Social media for professional practice is still finding its feet.
You only need to look at a few websites to realize that there are still a lot of firms who are undecided, and even those who have decided to instal a Twitter plug-in and start Tweeting are not 100% sure of the messaging. By and large, it is being used as a pipe for marketing and (possibly) PR. If nothing else, it’s safe.
It is trite, but listening and setting up an alert system is elemental. If you have not yet set up Google Alerts, Social Mention or Twitter Search then you would be well advised to do so. If you are running Hootsuite or Tweetdeck then, no doubt, you will have sorted out your streams or searches for your favourite people? Both platforms make the job of engagement considerably easier.
Even listening is not just a case of word mentions for your firm or its people (assuming that you have allowed them to have their own Twitter handle aka their name). You need to consider the sentiment, and decide upon how, if at all, you are going to respond when your firm or an issue that you are interested in is mentioned. And then there is the adverse comment! The issue of publicizing complaints will pale into insignificance if you get a whole bunch of clients who unleash their bile and vitriol on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube! Have you got your extinguisher policy and group organised to deal with this? I doubt it.
I am assuming that you have unlocked all social media platforms (there are many firms who haven’t) and have a policy to cover use and engagement? You may feel that before you do anything you need to make sure that you have put in place the appropriate policy that covers engagement. Here is a great resource: www.socialmediagovernance.com, which will save you reinventing the wheel.
B2B is not likely to have as many followers on Twitter as the B2C market, but you should be considering your client engagement strategy. LinkedIn may be better but of course you have to have some connection to engage.
You may have already worked out that it is unlikely, so far as Twitter is concerned, that many clients will have joined. That certainly appears the case right now with companies, but probably less so with individuals. You should know though.
At the end of this post I have provided you with a few ideas how you might engage with more clients but, the point is, if like a lot of law firms you have joined, you need to ask yourself “Why”.
Why would you engage without first setting out your primary aim?
Why would you engage without first having a detailed social media policy?
Why would you engage unless there is a ROI?
Why would you engage when no one bothers to follow you?
Why would you engage if all you are hoping to do is follow the me too crowd so prevalent in legal practice?
You have heard it said a gazillion times about creating valuable content (I prefer to talk about remarkable and value laden content), enabling a blog and making sure that you have RSS capability. But all of these will count for nothing if you have too few clients to move you further up the engagement ladder.
At the moment a lot of your clients rely on word of mouth to find you, or perhaps some heavily backed outbound marketing programme but over time – perhaps the next 2-3 years – more of them will come to rely on the Internet to chose their provider.
If you leave your website as a moribund, anodyne platform then chances are those surfing the web will spend only a few seconds bothering to check out your credentials. Yes you practice in an area which they are interested in but so are a dozen or so other people. It may just be that that piece of remarkable content holds them long enough to the website to make a difference in the selection phase.
But what about your social media programme? Well in the case of the website example, that might be a piece of video on YouTube, a self-published e-Book or a presentation that you happened to upload to Slideshare. All of these may influence your clients to engage with you or even if they are not in the market, they may think the content so remarkable that it requires sharing across their network (assuming that is you have enabled a share button on your website).
Social media and the client experience go hand in hand. Why else are you bothering? You need to consider every time you send a Tweet, post to YouTube, start a discussion on LinkedIn or upload to Slideshare how the client experience is being developed. If you are not sure, then don’t blithely do it in the hope that someone will pick up your trail and do the work for you. A RT isn’t going to count for much if the person who does so has no followers in your space.
If all this appears mechanistic then that is only because you have not given enough thought to the process. Although there is a lot of talk in social media land about brand awareness the reality is that for a lot of professional service firms, they are not going to be persuaded to give over precious fee earning time unless they think it will get measurable results. That doesn’t just mean sales but then again trying to measure positive sentiment is going to be tricky particularly if you haven’t engaged with enough of your clients.
If you are wondering how you start to get clients to engage with you across the social media platforms then here are a few tips to get you going:
- Make sure you have secured all the appropriate names for your firm and those you propose to engage on Twitter. Even if you are not sure if people are going to be allowed to step up to the plate don’t let someone else get in before you.
- Make sure everyone is on LinkedIn and their profiles are 100% complete. They should aim to get no less than 100 followers each, and ideally more.
- Establish a LinkedIn firm page and if you have packaged products, make sure that the details are contained on that page with the necessary link.
- Establish a Facebook page for the firm.
- Set up a YouTube channel for the firm and post at least one video making it clear what you do.
- Make sure that your website has a few social media Plug-ins to show that you are on the main platforms. Don’t include them if you are not active. Twitter is the main one to look out for.
- Ensure that everyone’s business card has the firm or their Twitter handle and LinkedIn url (yes you can have unique one to increase SEO).
- Every email signature of the firm should be changed to include the firm’s social media platforms or the individual.
- Include the same sort of messaging in your correspondence.
- If you have a high street presence then include something in the window that tells clients you now have a social media presence.
- Make sure that every person who goes to a networking event knows the drill. They know to start waxing lyrical about your new uptake of social media. But do make sure that there is something at the end of it.
- Ask clients to connect. Even if they are not interested in Twitter the majority in the B2B space will have heard about LinkedIn and will be willing to connect with you.
- Set up a survey on Survey Monkey that asks clients by email how they would like to receive the firm’s latest information. Include some questions that bear directly on the point.
- When you send out your hard copy newsletters tell clients you are Twitter etc.
- Start a series of virtual seminars and tell clients to check out your website and Twitter for the latest details.
- Finally, what about setting up a promotion so that those clients that engage on Twitter and use a code receive some sort of discount.
The point is you have to drive the agenda. If you don’t then you won’t see any discernible difference in the level of engagement. But please keep in mind that it is not just a question of building the numbers – it is about the experience of dealing with your firm.
~ JS ~