If You Build It, Will They Come?

June 14, 2012 Josh Amer

Why Professional Services Firms Should Include Social Media as Part of Their Content Marketing and Search Strategies

There was a time on the web when all you really needed to do to get a respectable amount of traffic to your site was create a well designed page that had been optimized for search engines. This simple tactic – build > optimize > wait for traffic – wouldn’t make your site the most popular in the world, but it would ensure that you at least had a respectable level of traffic to your site.

I’m afraid the days of getting by on this tactic alone are gone. That is to say, classic SEO is no longer enough. The web has changed, search has changed – and so must your web marketing efforts.

So where does a professional services firm start? If you haven’t already, it is time to truly embrace social media.

As with many things on the web, we can take a cue from what Google and Bing are doing. The top two search engines are both heavily invested in social media and are now using social network activity to influence search results. Each has recently unveiled updates that allow social networking activity to directly influence search results. On Google, search results now prominently display content from a user’s Google+ network or Google reader. On Bing, users can now see activity related to their search from both Facebook and Twitter.

Bing-Results_Large Bing’s new results look (social results on the right)

Social media has reached a point where the safe approach is no longer sitting on the sidelines. Sitting on the sidelines now means you risk being missed completely, whether due to lack of presence on a particular social site or because an individual’s search results have been personalized based on social activity that you are not a part of.

If you aren’t sure where to begin with social media, start by making content distribution via social media part of your broader content strategy. Content strategy encompasses many things, including the channels that you use to promote your content. Once you’ve created content that you believe your audience will be interested in, it’s a good idea to deliver that content to your audience via social networks (don’t assume your audience will just happen to come to your site and see your content). Keep in mind, however, that over-sharing may cause some of your followers to tune you out, and that some content types are better suited for social sharing than others.

Content that demonstrates thought leadership, such as blog posts, articles or upcoming speaking engagements, will likely generate more interest on social sites than firm news. To generate even more interest, start a dialogue along with the content you promote. Linking to an article is a good start, asking for feedback and comments on the article takes your content one step further toward being more social.

Beyond that, what you do with social media really depends on your goals. At a high level, we recommend the following:

  • Create a social media policy.
    You should encourage your thought leaders to tweet, share and spark discussions on the web, but give them some guidance.
  • Give your thought leaders some freedom.
    To temper the social media policy, make sure that you are giving contributors a fair amount of freedom. If everything they tweet must first go through a review board, they either won’t do it, or they may go under the radar. Give them guidance, and let them fly. For them to be successful, they need a little breathing room.
  • Start with LinkedIn.
    Although not yet included in either Google or Bing’s search results, LinkedIn is the reigning champ when it comes to social media sites referring traffic to professional services websites. For example, LinkedIn is referring more traffic to most law firm sites than Facebook and Twitter combined, and more traffic than some of the most popular paid legal directories.
  • Make your content shareable.
    Adding a simple share link / widget to your site allows your visitors do some of the work when it comes to sharing your content on various networks. The payoff for you is that links to your site are now being sent to audiences that you may not have reached before - and you didn't have to do anything to make it happen.
  • Find out what your audience is looking for.
    To be part of the discussion, you must know what people want to discuss. Having content that no one is interested in won’t matter, even if it is effectively promoted. A good way to find out what people are interested in is to look at what is actively being searched, blogged about or what people are discussing on sites like Quora. When a topic that a particular thought leader at your firm has experience in comes up, suggest to them that they engage in a dialogue about it on a social site, or write a blog post or article about the topic. Once the content is in place, make sure that your social networks are aware that it exists.

That’s just the beginning. As with just about everything on the web, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. At One North, we’ve seen a wide range of activity when it comes to social media, and new ideas and networks are cropping up every day. How is your business using social media in new and interesting ways?

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Josh Amer Strategist

At the time of publishing, Josh was a Strategist at One North.

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