to your area of expertise and provide helpful insights for your network.  It could be once a week, twice a month or once a quarter but if frequency is low, step up the conversations you participate in with your target groups.

Posting from LinkedIn, rather than placing a link to external content offers your best opportunity for engagement. It is easy to draft your copy in an external document, proof read it and then copy and paste into LinkedIn.  To access this function you need to be in the “Home” section of LinkedIn and click on the “Publish a Post” option.  There are also options here to “upload a picture” and “share an update” the latter typically involves content from other sources such as your own website or news channels.

The biggest obstacle that many busy professionals face is time or rather a lack of it.  To make LinkedIn work for you it’s a good idea to set yourself a plan of checking in with the site twice a day and having e-mail notifications set to let you know of your group or post activity.  Set yourself a target of post frequency and keep an eye out for inspiration from news items, articles and events.  Overall it’s better if you can get into a routine of using social media sites to support rather than interfere with your working day.  By being organised and structured in your approach you will be more discriminating in the content that you consume and create.

Key Points – Quick recap

  • Review your profile and view it as if you are a potential client/ customer. Take time to look at a variety of profiles and adopt ideas that would work for you.
  • Consider the précis “elevator pitch” for your profile.
  • How do you generate new business offline? Consider how you would adapt this approach on-line and set a plan and target in generating interactions and new business opportunities.  Include in this plan the time that you will invest and frequency of posting your own original content.
  • Review your groups and concentrate on those that offer opportunities to engage with prospective customers.
  • Keep a journal of interesting news, articles and items that will provide the inspiration for your posts.
  • “Publish a Post” of your own original content on LinkedIn rather than uploading hyper-links from external websites. Remember this is distinct from the “share an update” option which will often involve posting external links and is a great way to bring your connections to your website or share the content of others in your network.
  • Remember to carefully proof read your post before publishing, a second pair of eyes can be invaluable.

The above is obviously not a definitive guide to using LinkedIn but provides guidance that should help improve your engagement and ideally grow your confidence in using the world’s largest professional networking site.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below or e-mail me david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

Byadmin

The Power of Personal Branding

Later this year our first born turns 20.  Her generation has been the first to grow up in the “social” World we all now inhabit.  Migrating from MSN messenger a brief flirtation with MySpace before Facebook appeared on the scene.  Now she can count twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to the portfolio of sites that enable her to connect and share with friends.

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

In the early days it wasn’t quite as all-consuming as it is now.  Accessibility was limited to time on Dad’s laptop or PC but as we all know now smartphone and tablet proliferation provides instant easy access.

 

As a parent we will naturally be protective over the sites visited and posts read and made by our children but it’s not always easy to build and maintain trust whilst coming across as an Orwellian control freak.

 

Parenting is one thing but what of ourselves?  Are we immune from the attractions of social media and the desire to connect and build our own virtual networks?  For some the thought of sharing aspects of their lives on any potentially public platform is just too scary or ridiculous to consider.  For others it opens a whole new world of opportunity.

 

Successful social media entrepreneurs have created impressive personal brands that can equal that of a large business.  Commentators and influencers are now being actively sought out by the traditional brands to aid them in their quest to understand and grow their own sphere of influence online.

 

What about you?  Do you see yourself as falling into the “personal brand” category?  From my perspective anyone who is prepared to put themselves out there with a unique and homespun message that

shares even a small part of their lives has created a brand.  The difficulty with such a notion is that people see a brand as belonging to something far greater than an individual, its Nike, Coke, Apple, Dyson, Virgin…. But just consider the celebrity brand.  Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jeremy Clarkson; there are hundreds of examples.  One of the most stunning examples of an individual harnessing the power of social media is that of Barack Obama and yes he had a team behind him but the principle of Obama the brand, his message and reach through social media is a lesson we can all draw upon.

 

If using social media for personal or business purposes or in my case a schizophrenic combination of both you really should take time to think about how your persona is presented.  I often see accounts on twitter where individuals are obliged by their employers to state that the tweets produced are their own and not associated with the business they’re fronting.  I understand why these statements are made but I do fear they undermine any efforts to positively promote that business, it gives an impression that they are free to talk behind the businesses back rather than be trusted to offer opinion and general comment on the world around them.  If you’re worried about what someone might say in the name of your business or by any loose association, don’t give them the keys to the account!

 

Back to the personal brand idea – what should you be doing to make the most of your social media presence?

10 Tips for Personal Branding with Social Media

  1. Think about why you’re investing time in social media sites
  2. Be careful not to imitate others, be original and find your own voice.
  3. Draw up a short list of simple objectives, what do you want from all this time you’re investing?
  4. Consider setting yourself some basic “house rules” for social media use such as:
    • No swearing
    • Respect others
    • Block negative contributions from your network
    • Protect and enhance your reputation
    • Add value to your network
  5. Ask for feedback from others who you trust to give an honest appraisal of your online persona, does it match your own thoughts?
  6. Don’t get hung up on social ranking scores
  7. Focus on the level of genuine interactions
  8. Regularly review where you are against your objectives and don’t be afraid of changing them
  9. Update the profile pic to keep things fresh
  10. Try not to take yourself too seriously

The last on the list could easily be top.  One of the biggest “turn offs” is the overly earnest, terribly persistent and infuriatingly opinionated narcissist.  It’s really not a good look; but given the personality type they’re often so self-obsessed they don’t see what we can.

Being aware of your personal brand is not taking yourself too seriously it’s actually taking responsibility for your current and future reputation.  Most employers and clients now “Google” the names of individuals who they might be working with.  It’s clear that those who have strong, well established and consistent content will put themselves in the frame for future work.

As far as branding goes…it really is getting personal.

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

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Byadmin

Putting the “Social” Back into Social Media Marketing

Have you noticed it’s getting harder to generate meaningful responses and take part in active “real time” conversations on social media platforms?  I have and I know many others who experience the same issue which is why I think we need to put the “Social” back into social media marketing.   In my view one of the root causes of this trend away from network engagement is the application of tools to assist in posting multiple messages and scheduling content broadcasts.

Putting the "Social" Back

Putting the “Social” Back

For this I have a confession, I’m guilty as charged.  I occasionally schedule posts using a very well-known and popular application and yes I get a sense of relief and satisfaction knowing that I’ve organised myself and my business.  It’s planning ahead and that’s good isn’t it?

In the strictest sense of business management yes, it’s good to be organised, but what have I actually done by scheduling tweets and G+ updates and sharing blog content at times when I’ll be very busy with other matters?

I’ll tell you what I’ve done…I’ve removed myself from the core principle of social media…engagement.  Of course I have alerts set up on tablet and phone so if one of the automated tweets receives a favourite, re-tweet or mention in any way I will have an immediate notification.  Despite the efforts to acknowledge and have an interaction with followers it’s still only a reactive response to my own content and not a supportive comment or conversation based upon my networks very current posts.

I do still take time to post personal messages and support others on-line but if I’m being brutally honest I’m not doing enough.

Too many social media users have lost focus on the “social” and become more obsessed with simply broadcasting.  Marketing teams are schooled in how best to push the message through these new channels and only a few companies are really engaging with customers and their networks.  The best examples of making social media work in large organisations is having teams readily accessing channels to pick up on comment, complaint and feedback.  That’s listen mode ahead of broadcast mode.

As a marketer I do see social media platforms as communication channels but they are not the same as TV and radio they are uniquely designed for personal engagement.  Creating campaigns to deliver sales messages over and over again interspersed with the occasional useful content is not going to impress many in your network.

Social media has evolved and for many it still performs and delivers but it’s worth taking a step back and giving your current strategy a little “Spring clean”.

I for one will be turning down the auto tweets and returning to the fundamental foundation of the medium.  Listening first, learning about others and encouraging positive engagement.  The best advice I can give is to place yourself in the position of one of your network members and try see how you appear in their timeline.  If you come across as one of those annoying spam phone calls that’s pre-recorded and doesn’t allow you to respond it’s time to re-think your approach.

One shining light in the social media tunnel is the introduction of interest, profession, sector or location based groups who meet on-line at specific times and share a hash-tag # to help bring everyone into view.  Here people can and do actively engage in the moment and enjoy the virtual networking experience that can prove so very useful and motivational.

Above all you get far greater rewards from real-time engagement it just takes a little more investment in time and effort.  No one is expecting you to “camp out” on twitter or permanently “latch on” on to LinkedIn.  Set yourself a sensible time schedule, assess when others are also on-line and start listening.  Find out which groups that interest you are already “hanging out” at specific times.

I’m looking forward to putting the emphasis back to where it belongs on social media sites and having some fun while I’m doing it.  If you have a story to share please feel free to post a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

David Laud

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Byadmin

Spinning Plates, Juggling Balls & Shot Selection – How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy

Devising a successful marketing plan hasn’t always been easy but your options were pretty straightforward.  Depending on budget and market your choices were clear and experience along with a good creative agency would go a long way to delivering results.

It's getting harder to keep things from falling down - Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

It’s getting harder to keep things from falling down – Multi Channel Marketing Challenge

Those factors of experience and creativity still exist but in the digital age we’re now confronted by a multitude of potential channels and measurement tools many of which are relatively untried and untested.

The variety of digital channels and the parallel phenomenon of shifting customer behaviours pose new challenges for today’s marketer.  The need for organisations to have digital marketing experience has become increasingly important, almost essential, as we start a new year and many of us look to plan for growing the income and profit of our businesses.

For those who rely on 3rd party agencies for digital channel support it can prove frustrating and expensive especially if their promises fail to deliver the expected results and the rationale for failure is dressed in uber geek jargon.

My advice to any business owner or marketer is to trust their instincts, not to forget the basics of solid marketing principles and not over complicate plans by throwing in every new channel.  If you set up a new social media platform account remember you must be prepared to deliver regular appropriate and original content.  That account management takes time and resource and can detract impact of your marketing efforts from areas that will deliver tangible returns.  It may also damage the brand if the execution misfires.

 Key Tips for Multi-Channel Marketing Plans 

  1. Be clear as to who is responsible for what.  Establish clear roles, responsibilities and set out and communicate expected outputs. Don’t overlook potential internal departmental conflicts such as I.T. v Marketing.
  2. Don’t lose the overarching objective in the mass of opportunities and options. Increasing twitter followers looks good but is it delivering a return for the business.
  3. Put the customer at the centre of your planning and thoughts of how best to engage and enhance brand and convert to sales.  Facebook might offer a rich source of demographic data but may not be the environment where potential or existing customers want to interact with your business.
  4. If you can’t or don’t know how to measure it don’t do it or a better option, find out how to.
  5. Use tools to support your efforts eg Google Analytics, Hootsuite, Followerwonk, AppAnnie
  6. Keep the boss informed. If you’re struggling to keep up with digital trends just imagine the difficulty those who don’t use the platforms on a regular basis will have in understanding what they do.  Consider creating a simple FAQ or SWOT on each marketing channel to share with colleagues and the senior team.
  7. Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be possible to test channels in a low cost simplified manner to gauge the mechanics and opportunities therein. Be sure you always follow no. 4 in such circumstances.
  8. Don’t see the plethora of choice as a problem but an opportunity. A positive mind-set can free you from debilitating inertia brought on by a lack of decisions.
  9. Keep agencies on a tight brief with clearly defined objectives and review progress regularly (at least monthly).
  10. Keep the radar turned on.  Whilst there’s already an abundance of channels to spend our budget on technology is moving fast. Voice recognition and intelligent interaction with Apple’s Siri and Google’s alternative are just one example of how search technology is developing.
  11. Don’t get lost in the technology.  Traditional marketing channels can and do deliver strong returns with well co-ordinated and executed campaigns.
  12. Don’t be afraid to use your networks to ask for help.  LinkedIn groups and professional bodies can provide very useful intelligence.

Personally I love a challenge but with so much “noise” in the on-line and off-line marketing world it’s often hard deciding on which path to take.  Such difficulties in selecting which channels to invest in is a very common problem, reassure yourself you’re not alone.

Meanwhile I’ll continue spinning, juggling and making those shot selections, doing my best to keep up.

If you have a question or suggestion on this topic please feel free to comment or contact me via twitter @davidlaud or e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer

Byadmin

Think You’re a Thought Leader? Test that belief with 12 tips to thought leadership

“Thought Leadership” now there’s a two word phrase that has emerged through the social channels in the past couple of years. As with any trendy term the bandwagon soon becomes full and chased by those who think they know the answers but often started after the opportunity well before they’d studied the direction in which they should be travelling.

Thought Leader

Thought Leader

Personally I’m not a fan of such glib phrases mostly because of their all too often over use in the hands of those who think using it will magically propel them into the top echelons of that particular sphere.

Before my cynicism takes hold I would like to make a few positive observations about the concept of thought leadership and how it can be a powerful force for good, in the appropriate hands at the right time and with considered execution.

Let’s start by reflecting on what makes a thought leader. It’s not necessarily a business owner nor entrepreneur but someone who has a depth of knowledge and clearly articulated view on a specific topic. The best thought leaders have a passion for their chosen subject of interest and that enthusiasm carries through in the variety of channels they chose to convey their message.

What it’s not – it’s not a sales platform to funnel in a pitch for a particular product, service or concept that offers immediate financial return for the communicator. That is out and out selling and will be spotted from some distance by your audience of network members.

What it should be – open, honest and thought provoking communication that adds to the knowledge and understanding of your target audience. Of course there will be an unspoken understanding within your network that behind this altruistic sharing of intelligent analysis and opinion lies a commercial objective.

How do you capitalise by giving your best ideas away for free? – No one is suggesting that all of your best thinking needs to be shared openly however it’s a very cluttered and noisy world and the challenge is in how you may find a voice for yourself, colleagues and your business by positioning them as leaders in a particular field. The danger of holding back on a particular subject may leave a door open for a competitor to establish their viewpoint and be perceived as the new “go to” source of information.

Do you need to be an expert in all areas? – Of course you’re setting yourself up for a fall if you’re a self-proclaimed “Guru” and for me that’s the biggest turn off. The phrase is “Empty vessels make the most sound” and unfortunately there are no shortage of those. What can be refreshingly appealing to an audience is an industry commentator who admits that they don’t know it all. That openness and honesty builds trust with a network and an affinity that you won’t see from those who are clearly making it up as they go along.

How can this apply to my business? Whichever area you work in – legal, IT, manufacturing, organic farming, charity, education or public sector there are individuals who will be looking for answers, original thinking and leadership. Social networking platforms enable everyone with an internet connection and a suitable device to link to millions of data sources each day. Creating a space for you or your organisation by positioning it as a lead in the chosen specialist area will add value to the brand and over time ideally lead to an increase in the volume and quality of enquiries.

Is it all about the broadcast? What you say is of course very important but what you do is equally telling. If you receive a re-tweet or a G+ or comment it should always be offered the courtesy of a response. If you see someone else posting very good content, useful links or other material supportive of your sector don’t resist the opportunity to praise the contributor, even if it may be a competitor – it’s about positioning and taking a “big picture” view rather than scrapping things out in the trenches.

What should the message be? True thought leadership is sharp in focus and unique in its perspective. Not borrowed or paraphrased from others. It should follow a consistent line. If customer service in retail is your particular line of interest the messages conveyed need to retain a common theme leaving the audience in no doubt of your view and suggested course of action. That message should deliver insight and information that leaves the reader or viewer feeling that they have gained from the experience. Investing time in absorbing data online is very popular but won’t pay off for you if the content falls short or leaves the reader frustrated.

Who should you be directing your message to? This might sound obvious but it’s surprising how many, who are active on social networking sites, persist with an obsession with the numbers. How many you have in a network will play a minor role in your success especially if the network is largely made up of competitors, friends or random individuals who will add no value to your business. The audience needs to gain real value from the knowledge imparted and for an opportunity to impress and create impact an in depth understanding is essential. A detailed awareness of your network, their jobs, problems, aspirations and interests will help shape the message and provide a tailored communication that has far greater prospect of engagement.

Developing as a thought leader. Sitting back and expecting inspiration to flow will work in the short term, if you’re lucky, but not in the longer term. As with any other industry expert you can’t afford to sit still and ignore the developments that are happening all around you. Actively seek out available information from those who are influential and recognised sources, subscribe to trade press e-mail alerts, twitter accounts, join sector specific associations, work groups on LinkedIn, attend conferences and build a continually growing bank of information. From this source you can articulate your view and place your own organisation at the centre of that conversation.

What makes a good thought leader? Malcolm Gladwell uses the term Maven in his excellent book Tipping Point (recommended reading) and the (i)Wiki definition really puts it very well.
(i) A maven (also mavin) is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others. The word maven comes from Hebrew, via Yiddish and means one who understands, based on an accumulation of knowledge.
Those whom I would site as leading Mavens or thought leaders of note include, technology futurist and social media strategist Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki, Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson @RichardBranson, and leading business strategists Rosabeth Kanter @RosabethKanter and Stephen Covey.

How do I start? A suggestion would be to think long and hard about the message you wish to convey, how your business wants to be positioned and who within the organisation could be sufficiently qualified to take the role of a thought leader. You may need to face the reality that you don’t have that particular skill but look to recruit for it. As you’ll fully appreciate it’s not a given that everyone can be a thought leader but if you have a passion for your business, access to strong communication skills and a connected network you can begin to build a presence and see where that journey takes you. Above all have a plan and be consistent.

Each industry or sector will have its own leading lights but that doesn’t preclude you from learning from their approach and finding your own voice and space to communicate.

If you would like further help with the development of a “thought leader” strategy in your organisation or have your own particular view we would be delighted to hear from you.

David Laud – Managing Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP
follow me on twitter @davidlaud

Byadmin

A Question of Quality, Quantity, Quill-pushers, Quarrels and Quakes

Managing a Law Firm in Uncertain Times

My year has so far been a flurry of activity – clients seeking new initiatives to stave off the competition and the search for a bright torch to show the path through the darkness. The darkness cast over the legal profession impacting on a managing partner’s vision has been caused by a multitude of concerns;

• The regular announcements of new, SRA approved, dynamic alternative business structures (ABS’s).
• The spread of ineffectual but tempting branded “legal networks” seeing an opportunity to build a business on the fear of failure and their belief of strength in numbers.
• Government changes to Legal Aid removing such client support for key practice areas including Family.
• Further legislative changes to reduce Personal Injury fees via the Jackson Reforms.
• Changes to employment legislation and general job loss fears reducing the number of employment law matters.
• The property and construction markets flatlining.
• The Ministry of Justice removing claims referral companies as a source of new Personal Injury work.
• The regulatory body for firms in England & Wales – the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and their insistence on adding layers of bureaucracy through two new compliance officer roles.

And of course the ever present need to find enough fee income to pay for Practising Certificates and Professional Indemnity Insurance.

Add to this the pressure to invest in technology, talent and training and you have a series of seismic events that for many are leading to nasty rumbles if not catastrophic quakes within partnerships throughout the UK.

On the upside there are significant opportunities for law firms across most areas of the practice spectrum. Those opportunities are not in the same shape, colour and size as before. Clients are far more comfortable and capable accessing information online before deciding on contacting a lawyer. Clients now come pre-packed with knowledge and a revised expectation of what value your service is to them.

They also select their law firm or lawyer on criteria that has evolved to include recommendations but often accepting them from comments posted on web forums and increasingly social media. Twitter is now far more likely to be used to find an answer that will be acted upon than Google as responses are provided by a trusted network.

Firms that believe clients will still flood in because of their “long standing reputation”, “location”, “profile of senior partners” will find themselves falling further behind as competition increases. This will be ever more apparent in firms who have failed to implement Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to enable a meaningful ongoing interaction with existing clients.

Well that’s a bright and cheery view. I make no apology; it is the reality of managing a modern law firm in 2013. To be successful, a legal practice like any other business needs to grow through innovation; understanding of customer needs, a clearly articulated vision and quality execution of service.

After 5+ years of recession we can be excused for feeling tired, battered and lacking that vital spark to revitalise the business but now is the time to do it.

If any of the points above are a current concern to your business and you would like to discuss please email in confidence to david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk or call 08456 446624 to arrange an initial meeting.

Byadmin

How Many Social Media “Experts” Does It Take To Turn On A Lightbulb?

We’re all under pressure for one reason or another. This ever developing technology has not delivered its promise of greater leisure time and standards of living; well not for most of us anyway. Instead we’re expected to task like a multi armed, dextrous ninja; responding to e-mails, calls, texts, skype and of course schedule in good old fashioned face to face interaction.

No surprise then that I’m often met with a more than cynical sneer when its suggested that a business owner take some of that valuable time and engage in or make more resource available to develop their social media presence.

I get it. I truly do understand that the thought of “tweeting” baffles and bewilders, facebook’s not for everyone and Linkedin, whilst appearing more suited to the business professional; is not easy to see how you benefit.

Too many evangelical so called social media “experts” have fallen in love with the various platforms and the ego trip of growing followers, connections and responses and forgotten that for most they’re not seen as essential in the battle to grow their company. There’s an awareness of the staggering demographic statistics but not how they can be used to benefit a business.

Many of my clients are very sharp individuals who’ve typically built successful businesses by meeting the needs of a targeted customer base. They’ve kept a step ahead of the competition, invested in their company and know their business inside out.

They also have no fear in challenging the call to join the social media bandwagon. They didn’t succeed by following a flock but they’re curious enough to ask the direct questions everyone should pose to a new medium.

How does it work? What are the benefits? What are the costs? Who needs to be involved? Where are the opportunities? And my favourite which covers all the aforementioned, Why should we do it?

If practical answers to these key questions are not forthcoming it’s unlikely the business owners will engage, and who would blame them?

Each business is unique and no one solution can possibly “fit all” which is why my advice is qualified by researching the specific sector, understanding the issues and the behaviours of customer groups and industry influencers.

We’ve now experienced over ten years of social media activity, it continues to move very rapidly yet within this timeframe you can find a multitude of examples where companies have positivley engaged with their customers. These examples are quantifiable, real and very often prove to be the “lightbulb moment” for MD’s VP’s CEO’s Directors and Partners especially if it’s a business operating in the same sector if not a direct competitor.

From Insurance and Aflac running an XFactor styled voice talent competition to Airlines and KLM’s “meet and seat” facebook campaign.

Of course it’s not just big businesses that can afford to make the most of social media and most towns, sectors and networks have their own shining examples of “best practice”.

We strongly believe in encouraging ownership and participation “in house” to develop the understanding, not outsourcing social media activity to third parties.

As professional marketers our objective should be to build confidence for our clients and employers through practical planning, suitable resourcing and measurement; all prepared as a specific project helping to make best use of everyone’s time. Social media’s a serious business development tool but we should make sure we factor in time for some fun too.

If you’d like more information or arrange an initial consultation please drop me a line david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk

David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

David Laud
Partner
i2i Business Solutions LLP

Byadmin

Take the Screen Test to See if You’re Addicted to Apps

Does this sound familiar? You settle down to relax after a days work, the TV is as usual on and turning out the usual “reality” fest of low grade entertainment. Out of courtesy you check what your partner/family/ friends would prefer to watch, hoping you can for once agree but… when you look around the room you notice all fellow inhabitants are glued to the screen. No not the 40 inch flat screen in the corner but the 2.5 inch by 3 inch version held in the hand.

Are we becoming obsessed by our smartphones? You might think so if you, like me, play dodge the teenager on the high street as they walk along in a somnambulistic style, hypnotised by their device unable to look up and see who they’re about to collide with.

But is it the device or something else that’s causing this epidemic? The smartphones provide a portal to a new and exciting world but the true cause of our preoccupation are the various applications that live on these instruments.

Just before you think I’m taking the high ground I need to confess to my own weaknesses. Yes, I too have an addiction to the touch screen world. For me it started with my first iphone and has developed as I’ve been able to run my world through it. Well, perhaps more accurately it runs me.

I can break the problem down to 4 main areas of activity that can quickly become an addictive.

1. Checking e-mail
2. Checking text messages (it’s quite worrying how many drivers I see texting while driving!)
3. Checking social media sites for likes, mentions and comments
4. Games

Yes I tend to check my e-mail too often which is not helped by the multiple accounts and spam. There have also been a couple of recent examples of sudden onset addiction brought about by a newly downloaded app.

A problem with my broadband connection led to me downloading the “speedtest” app. Let’s just say I become rather too obsessed with download and upload speeds for a couple of weeks.

The other time thief is the analytical tools I have to measure social media activity. Yes I have too many sites but then its my job to keep abreast of these platforms. But my love/hate relationship with Klout is unhealthy and it’s time for the “it’s me not you, I need some time to work things out” break up conversation.

I do use a very large number of social media sites but I don’t think I’m unusual in the time I spend with my smartphone. Not unusual by the benchmark of the average user but that’s because we’ve become used to having our devices with us constantly.

It can’t be good for us to become obsessed and addicted to anything despite the attraction and apparent benefits of the developing technology. How much time can we fritter away on Angry Birds, Temple Run, Instagram (perfecting the image through photo apps), Linkedin group exchanges, Facebook babble, Tweets and RT’s, celebrity face matching…you get the idea.

But perhaps we should test our resolve and see how much of a problem we have. Here’s the “Screen Test” challenge. Pick one day this week and have 24 hours without access to your phone, tablet or smart device.

I did this recently and will now be making a habit of it as that day proved to be one of my most productive for quite some time.

Things you can do….

1. Catch up with industry/ local news by reading magazines
2. Plan ahead – your forthcoming week, month, year
3. Get creative and think of how you might make better use of your time and when you do have access to the device how you can take back control.
4. Arrange to meet that contact who you’ve been meaning to catch up with for months.

The technology is great but it’s still only a tool to be used effectively and not something that should dominate our lives. Just take the “Screen Test” and let me know how it was for you.

David Laud

Byadmin

Social Media – Are You Feeling the Love?

Are You Feeling the Love of Social Media?

You’ve followed the advice, created the accounts, sent out the messages, uploaded the links, shared photos and pointed followers and friends to your blog and even taken the time to comment regularly on topical business matters on Linkedin.

So why isn’t it working?  Why doesn’t anyone retweet you, or comment on your blog and like your updates?  It’s an experience shared by colleagues and you’re fast coming to the conclusion that social media is just yet another overhyped fad that will soon wither on the marketing vine.

OK, I hear the frustration and to be frank it’s not an uncommon situation. I often meet with business owners who have struggled to justify time and resource on developing a social media presence and in desperation and a last throw of the dice seek to hand the responsibility completely over to a third party………STOP! Don’t do it.

I appreciate that there is a nice little industry being created for those who can operate social media accounts for others and whilst I’m all for free enterprise it’s not really the point of social media, having someone else talk your talk. Above all social media is about making “real” connections not just making a noise.

But where does that leave the business?  Technically following the correct course of action but just not finding any benefit let alone an audience.

Presented with this problem I prescribe the following;

  1. Audit your social media accounts by asking a few key questions
    1. Who are you connected to?
    2. Who is active within your networks?
    3. What messages are being broadcast?

The building of a network that offers you a rich source of quality content to which you can participate is always a good start.  It may be that those who you are connected to are themselves not very active.  So unwittingly you’ve created a network that as like a party where you’ve invited all the local agoraphobics, it’s not that they don’t like you it’s just that they are struggling to connect too. 

  1. Take a good look at the messages you’re broadcasting and the objectives you have within the business.  It can often be a case that you’re either trying too hard or not hard enough.  As a rule of thumb and to balance the interactions on a platform such as Twitter I recommend 1 business tweet in every 6.  That can include 2 retweets, a reply to someone else’s comment and a couple of general items on the news or points of interest.  Then you can introduce something that relates to your business objective.  Don’t however “oversell”. Social media users are not usually very responsive to the hard sell; actually I’m not sure many of us are in any medium. 
  2. Consider taking a lateral approach.  Now this may well be where your creative agency or consultant can earn their corn. Finding a point of interest that can generate response to your content but not directly “selling” is a good way to build trust and further connections. 

You want an example?  Of course you do….here’s 3

UStechnology company Best Buy introduced a new service for their customers who used twitter.  They created a “Twelpforce” which included staff across all stores who were able to log in and assist customers by responding rapidly to their tech related queries via twitter.  It works like a dream.  Whilst not selling product directly it has had a very positive impact on the brand and has resulted in increased sales.

I can’t claim credit for the genius idea of the “Twelpforce”  but I have initiated a couple of simple ideas, a seasonal photo competition using a TV weather presenter as a judge which has created significant increase in the company brand and awareness on social media sites.  The competition is promoted on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn.

My most recent idea uses Valentines Day and the offer of a free card and personal message.  This has just launched but has already created significant interest through Facebook where we have created a specific advert and twitter where positive feedback has already been noted.

See here for more information: http://www.samuelphillips.co.uk/news.asp?NewsID=61

As you’ll see from the above examples the idea doesn’t need to have an obvious link to your business.  The key is to make connections, build trust, have fun and let your network realise that you’d be a good organisation to do business with.

If you’ve got an example of your own let’s hear about it.

If you would like the Valentine Card just e-mail me at david.laud@i2isolutions or text “Law of Love” to 82010

Feeling the love yet?  😉

 David Laud

Byadmin

Measure for measure, tweet for tweet

If you’ve embraced social media in your business you might not have yet considered how to check to see if your efforts are making a return.

Of course the obvious signs are followers who buy from you or make recommendations about you to others but how do you get to to the point where your network is working for you?

Many who try and become exasperated with social media are under the false impression that success can be achieved in a matter of days or a few weeks.  Of course it doesn’t work like that.  Building an effective and interactive network of trusted contacts takes time. Those “instant network builder” solutions should be ignored in favour of a steady and considered approach to sourcing the network and hopefully followers who can offer mutual benefit.

Most businesses using social media are SME’s and have geographically or sector specific audiences to whom they would like to connect.  The Starbucks or Dell level of followers should not necessarily be the goal unless your business is truly looking to broadcast to a very wide and eclectic audience and expecting them to watch for your every message, probably not very realistic.

Now with that well developed network in place and growing steadily but not exponentially its time to re-assess the true impact of your efforts.  Our recommendation is to check in with apps that can analyse across a number of platforms, one such tool is www.Klout.com . This site can track your impact on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, YouTube, tumblr, Flickr, Last.FM and now Google+ so leaves very little out.

Klout works out a score based upon three complimentary sets of analytical criteria.

1. True Reach is simply the actual verified number of people who you influence when boadcasting via social media. Spam is filtered out to ensure that the results reflect actual activity. It is the audience who tend to respond when you post a message.

2. Amplification, as it suggests it refers to the increase in your influence through a message being spread via your network. If your content generates a good level of responses it will rank highly on amplification.

3. Network refers to the influence of your network as identified in True Reach.  If you receive responses from and sharing from leading influential accounts it will increase your Network score.

By regularly checking the scores you can identify progress with your social media activity and begin to set this against the more obvious physical responses via the various platforms such as mentions and re-tweets on twitter, comments on Linkedin or “likes” on Facebook.

There are other applications which can help you analyse your social media effectiveness.

Twitalyzer http://www.twitalyzer.com offers useful analysis of your twitter account and ranking in relation to your competitors and peers.

Peer Index  http://www.peerindex.net can provide a very detailed analysis of your account profile.

The key is not to become too wrapped up in the numbers or the multitude of analysis apps as they can often contradict each other.  What is required is an objective assessment of your businesses impact through its use of social media to provide sufficient information to allow you to then take steps to improve effectiveness through connectivity and network interaction.

David Laud, Partner i2i Business Solutions LLP –

author of Social Media Marketing for Law Firms

View contents and summary Sample chapter
To reserve your copy e-mail publishing@ark-group.com

Byadmin

Lights, Camera, Action! – How to Make Social Media Perform For Your Firm

Listening to professional service firms across the UK, I hear time and time again of their frustration with social media.

“I just don’t get it, everyone talks about it but no one has the time to do it, even when I do spend time on it I’m not really sure what I’m doing.” Views that may well resonate in your firm. But what is the answer?

You have five main options:-

1. If you haven’t started just don’t bother

2. If you have made an attempt, opened the odd twitter, facebook or linkedin account, stop right now and do no more

3. Hire someone to do your donkey work and outsource your social media activity

4. Instruct all fee earners to embrace social media and open a variety of accounts, throwing your firm head long into all things “social”

5. Introduce a workable approach to using the most appropriate platforms for your firm by setting a plan and working to it

With so many people, businesses, clients, competitors actively involved in social media can you afford to “not bother?” You may well be frustrated by the lack of response to your initial efforts but it’s like trying to drive a car in a busy town centre without having had a lesson, scary and likely to put you off getting behind a wheel forever.

Getting someone else to drive your activity may well be a good way to start but ultimately most platforms require a personality and connection that would be hard to replicate and pretenders are often quickly found out. However compelling the sales pitch and attractive the thought of delegating tweets to third parties, it’s not the way to grow a trusted network.

As for the stick theory, demanding fee earners to “just do it” will result in some activity but for many it will be with reluctance and without effective training, plans or analysis, it will engender a widerspread feeling of hopelessness and confusion.

So that leaves option 5, it seems and is, a sensible approach but that short line of a few words does no more than sentence the one charged with making it happen to a period in solitary where they’ve nothing to do but work out “what the hell do we do about this social media malarkey?”

That in a nutshell is the problem – advice is cheap but effective action is priceless. The added complication is that in general, those working within the professional sector like certainty, don’t like taking risks, however well calculated, and this new communication medium seems fraught with danger.

On the upside there’s no shortage of help out there but a word of caution, not all who speak with marketing tongue can walk the social media walk.  Alterian’s annual survey of 1,500 marketers, agencies and consultants last year identified that amazingly a third didn’t understand how to manage social media. A staggering 70% were simply not reporting on its effectiveness to senior management or clients.  So beware the sales pitch

The reasons to strive to understand the medium remain compelling. The statistics ever impressive with millions of “friends” “followers” and contacts to “link to” we ignore social media at our peril and risk being left far behind.

A few mind bending stats that suggest social media is far from a fad or momentary medium used by niche groups:- 

  • Linkedin – Launched 2002, 90 million members, 200 countries, 5m in the UK
  • WordPress – Launched 2003, latest version of the website downloaded 32.5m, 13% of the World’s top 1m websites use WordPress
  • Facebook – Launched 2004, 500 million users, 48% 18-34yrs, av. 130 friends (big rise in 35+ users)
  • FlickR – Launched 2004, 5bn photos, 50 million accounts,
  • YouTube – Launched 2005, 490m users, av. user 20 minutes per day,
  • Twitter – Launched 2006, 190 million accounts, 55 million tweets per day
  • Foursquar – Launched 2009, 381,576,305 check ins 2010 

If your fear is it’s already too late DON’T PANIC, there is still time for new joiners or those who’ve just scratched the surface to quickly seize the initiative.  The truth is that a large number of professional service firms have leapt to join in but not truly understood the potential of the various social media platforms. Trust in your instincts and apply the same level headed approach to this marketing discipline as you would to any other.  The focus is all about the conversation, the connection and the trusted network you can build within which, on occasion, you can introduce messages that promote the practice and the people who deliver your services. 

I view social media marketing as an altenative form of broadcasting.  You have multiple channels, a wide variety of potential audiences and no shortage of material to consider to put “on air”. 

Consider your twitter strategy with this broadcast analagy in mind.  Which of your fee earners will be tweeting, what is their ideal audience, how best can you hope to engage with that target, what source of material could be of interest and how frequently do you want to send a message promoting the firm or specific service? 

Very few of us want to watch a channel that is 100% adverts.  But we will tune in to a broadcaster offering interesting comments, observations, news and support and interactivity within the network.  Our rule is generally one promotional tweet to every six offering alternative content. 

Please don’t worry about how you become a trusted, entertaining broadcaster.  The vast majority of twitter accounts are run by ordinary people who have simply spent time understanding the language, tone and appropriateness of the medium.  There is no short cut alternative to gaining experience of social media platforms.  Many so called specialists in the field can offer advice and training but there is no substitute for getting your “hands on” and starting the process. 

This is marketing as a truly participative event, no arms length seminar, newspaper column or e-mail campaign.  Here you are engaging in a direct manner and developing not only your firms brand by adopting a social media strategy, but critically establishing yourself as a brand that your network can trust and call upon for advice. 

Ready for your close up?  Don’t worry no make up required, well not until you establish your YouTube channel. 

David Laud FCIM, Chartered Marketer Twitter @davidlaud  LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/davidlaud

Managing Partner – i2i Business Solutions LLP – Marketing Consultancy for Professional Service Firms

& CEO of Samuel Phillips Law Firm

Byadmin

Making Connections – There’s a Limit So Make Them Count

I’m a big fan of social media in all it’s forms; they’re great tools to help keep you in touch and connected to a wide circle of friends, colleagues, contacts and acquaintances.

Online or offline there's a limit to true relationship numbers

But apparently there’s a limit to how many people we, as humans, can physically maintain valuable inter-personal relationships with. At the risk of getting all anthropological with you, it is actually a key factor in our effectiveness to communicate and being aware of our limitations should help in our approach to all forms of networking including social media.

The science behind this is a calculation known as Dunbar’s number. It’s the limit to the number of people who we can keep regular social relationships with. So what’s the magic number?

Professor Robin Dunbar http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar’s_number has theorized that the number of inter-personal relationships we can maintain falls between 100 and 230. Quite a range but the quantity of quality relationships we can maintain is predominantly governed by the size of our neocortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for managing communication.

The introduction of social networking tools has been suggested as a method of growing an individuals Dunbar number however there is a flaw in this argument. Whilst they may increase our ability to communicate with an ever wider audience they don’t provide the time or platforms to build meaningful relationships.

True social relationships require a little more than a cursory tweet or facebook post. If you analyse your most regular interractions on these sites you’ll typically find the same “friendly faces” responding. Although an exchange on Twitter does not count as a true stable social relationship to qualify for a Dunbar point it is a start.

Getting involved in Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can enable us to build a better understanding of how we are developing new tools to communicate, perhaps enabling more of us to realize our Dunbar limit. But for those of us looking at social media for a return on investment for our business will we simply be acquiring followers or making truly effective connections? Perhaps we should simply accept that we all have our limits and if that’s 100 or 200 so be it. The true power of the social media phenomenon is not how many individuals we have following, connecting or friending us, it’s the collective interactivity of multiple networks.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” makes frequent references to how ideas and products catch on by this use of social group dynamics and the manner in which information transmits throughout a group. Just look at the way in which Facebook users have turned their profile pictures to cartoons. The core message began in November in Greece, and has been translated and tweaked to become a global trend – it taps into a desire to show solidarity against the abuse of children and the fun element of associating yourself with a favourite cartoon. A win win in social media trend terms but all generated by a multitude of networks with key drivers within “spreading the word”.

As a marketer my challenge is to find a voice and a message for myself and clients that interacts with chosen networks adding real value. When we then have a key message to relay we have a far greater chance of success and opportunity for the message to travel beyond these known networks.

So rather than being disheartened with the news that we have limitations when it comes to the number of stable relationships we can form; we should embrace this truth and seek quality in our groups.   Why would we want to spend valuable time building relationships with people who are just not likely to “tune in” to our message, get our humour or recommend our services?

David Laud

i2i business solutions llp