Editor’s Note: As a professional services firm we have seen firsthand the value of having a social presence and engaging with our clients over these mediums. So when our friends at Hinge approached me with some great research around social, sales, marketing and specifically LinkedIn, it was a no-brainer to let them take over our blog for this informative post. Please enjoy!
Here’s a little fodder for your next status update: high growth firms are putting almost twice as much focus into their own social media efforts than firms with average growth. Observe:
In a study of 500 professional services providers, the firms considered “high growth” put a great deal more emphasis on nearly every online marketing tool we asked them to measure. On our scale of 0-8, they expressed roughly double the emphasis on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—and nearly two points higher on LinkedIn—than their average counterparts did.
And the results are paying off.
This is the average difference we saw over two years. And keep in mind that this is across multiple industries; the only measurable consistent difference between the two categories was their approach to online sales and marketing strategies.
Social media often gets a bad rap as a time waster—and, sure, we all have days where we check the tweets just a bit too often. But one site in particular is more than social media. LinkedIn falls in the same category as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but really it’s as professional as it is social—if not more so. This is a great place to create or join groups within industries or with similar interests. By promoting content within these groups, you can show off your business’ eye for compelling industry info. Or you can share your own content, setting yourself (or your firm) apart as a thought leader.
Posting and “liking” compelling content can gain your firm followers—individuals or businesses who will receive your posts in their feeds. As with other social media, the etiquette is fairly simple—share and share alike. Pay attention; offer kudos and congratulations. Be, in a word, professional. The relationships you foster within groups create a channel for discussing issues and reinforcing your reputation.
Keep in mind that checking in once a week won’t do the trick. You need to actively make social networks a part of your sales and marketing strategy. To really nurture your online relationships and create inbound leads, you’ll need to spend at 20-30 minutes per day on LinkedIn. This might seem like a big time investment, especially when you consider that you should be doing the same for all your firm’s social networks. But imagine if LinkedIn were a face-to-face event with an equal number of participants. You’d be jumping at the chance to spend more time, to meet with more potential clients, present more ideas, and to grow these professional partnerships.
And if you were meeting this network in real life, you’d make sure you were prepared. In social media, preparation means having content. So write blogs, make a video or SlideShare, write white papers and articles… generate some content. Once you’ve got a bit of a backlog, or are able to create content consistently, start sharing.
One last point: the way prospects and clients evaluate the companies they hire has changed. Yes, some old, tried-and-true methods remain—colleague referrals, formal references, etc.—but your online presence has a huge impact on potential buyers’ decision-making these days. In a study of over 1,000 buyers of professional services, we discovered the following.
Buyers are looking online for service providers, with over half of them checking out social media sites. Of those sites, the data shows that LinkedIn is by far the most popular source of pre-purchase information.
With the strong correlation between online leads and growth, and the growing strength of social media—LinkedIn in particular—as a resource for professional services buyers, growing your LinkedIn presence should be an integral part of your sales and marketing strategy.
Elizabeth Harr is a partner at Hinge, a marketing and branding firm for professional services. Elizabeth is an accomplished entrepreneur and experienced executive with a background in strategic planning, brand building, and communications. She is the coauthor of several of Hinge’s books, including Inside the Buyer’s Brain, How Buyers Buy: Technology Services Edition and Online Marketing for Professional Services: Technology Services Edition.