Social Media for Professional Services (Part 2)

By Ken Schmitt, President, TurningPoint Executive Search

In Part I, we discussed the expansion of social media participation among Professional Services Firms (PSFs). There have been a slew of recent articles, referencing a new batch of firms that have tried their hand at social media. Some have hired dedicated Social Managers – as our firm did in 2010 – while others have delegated their social media activities to the marketing department. However, regardless of who holds direct responsibility for executing the social media strategy, even the most innovative campaign is doomed to fail without company-wide support and pre-defined metrics of success.
Fortunately, PSFs of all sizes can reap the rewards of making a direct connection to their customer base by following these 10 Steps to Social Media Success:

1. Identify your target audience
2. Determine where they hang out
3. Create a budget and timeline
4. Establish your MOS – Metrics of Success
5. Establish your benchmark
6. Leverage your internal stakeholders
7. Be consistent
8. Add value
9. Track all data
10. Share the results

Step 1 – Identify your target audience
While this may seem obvious, the key to driving a successful new campaign is to clarify the customer segment you wish to engage. It is imperative that you begin by selecting one or two target demographics rather than trying to be all things to all people. Not only will this approach provide specific and relevant data about your customer base, but it will also allow you to work through potential challenges early on and before launching to a wider audience.

Step 2 – Determine where they hang out
Regardless of how you classify your customers – age, location, income, gender, etc. – there are a variety of resources offering data related to the demographics of each social media platform. For example, the % of female Facebook users is 59%; the average income for LinkedIn profiles is $109K; and 25% of Black, non-Hispanic internet users have a Twitter account (source: Comscore, LinkedIn and Pew Research respectively).

Step 3 – Create a budget and a timeline
Social media offers a fantastic opportunity to connect with customers, in many cases at minimal or no cost! While you certainly have the option of spending thousands of dollars on Google AdWords or banner ads, social media allows you to wage an effective “grass roots” campaign with a much smaller investment. When calculating your budget, don’t forget to incorporate labor costs! If your Marketing Manager will be handling the social media campaign and she earns $70K/year, a 3-month campaign where she is devoting 10% of her time (4 hours/week) will cost approximately $1,750. Determine the amount of money you want to commit to these marketing activities, but be sure to allow enough time to see the results – typically, 6-9 months. Moreover, in order to minimize your expenses, consider using an intern or recent college graduate to support your social media marketing needs.

Step 4 – Establish your MOS (Measure of Success)
Revenue, Web traffic, new leads, # of comments, # of “likes” or “followers”…these are all valid metrics. However, your business model will determine which are most relevant to you. Using the earlier example of $1,750 for a 3-month campaign, a company that sells $250,000 consulting projects will realize a huge ROI by closing one new deal! However, if your company files tax returns for $99/each, you may need 20 new customers to consider the campaign a success.

As an example, our firm spent the last 6 months using LinkedIn polls to gauge whether or not they were a useful tool for engaging our “followers” and eliciting direct responses. For less than $725/mo (the amount we pay our part time Social Media Manager (SMM)) we created 7 polls in 2011.  Additionally, our SMM is responsible for selecting and sharing relevant articles throughout our various social media outlets – LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – as well as commenting on articles written by others across a variety of websites.

As a result, we average 15-20 new leads/month with an average monthly revenue of $2,000-$2,300 – an ROI of 300% on our investment! Additionally, using Google Analytics, we can determine which articles and social media sites are driving our web traffic, which is up by an average of 90% since embarking on this new social media campaign.

Step 5 – Establish your benchmark
Without a starting point, there is no way to identify the success of your campaign. If you are using Web traffic as your MOS, calculate the average number of hits your website received during the 2-3 month period prior to launching your new campaign. If you are measuring “new leads,” determine the historic number of leads you receive and use this as your benchmark. You may also consider creating a unique web address or an exclusive page on your website that is only accessible through a link provided in your social media ad.

Step 6 – Leverage your internal stakeholders
This is the single most important, and most overlooked, aspect of social media. By nature, social media is collaborative and your campaign should take advantage of this reality. While the Marketing Manager may be charged with executing the campaign, she should utilize a broad, company-wide network. In some cases, this may include each of the firm’s Partners or Principals, while in other situations it may include a specific department. Regardless of which employee group you choose, leverage their social networks by sending a link, invitation or exclusive offer to their LinkedIn connections, Twitter followers and/or Facebook friends. Social media is also about trust and credibility. A recent survey by Businessonline.com shows 91% of consumers trust an online referral over a traditional ad. Of course, you don’t want to infringe upon your employees’ personal networks without their approval, and it is also important to gauge the relevancy of their network, but when you incorporate this expanded network into your overall strategy, the breadth and depth of your campaign increases exponentially. Moreover, involving your employees, specific departments or management team will invoke a greater sense of personal involvement and “skin in the game.”
While no campaign is guaranteed to succeed, a little forethought and planning will increase your odds of success.

This should get you to a strong start.

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