Building your client base with social media
Each day, more than 3.5 million New Zealanders are active on social media. The average time spent is 1.5 hours.
Facebook dominates in terms of popularity, but usage of LinkedIn – a great platform for professional services firms – is rising, with more than 1.5 million Kiwi users.
With these sorts of numbers, law firms and their partners and other key staff need a strong social media presence, using this to connect with their clients. If they’re not talking regularly to their clients on social media platforms, there’s a good chance someone else is.
Most importantly, firms need a social media and digital marketing strategy that will include thought leadership, events, new legislation, industry issues, and interesting content from other jurisdictions.
It’s not rocket science, but it’s a specialised field, and one bearing little relationship to marketing and communications as they’ve been done in the past.
So, assuming you have someone on board who can help with the technical requirements – maybe it’s a newly-suited staff member in your firm – how should you get started?
The following tips might be helpful.
For business purposes, LinkedIn should probably be your first port of call. You should focus on nailing your LinkedIn profile and purpose.
LinkedIn is a global hub for professionals and has a lot of untapped potential for reaching existing and prospective clients, marketing your business, and even for recruitment.
Yes, you can connect with many like-minded professionals across New Zealand, but you can also tap into some of the world’s greatest thought leaders and business minds to expand your knowledge and, in turn, provide this great material to your professional network.
Some personal favourites of mine include:
- Richard Branson (Virgin founder)
- Liz Ryan (an American HR expert)
- Jeff Weiner (LinkedIn CEO)
- Arianna Huffington (founder and CEO, Huffington Post)
- Bill Gates (Microsoft founder).
Refreshing (or creating) your LinkedIn profile can take as little as 30 minutes – just a small amount of time to make you appear more credible, and help you stand out from the crowd.
Rather than a list of degrees and the professional organisations you belong to, the focus should be on how you solve your clients’ business pain (your purpose), with a couple of examples.
A critical point: it needs to be written in plain English. Try to avoid marketing jargon or businessschool- speak. You should avoid expressions such as “provide deliverables” and “deadline-driven, multi-tasking, goal-oriented professional”.
- Start with an up-to-date profile picture: This doesn’t need to be a professional headshot: you can ask a family member or colleague to take one on their phone. But it does need to have a professional context.
- A banner image: This is the area behind your profile photo and is essentially free advertising space. It’s a great spot to put your company logo or tagline, or an image that relates to what you do.
- Headline: Sum up what you do in as few words as possible. Don’t be vague – this is the first point that draws people in. If it’s not accurate, you may lose the opportunity to generate traffic to your profile.
- Summary: Three to five lines about what you do and why you do it. It’s best to keep this as simple and concise as possible. It is crucial that you include your contact details here, such as your website and email address. Make it easy for people to find you if they like what they see, and want to know more.
- Have a completed profile. This helps you appear at the top of Google search results when someone directly searches your name. (More than 90% of people look you up online before doing business with you). If there is a negative result, including a lack of online presence, the chance of doing business drops by more than 22%.
- Build your network base. LinkedIn is great for building direct relationships with your current and prospective clients. You have the ability to see where people work, what position they hold, where they’re based in the world, and what they’re interested in. This gives you the ability to hand-pick your target market.
- Become a thought leader in your field. Sharing articles of interest, or original content if possible, is a solid way to establish credibility and remain top-of-mind.
- Connect only with people you know personally. Don’t be scared to connect with new people, even if you don’t know them. It’s a lot harder to get in front of prospective clients face-to-face. The online world opens up a lot of new opportunities and we can connect with thousands more people digitally than we could ever hope to in person.
- Set and forget. If you’re a professional, being on LinkedIn is a great place to start. But don’t set up your profile and never visit it again – it needs to be regularly refreshed and updated.
- Be scared to share or post. There are more than 1.5 million LinkedIn users across New Zealand and more than 500 million worldwide. Sharing content, and engaging with content published by others, helps get your name in front of a large group of professionals. These people will likely never see your profile unless you post regularly. Once or twice a fortnight is ideal and manageable for most people. And it doesn’t need to always be original content: rather than posting all the time, you can simply engage with others’ content.
A presence across social media isn’t the be-all and end-all, but is a very valuable tool to have in the belt.
While it can easily be put in the “too hard basket,” the digital world presents a wide range of business opportunities right at your fingertips, and social media is well worth the relatively small amount of time investment.
Jess Smee is the founder of financial education website Ducks in a Row. She has previously held roles in social media at a Big Four accounting firm and across the financial services industry
Until recently, social media skills were not a priority for professional services firms.
While a few far-sighted firms made the occasional post on LinkedIn or tinkered with Twitter, there were few social media managers among their communications and marketing teams. At partner level, even fewer were brave enough to use social media to communicate with their clients.
Today, many lawyers are enthusiastically embracing social media while even a cursory trawl through Seek will reveal social media managers are in hot demand. And most potential clients will search online before deciding whether to do business with a firm or partner (more on this below).
Slowly, law and accounting firms are figuring out that digital marketing and social media are cheaper than traditional media and a better-targeted way to connect directly with clients.
Put simply, social media is a fast and efficient way of building and maintaining a client base – Ed.