Julian Summerhayes shares his tips on using Twitter et al to gain a competitive edge
I am constantly asked ‘What should I do with social media?’, as if I am able to come up with a killer, guruesque line that will see you leapfrog the competition. In many ways, this is no different to the question that vexes most department heads/partners: ‘How can we differentiate our offering to outsmart the competition?’ Duh – be different!
There is no one thing that will make you stand out, develop an uber brand and win (sustainable) work, but, to covet the ‘ultimate’ tagline, I feel it my duty to proffer the most informed bits from my time in social media.
1. Adopt the methodology from Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. He calls it the ‘golden circle of innovation’ with the ‘why’ in the centre, ‘how’ at the next layer outward, and, lastly, the ‘what’. By ‘why’ I mean how can you align your firm’s values, ideals and vision with social media? If you espouse ‘the best’ in your chosen field, then how will social media help you fulfil that ideal? Next, the ‘how’. Don’t copy anyone: in fact, Close your eyes to what your neighbours are doing. The paradigm is so new that they are experimenting just as hard as you
2. Focus on no more than five platforms including your website. If, like most businesses, you adopt a hub and spoke model, where the hub is the website and the (four) spokes the social media platforms of choice, then make sure when people visit the website it is as dazzling as possible. I don’t mean all bling and no substance, but give people a reason to go a bit further than the contact page. If you get distracted by meaningless population of Facebook, Google+, or even your blog with a signpost back to the website, then you may end up turning people off your social media platforms, or creating a separate and perhaps less manageable platform.
3. Don’t hop around. Stick with those platforms that have the best user engagement. If you hang in this space long enough, you will understand that there is no shortage of entrepreneurial types who are looking to develop the next Facebook or Twitter. On one level that is very exciting, but, on another, it provides untold distraction when you are trying to run a business.
4. I am an unabashed apostle of social media. But I am in the space. You are not, even if you wear the name badge ‘digital marketeer’. You have a job to do and social media should not drive your business. You and your fellow partners should set the agenda.
5. Don’t try to convert everyone to social media. Referrals/word of mouth still account for a significant proportion of the work that comes into the firm, and those people who receive most of their work that way will need more than a little convincing that they should invest fee-earning time in something that feels alien to them.
6. For those who don’t need converting, set a few ground rules: (a) develop a social media policy and make sure that everyone who is interested has a say. Of course, you will get 101 opinions, but make it clear that there is a cut-off date, and that is when the policy will be implemented; (b) establish a base-line of knowledge. You need to ensure, much like the induction programme or IT training, that the runners and riders know what they are doing; (c) adopt a cycle of iteration: build, measure, learn – and don’t try to roll out multiple blogs, multiple Twitter accounts and allow a free for all with LinkedIn posting; (d) hold a meeting more than once every three months to analyse your efforts; and (e) support for each other is critical. I don’t mean the type of support where the firm’s main Twitter feed re-tweets your department’s news. But rather make sure that you are talking about forthcoming promotions, events and sales drives to ensure coordination.
7. Start an industry-leading blog. Too few firms have a blog – fewer still have set out to create a blog that is different to a modified version of their newsfeed. Blogs are there to influence, earn attention for the firm (or a person) and generate work. Ask yourself, when you read the next lot of copy that you dish up, is this the very best material that we can produce? Also, make sure that everyone in the firm understands the nature of blogging, and is willing to support it with a few shares to their clients via LinkedIn. I rarely see anyone sharing a link to a blog, and that means, much like web content, that it just sits there among the millions of other blogs in the ether.
The trick is not to see this as a must-do list, but rather to pick it apart and do the things that are manageable in the context of your resources. Less is not just more; it may be a far better tactic than spreading yourself ever thinner.
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