How professional services firms can become social media superheroes

By Neil Patrick

I’m in the business of delivering professional services to my clients. And social media is a key tool in helping me grow my network and business opportunities.

But in professional services generally, it is clear that many are much less convinced than I am about its benefits.

Professional services folk trail behind other business-to-business industries in social business. In this two-part post, I’ll be looking at what the hard evidence reveals about this and what the professional services superheroes are doing with social media today.

From conversations with my network, it’s clear that part of the resistance lies in the difficulties of tying their social media efforts to quantified business results.

Slow adoption of social media in these professions is sometimes attributed to regulatory and brand constraints. It’s also often hindered by a lack of senior management support, doubts about the appropriateness of social media and concerns about the return on the time and money invested.

Let’s take a look at the data

FTI Consulting identified in this recent study the practical problems that professional services firms need to overcome in order to generate better results with social media. These are:

· remedying lack of knowledge
· understanding best practices
· creating suitable content for social business

FTI looked at the issues of social business in professional services by carrying out a survey of financial advisors. These professionals are a useful proxy to discover what all professional services firms can do to boost their effective use of social business. Just like financial advisors, lawyers, architects and consultants also build their businesses by cultivating individual relationships. On social media platforms, the success of that cultivation relies on providing authoritative and engaging insights on the issues clients and prospects care about.

Most professional services firms must navigate a challenging landscape of regulatory demands and company compliance measures. Despite these regulatory constraints, the survey found that the use of social media is on the rise. Although 25% of respondents are not using social media at work, only 30% say social media will not be significant in their marketing efforts in the next year.

Of respondents who now are using social media for business, their use has been rising steadily. For example, more than 60% of those respondents, have been increasing their use of LinkedIn over time. Nearly the same number of respondents have boosted their use of Facebook. In addition, financial advisors have become more frequent tweeters – 57% of respondents presently using social media have been expanding their use of Twitter.

Approximately 60% of respondents who now use social media expect that usage to climb in the coming year. A prime driver of this growth is the buiness results that users are achieving. For example, of the 60% who expect to increase their social media use, the majority will do so because they report that the people they are trying to reach are on LinkedIn or Facebook. 40% attribute their expected increase to the role social media has played in achieving their results to date.

The emergence of Power Users

The report found that social media power users (individuals with both the skills and enthusiasm to optimize social media tools and channels) add much more to their company’s revenues and profits. Financial advisors that are classed as power users are more than twice as likely than the less savvy to have won new clients through social media: 73% vs. 30%. Similarly, the value generated by those clients is double: a median of $1 million in investible assets vs. $500,000.

These results demonstrate how social media helps financial advisors achieve greater levels of new business. Power users also are the most likely to say social media has helped them achieve their desired results and agree that the people they want to reach are active on social media.

So what do Power Users do?

A key finding of the research is how power users are achieving these results. The research proved the positive impact of social media upon seven key business objectives and its contribution to the key goal of winning valuable new clients by:

  • Building brand identity
  • Improving effectiveness of referral networks
  • Cultivating specific prospects
  • Enhancing current client relationships
  • Connecting with other financial professionals
  • Cascading thought leadership
  • Expanding professional knowledge

Which type are you presently?

The research identified four distinct groups of financial advisors on a scale from passive to active users of social media. Passive users focus primarily on building brand identity and on improving their referral networks. Active users, on the other hand, create a virtuous circle by compiling and disseminating knowledge and using that information to cultivate prospects and enhance business relationships.

The four groups (and their characteristics) are:

In the Wings (25%) Respondents who don’t use social media in business at all. However, they are active users of social media in their personal lives. For example, 62% of this group use Facebook, 33% use LinkedIn, 58% view or share videos on YouTube, 27% use Twitter and 24% use Google+.

Network Novices (38%) Respondents who use social media passively. They use it to build their personal brands, enlarge referral networks and connect with other professionals.

Connectors (17%) Respondents who use social media more actively to cultivate relationships with prospects and current clients.

Power Professionals (20%) Respondents who use social media to deepen business relationships by gathering information and disseminating thought leadership. Power Professionals are more than twice as likely as Network Novices and more than 60 percent more likely than Connectors to use social media for business on a daily basis.

The path turns an old adage on its head: It’s not who you know, it’s what you know. Advanced social media users are doing more than connecting with others; they are adding value by creating, obtaining and sharing information. For Power Professionals, social business success is a matter of what they know and can share with the market. Network Novices and Connectors still are focused on the “who.”

So it’s clear that social media use by professional services firms is on the rise. And that those who do it most effectively win more business AND more valuable business.

In part two of this post, I’ll reveal how you can overcome the obstacles to becoming a power user and achieve better results with your social media. Follow this link to go straight to part 2.

This post is based on an article that originally appeared here:

No comments:

Post a Comment