Professional services such as lawyers, doctors, financial planners and other consultants can use social media to build stronger relationships with clients and to attract new clients. The secret sauce: educate, entertain and engage. While your goal is to promote your business, it’s best to do social media as an individual, not an organization. Let clients and potential customers know who’s behind the ideas you’re presenting.
Consumers now turn to social media to answer questions once reserved for experts. Over a third of US adults say they use social media to find trustworthy health information. According to Pew Research Center, 90% of people ages 18 to 14 say they trust medical information shared by their social media peers. Armed with research and opinions of friends and relatives, consumers may be more likely to question the judgment of professionals.
Clients and potential customers can also critique professional service providers on social media. Those negative comments can spread quickly, damaging the business’s reputation.
Today, an online presence is almost as important as a physical office for professional services. These guidelines can help you build an effective social media presence for your legal, medical or financial or other type of professional practice.
- Be fun. Share advice in a fun and interesting way. You want to provide reliable information but sounding tedious and formal bores people. Share funny stories and quick facts people might find surprising. Education and information provided on social media is much more likely to be understood if it’s presented in an engaging way, advises InboundMD.
- Build a wall. Keep personal and professional business accounts separate. That’s good for both you and your clientele. Encourage clients to become fans of your professional Facebook page, but don’t ask them to friend your personal account.
- Include images. Content with relevant images enjoy 94% more shares than similar content without images. You can double the engagement on Facebook posts by adding images.
- Engage. Respond if someone comments on one of your posts, asks a question, or even complains. Respond in a positive, professional, and pleasant manner. It’s best to ask complainers to resolve their issue offline. Start conversations on social media by commenting, liking, and sharing others’ posts. Social media is all about interaction. Needless to say, don’t share your private experiences or confidential information.
- Offer value. Don’t just talk about yourself and promote your business. Provide a mix of helpful advice and promotional news. “Always ask yourself: is this content valuable to my clients or prospects? If the answer is no, don’t waste your time – or theirs! If you continue to provide valuable, useful, or entertaining content, you will begin to establish credibility among your followers,” says Sarah Lane, marketing specialist at Impact Marketing. It’s also OK to stray off topic occasionally with information that may be helpful to clients and prospects. A physician may share management tips or a financial consultant may share thoughts on a local cultural event. Example: The Glean.info blog edited by Bill Comcowich publishes educational articles covering a full range of topics about PR and marketing, not just the company’s product offerings in media monitoring and measurement. The wider range of topics makes the company’s blog and newsletter a more valuable resource for the target audience – and, not incidentally, attracts more readers/viewers.
- Improve your LinkedIn presence. Even if customers are not active on LinkedIn, many visit LinkedIn profiles before they consider an office visit. Complete LinkedIn profiles as much as possible. Encourage employees to join LinkedIn, connect with others, and participate in groups. Consider showcasing expertise by publishing articles on LinkedIn Pulse, LinkedIn’s blogging platform.
- Consider Facebook ads. Facebook’s enormous popularity and targeted advertising capabilities makes it a viable option for local professional services and even B2B firms. The ads allow you to target your audience by location, age, interests, and other characteristics.
- Monitor social media. Social media listening can uncover opportunities to engage with potential clients and patients. Monitor for keywords and phrases beyond your business name. A financial consultant might monitor key words such as “wealth management” or “estate planning.” Social media monitoring reveals questions professionals can answer and negative remarks that require rebuttal. Monitoring industry terms and topics on Twitter can reveal what issues are of concern to consumers. Businesses can offer their services if people ask their network for references for services. You can monitor social media services using free search engines, but a social media listening service saves staff time because it automatically searches, collects and stores information, and sorts and analyzes the data.
- Invest in staff. Hire someone to implement the business’s social media strategy. “If you’re not investing, at a minimum, the equivalent of 25 percent of a full-time employee daily to execute your social media marketing strategy, you likely will not get the results you need and expect,” stresses John Beveridge, president and founder of Rapidan Inbound. “Your social media manager should be measuring, communicating, posting, responding and analyzing your social media marketing every day.”
Many professional services seek someone with experience in their niche. While that may be helpful, it’s more important to find someone capable of generating ROI from social media, Lane adds.
Bottom Line: Social media can be a boon for professional services firms. Medical, legal and financial professionals and other consultants can use social media to publicize their expertise, attract interest and ultimately grow the business.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.