In short, yes. At the very least, it is worth exploring and developing a basic plan. Based on our experiences with various Professional Services clients, not all social media avenues make sense for every business. However, at the end of the day, an online presence of some sort is important for anyone offering a service, especially if your potential customers/clients are also online—and these days, most are.
Blogging and social media decisions need to be made in reference to your target audience and your business goals. Since your target audience is most likely online, it would be prudent to court them and develop that online relationship. If they are not online, or very few of them are, then perhaps your resources should be directed elsewhere (although those old-school tactics, like phone book ads, are dwindling in popularity).
Here are eight tips for engaging your online audience:
- Listen. See what people are saying. Search words that your prospective customers would use. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your area. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for your service. Google search some keywords and see what kind of articles are being written around those words. Also, be sure to see what your competitors are up to by surveying their twitter feeds and Facebook pages.
- Learn. Tell stories form your own unique vantage point based on experiences. Nothing replaces experience. You can build online (and, in turn, offline) credibility by becoming known as a thought leader and a visionary in your posts and tweets. Learn from what others tell you or show you, sound off on social media networks, and the response and feedback can be invaluable.
- Don’t force yourself on people. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Instead, give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”, and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my company’s page on Facebook” vs. “Take a look at our FAQs to get answers to some of your common questions”.
- Engage, but don’t demand action. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. People’s Newsfeeds are full of all kinds of information, so if you want to stand out, it’s good to send them valuable information (also known as quality content), but also get them involved wherever possible. Ask for their opinions. Consider the approach of blogging to engage other smart people, not to show people how smart you are.
- People love photos and videos, so share those. The biggest reason Facebook exploded to over 1 billion users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories in ways that text alone cannot. It’s quick, it’s fun, and you don’t need to spend much time or money. Use your phone to take pictures, make short videos of customers, show fun things happening at the office, and then upload them all. As the old saying goes, “A picture really is worth a thousand words”. A short video is even better.
- Be on the social media sites that your clients and prospects are on. If you are an architect or engineer, you do not need to be on Yelp. If you are selling handmade scarves, get on Pinterest. If you are building a brand, get on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, at minimum. YouTube continues to be underutilized for business purposes, and unfortunately so. People love taking a short break from their working day to watch a fun or informative clip. Consider all social media channels,then put together a strategy and don’t veer from it.
- Spend time every day on social media. Everyone is pressed for time, and it’s exhausting to add another “task” to your plate, but if you can set aside 20 minutes a day, you’ll be leaps and bounds ahead of most professionals in your industry. There’s a lot to learn, and if you read, listen, learn, and respond (even just a little every day), you’ll be part of the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will see.
- Know that content doesn’t create itself. As we mentioned in an earlier blog post, content does not magically appear one day nor does it get a life of it’s own and suddenly start writing itself. Get organized, figure out your message, put pencil to paper (figuratively!) and allocate the resources to getting it done.
At Industrial Brand, we help clients with all of these What Now? aspects of an online strategy. If you need help building your plan or require more information on any of the above, call us. We’ve learned the hard way at times, and because of that, we can help you make it easy.