7 social media trends for professional services businesses

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Last night I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of professional services business leaders at Strategy Road, sharing my recommendations on some key social media trends relevant to their industry.

Personally I LOVE reading social media trends lists. There is rarely ONE correct answer for what The Big Trend is, but more often some common, overlapping, or evolving themes.

I had a great response to my presentation, which was followed by some dynamic Q&A discussion. So in the nature of “contributing to the online conversation” I would like to share my opinion of current professional services industry trends with you.

As always, please feel free to share your opinions in the comments at the end of this post.

 

7 Social Media Trends for the Professional Services Industry

 

1. Traditional networking is changing (make sure you’re keeping up)

oprah-memeProfessional networks, partner referral networks, affiliates, influencers and word-of-mouth recommendations are essential to many businesses, especially in the professional services industry.

 

83% trust recommendations of friends and family.
2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report

 

However, as the workforce and technology are maturing, our professional network of contacts are changing.

I’m certainly not saying that traditional networks of “real life” contacts are becoming extinct, nor that it’s now ALL online. For the vast majority of us, it’s necessary to have a combination of the two.

So if you are confident with your network of “real life” connections, look at how you can develop your personal brand and begin building your network online.

For most of us who work in the professional services industry, having a current and complete LinkedIn profile is a great place to start.

But don’t just leave it at that. Make an effort to:

  • Connect with the people that you already know in real life, online
  • Review the LinkedIn news feed and engage with the updates of your connections (like, comment, share)
  • Share your own updates, either short text or image updates, links to useful content, or publish your own posts on LinkedIn Pulse
  • Consider connecting with people who you don’t know in real life, but may know through mutual connections, who would provide value to your network (and vice versa)

And for those who are more comfortable with their online networks than real life, try to network in the real world every so often.

This doesn’t have to mean attending networking events or industry functions (though they are great options), but even catching up with a contact (old or new) for a coffee.

 

2. Focus on 1-2 relevant channels

jackie-chan-focusThe reality of our current time is that the vast majority of your potential customers ARE looking for your services online, either directly, or indirectly, including asking for recommendations from family and friends.

It is essential to at least consider your digital strategy, but this doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Select 1-2 RELEVANT channels to focus on.

1 of them may be an up-to-date website with a news, blog or case study area that you can regularly add new content to.

A second one may be a regular enewsletter (emphasis on “regular”) or a relevant social media channel.

The relevance will depend on your business, and your clients, so have a strategy for what you want to achieve, and know your brand.

The most important thing is to make sure whatever your online presence consists of, that it is achievable for you to resource and maintain.

In most cases this means 1-2 interesting updates per week.

For professional services industries, a LinkedIn company page is a great social media channel to consider. Or a Facebook Page, Twitter or Instagram account may better suit your business, brand, audience and type of updates.

Don’t try to be everywhere.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Focus on managing 1-2 channels well, and OWN them.

If down the track you feel comfortable – and it is relevant – to add a new digital channel to your online portfolio, do it. But check first that it is in line with your strategy, and will add value to your business and audience.

 

Owned online channels are amongst the most trusted advertising formats.
2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report

 

3. Be “social” with your own team

elf-staffIt is very common for businesses to focus on external communications with their digital strategy. I mean we are trying to “market” our businesses, and that means to clients, right?

Yes, but it is also incredibly valuable to include your own team.

At the very least, you should have an effective social media policy, so that your team understand the expectations around their social media use as it relates to the business.

Your team can also be incredibly useful for generating interesting content ideas for the business’s digital and social media marketing, regardless of whether they are directly responsible for sharing it or not.

It is also worth considering how digital and social media tools can be used internally to improve communication and productivity, and encourage a positive internal culture.

This may include using tools like Slack, Workplace by Facebook, or a private Facebook Group.

Like all good digital marketing, it should be relevant, and enhance existing systems, processes or communications, not create unnecessary complexity.

 

4. Content IS still king

content-its-kind-of-a-big-dealWithout content, our digital and social media marketing would be very very boring.

A consistent stream of relevant, interesting content is essential to provide a valuable contribution to the online conversation.

Content shared on social media channels can be collated from other sources, or unique content, created specifically for you or your business.

Original content that you create is incredibly valuable for demonstrating your expertise and point of difference.

It can help to educate existing or potential clients, and attract new ones through social media sharing or search engines.

Blog posts continue to be a great method of creating content for yourself or your business.

LinkedIn Pulse posts and videos continue to be emerging and valuable content trends.

Don’t stop at creating awesome content such as blog posts or videos though, make sure you share it through your social media channels, enewsletters, and other opportunities, such as links in your email signature, or guest posts on other websites.

And while regular content updates are most beneficial, do not sacrifice quality for quantity.

 

5. Make use of business directories and online reviews

mr-bean-online-reviewsPeople ARE searching for your business’s services online, whether they know of your business specifically or not.

And listings on reputable business directory websites tend to rank very well.

People are also very interested in other people’s opinions of businesses, and online reviews can help (and harm) your business’s reputation.

 

66% trust consumer opinions posted online.
2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report

 

While you don’t need to update your business directory listings as frequently as you (should) update your website and social media channels, they should be a core part of your online strategy.

Major online business directories include:

To benefit from online business directories and review sites:

  • Find out where your business is already listed, by searching for your business name in Google, and recording all directory listings
  • Claim the business directory listings (that you are) able to (recording all links and login details in one place)
  • Update the business directory listings to include your correct contact details, description, logo, photos etc (these will vary depending on the listing)
  • Determine any other business directories relevant to your industry, and claim, or create your own listings
  • Read and respond to any reviews – good or bad

Responding to a bad review gives you an opportunity to show the disgruntled client that you are listening, and may be able to rectify the situation. It also shows potential clients that you care.

Set up notifications to be alerted of any new reviews so you can respond to them as quickly as possible, and make time in your calendar to review all listings at regular intervals, e.g. every 3 or 6 months.

You can also ask satisfied clients to leave you a review.

Make it part of your workflow to email your clients with a request for review and the link to your main review site (or sites) to make it super easy for them.

 

6. Mobile mobile mobile!

mobile-toy-story-memeMobile internet usage is continuing to increase, and it is essential to consider mobile as part of your online strategy.

If you don’t already have a mobile optimised or responsive website, you need to consider one.

A great way of determining developing your mobile website strategy is to look at your Google Analytics to see what percentage of your current visitors are viewing your website from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).

You can also see what type of content they are viewing, and how they are using your site.

We find that mobile internet users tend to be more “action oriented”. They are often accessing websites on the go, ready to book appointments, make contact, and make purchases.

For professional services businesses – and many others – having obvious contact details and clear calls to action are essential:

  • Contact us
  • Book an appointment
  • Call now

 

7. Measure, analyse, refine…

what-if-i-told-youOne of the best things about digital marketing, is that you have the ability to track EVERYTHING!

But you need to know WHAT is relevant to track, and whether any custom set up is required.

Key metrics should be based on your strategy’s goals, offering clear KPIs.

Identify times to regularly review and record your process (e.g. monthly reports) so you can monitor your own trends.

This allows you to see how you are performing against your strategy and goals, and you can adjust your approach if required.

While we are talking trends though,  I urge you to take a long term focus. While it IS possible to achieve quick wins, for those of us in the professional services game, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

I’d love to hear your opinions on my take on social media trends for professional services, or please feel free to add your own in the comments!

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