The ins-and-outs of social media marketing for Professional Services business owners. Learn if, why, when and how to use social media marketing for your business.
We’ll come right out and say it: It’s 2014! Social media has to be a significant part of your online marketing strategy.
As a professional services business, you should be placing a lot of emphasis on your firm’s online profile which includes social media. Your current clients and prospective clients are searching for services online and asking their friends for recommendations over social media. Even if you meet a potential client offline (ie in the real world :-)), you can safely assume that this person will check out your website and social media pages before choosing to work with you.
When people find a business on social media and see pictures of friendly employees, quality work, satisfied customers, and maybe even a “like” from a friend, they’ll immediately develop a level of trust for that service. Whether you’re an accountant, lawyer, photographer or web designer, social networking platforms will help you attract new customers and retain current clients.
Make your firm come alive!
The more visible your business is online, the more leads you will get. If you have no, or little, presence online, these leads may very well go to a competitor that does. With Social Media, you have the opportunity to show your business’ true colors and can do this in several ways.
For starters, let’s say you run a law firm. To many people out there, lawyers are quite intimidating. Through social media you can paint your firm as personable and in-touch with the real world. Use social media to introduce your team, show your office and publicize testimonials from happy clients. You can do this by posting pictures, video clips and links. Be open to talking about things other than your business such as last night’s football game, current events or food. It’s a chance to make your firm more approachable and real!
Additionally, social media will help you connect with prospects on an emotional level. If you’re a wedding planner for example, don’t focus on selling or promoting your business, but rather talk about your favorite moment at weddings, share a funny story or two and post touching pictures. The emotional connection you create with your followers can, in many instances, be the key to getting new clients.
Become a thought leader in your industry!
No matter what service you’re offering, there’s relevant and important information you can provide your clients with regularly over social media. Let’s say you have an accounting firm and you keep your eye out for new legislation that directly affects your industry and clients. If you can quickly notify your followers over social media about the new law and how it affects them, it can be very valuable.
Similarly, if you’re an architect and there’s some sudden change in building code, writing about it in real-time on social media can help solidify your place as an industry thought leader. Your clients will not only appreciate your expert advice but will also develop a greater trust in your services.
Choosing the right social networks
With so many social networks out there, it can be quite overwhelming just thinking about social media marketing. As a professional services provider, you should try to put your business on as many platforms as possible as long as you can handle them all. You should try for at least 3 networks. Here’s a deeper look at several social networks you should consider:
There’s a lot you can do on LinkedIn and it is just about a must for anyone working at a professional services company. For starters, you should have a company page on LinkedIn. To set one up, simply go to: http://business.linkedin.com/marketing-solutions/company-pages.html and click the yellow “Get Started” button. Furthermore, you should have an up-to-date personal profile on LinkedIn. Unlike your personal pages on other social networks, LinkedIn is a place to show off your background and expertise. Before someone hires you (or your firm), there’s a good chance they’ll look you up and LinkedIn.
Being active on LinkedIn is also a great way to meet other business owners. For B2B businesses, this means potential clients. If you’re B2C, these connections will help you expand your network and knowledge.
One of the best ways to network, stay informed and connect with other like-minded business owners is through LinkedIn Groups. If you’re a wedding planner for example, you can find groups of thousands of wedding planners discussing trends, pricing, techniques, etc. There are similar groups for photographers, makeup artists, architects, web designers, engineers and so on. Another great example of a LinkedIn group is our EZBZ Business Network group with small business owners from all across the nation sharing relevant information and tips.
Google’s own social network has a lot of value for a number or reasons- especially if you’re business serves a specific location. A local Google+ profile has a lot of SEO value (See more about SEO for Professional Services Businesses in this article), shows up high in search results and will place your business on Google maps. You can open a page for your business here: http://www.google.com/+/business/.
Additionally, Google+ has a number of networking opportunities especially with Communities (http://www.google.com/+/learnmore/communities/). Similar to LinkedIn Groups, Google+ Communities are a way to find like minded business owners as well as potential customers looking for expert advice.
With over 1 billion unique visitors per month, YouTube reaches more US adult viewers than any cable channel (see some more really cool stats, here: http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html). By all means, YouTube is an important network. Videos that offer, and demonstrate, short tidbits of advice can be truly worthwhile. If you’re an interior designer, take your viewers into a home you designed and explain about different color schemes. If you’re a party planner, shoot a quick film talking about venues and how to save money when booking.
It’s important to note here that you do not need to produce professional quality videos to be effective. The same way people take countless photos (and selfies) with their smartphones, you can also capture great video too- with your smartphone! Here’s a very informative piece from the New York Times with tips for shooting better quality videos on your smartphone. It’s worth the read!
As with Google+, YouTube is owned by Google which gives it significant SEO value and a potentially high placement in search results.
To set up a Business Page on Facebook- the world's largest social network- simply go to https://www.facebook.com/business/products/pages. Not only is it recommended that you do so, but a lot of consumers today actually expect businesses to be on Facebook.
If you’re business has an office, make sure to add your address to your profile which will make it possible for people to “check in” when they visit you. People searching on Facebook will be able to see how many of their friends have “liked” your page and “checked in” at your location.
Facebook has a really great page insights tool that will give you stats and data about your users. You can see things like where people live, age range and gender, and how people respond to different types of posts. This information can help you when planning future posts.
Twitter is unique in that every post can only contain 140 characters. The character limit makes Twitter fast, which is also one of the reasons people are drawn to it. Many companies, like Bank of America and Nike, use Twitter for Customer Support. Here are some great examples of other brands using Twitter for customer support too: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/exceptional-customer-service-on-twitter/.
As opposed to other social networks, posts on Twitter (or tweets) are mostly public- which makes it a great search tool for finding potential clients. All you have to do is enter a few keywords on www.twitter.com/search. For example, if you’re a graphic designer, try searching for the term “logo” or “graphic design” and see what results get returned. You’ll almost certainly find someone looking for your service.
If you’re in an industry with good photo ops, you’ll almost certainly want to be on Pinterest. This rings true for all the wedding planners, hair stylists, photographers, architects and so on. The photos on the site, with over 70 million users, speak for themselves. Take a look:
a. Architecture: http://www.pinterest.com/all/architecture/
b. Hair and Beauty: http://www.pinterest.com/all/hair_beauty/
c. Photography: http://www.pinterest.com/all/photography/
d. Weddings: http://www.pinterest.com/all/weddings/
e. Fashion: http://www.pinterest.com/all/womens_fashion/
When you sign up for Pinterest, make sure you register for a business account, here: http://business.pinterest.com/..
Instagram is a mobile app that was bought by Facebook for $1 billion last year. Like Pinterest, it’s photo centered and is a great way to showcase images from your line of work. To join, you’ll have to download the free app to your mobile phone. You can find links to Instagram in the App Store and Google Play, here: http://instagram.com/.
How often should I post?
It’s important to keep your social networks up-to-date. It will actually reflect negatively on your business if you let your pages go long periods of time without a new post. On networks like Facebook, Google+ and your LinkedIn Business page you should try to post at least twice a week and more if possible.
Also try to explore different LinkedIn Groups and post in them once a week. If you post too often, it can turn people off and look like spam. In terms of Youtube videos, set a realistic goal, say one video a month, and stick with it. Your fans will appreciate the consistency and start looking forward to your new videos.
As a general rule, be as real as possible with your social media posting. When you have something to say that’s relevant and valuable to your followers, let them hear it! If you don’t have anything to say, there is no point in wasting your time and your followers time.
There is a great tool you should know about called Hootsuite (https://hootsuite.com/) that will save you a lot of time and stress when positng on social media. With Hootsuite, you can send posts to several social networks at the same time and even schedule them in advance. So for example, if there’s a certain day of the week, or month, where things are a bit slower for you, you can sit down on that day and schedule posts ahead a time. You decide when each post will go live and on which social networks it will be published.
Should I be worried about negative comments?
As soon as you start posting on social media, expect questions, comments and criticism from fans and customers. While there is a tendency to ignore, or even delete, the critical comments, there are better ways to handle them. Take a look at this article for some suggestions: http://www.dmnews.com/when-social-media-comments-go-negative-should-your-brand-respond/article/338762/.
The key though is to always respond in a timely manner (within 24 hours) and try to use as real a voice as possible! Take a look here and see what happened when the CEO of Liberty Bottleworks responded to a complaining customer! Spoiler alert: it brought them record sales and not to mention thousands of new likes on Facebook.
How can I get more “likes” and followers?
The first thing you have to know, is that “likes” and followers won’t come overnight. When you commit to a social media marketing strategy, it has to be a long term commitment. The more consistent you are with posting and the better content you put up, the easier it will be for you to attract new members.
Don’t be embarrassed to promote your business pages on your own personal social media profiles too! Post a link to your new page and ask your friends to give it a “like” or “share”. Send your friends and family (via email, whatsapp, sms, facebook, twitter, etc) links directly to your new social media pages.
Additionally, it’s a great idea to put links to your social media pages on your website, in your email signature and even on your business card.
Finally a word of caution: watch out for social media activities that can annoy people and cause them to “unfollow” your page. Here’s a list of 9 things not to do on social media as suggested by Forbes.
With that said, what are you waiting for? Good luck and let us know if you have any questions!
Have questions about Social Media? We’d love to hear them! Send them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!