By Rachael Power
While social media can be a great marketing tool – especially since it's free – knowing how to implement it is unchartered territory for some accountants.
PracticeWEB Marketing Manager Elizabeth McMahon has provided the following structured framework that can help your firm get the most out of social media tools.
Setting goals for using social media in your firm is imperative. Identifying goals will ensure that everyone in the firm retains the same focus, which, in turn, reduces the potential of wasted chargeable hours.
Make sure to include elements in your financial and nonfinancial goals that will help you measure return on investment (ROI).
The types of goals you set should be aimed at increasing your network overall. Converting networking leads to referrals is the best way to gain new business.
Identify your audience
Social media is like any form of marketing. After you set your goals, the next stage is to identify your audience.
Start by finding out where your clients hang out in the social media arena, what sites they visit, what kinds of articles they read, what groups they're on in LinkedIn, and who they follow on Twitter.
It sounds like a lot of work, but going through your client list to find out what interests them and who is on what platform will contribute to your ROI.
Think about the target groups identified in your firm's practice development plan. Who do you need to reach to meet your objectives?
Ask yourself what key points you want to make and what you want to get out of social media.
Remember not to "sell." The more you try and sell your firm, the worse you will perform.
Establish social media KPIs
Social media key performance indicators (KPIs) should go hand in hand with the goals your firm has set.
They should also be quantifiable; for example, the number of visitors, followers (on Twitter), article reads and shares, comments or "likes", re-tweets – there are many to choose from.
Firms can measure their KPIs through a variety of tools, including Google Analytics, organic tools within the social media sites themselves, and external ones like TweetDeck or HootSuite. But don't limit your indicators to just those sources. Identifying where online contacts have turned into actual engagements with your target clients, for example, will require linking your social media measurements to your in-house CRM.
Once you have the statistics, you can identify what is and what isn't working, feed the information back to those involved in the plan, implement new procedures, and repeat the process.
Content is king
This is absolutely [the most] fundamental part of social media or, indeed, any website. There's no point in having a social media platform unless you have something interesting to say.
Create a good content plan, which could include asking people to contribute to blogs or articles, having an editorial calendar, and taking advantage of the expertise you have in-house.
Don't work hard, work smart. The content plan should identify who is going to contribute and when. Maximize your resources by using all the marketing channels at your disposal.
If necessary, hire copywriters or subscribe to helpful bulletins or news channels to get ideas.
Appoint the person who will implement your firm's social media strategy, then make sure the person can manage his or her time. Ensure you choose someone who is willing, responsible, and trusted within the firm.
Allocate a minimum of two hours each week to social media activity; however, you may need to spend a bit more time learning how sites work when you first start out.
Ask yourself if you have the most efficient workflow and tasks set out, whether you need any outside expertise, and whether your current content updates depend on any other resource or person.
Try to be as methodical as you can when implementing your social media strategy.
Getting people to buy in to your social media management plan is important, as this is the thing that ties everything together.
Once you've identified goals and KPIs, decided on content, and identified your audience, tell your staff what the outcome is going to be.
People may worry that those in charge of social media are using it inappropriately, but as people learn how to use the platforms, this is happening less frequently.
If the social media leader has a sense of ownership, but is open to getting the most enthusiastic and interested staff members involved, it will pay off positively.
Also consider whether your team needs a specific firm-branded account, or if they're okay using their personal accounts on sites like Twitter.
Setting usage parameters for employees
Trying to ban the use of social media altogether is counterproductive. A good social media policy should cover both how staff use it during work time and how they portray your firm.
Discuss such issues as client confidentiality with employees and make it very clear what information they can and cannot share.
However, don't be heavy-handed – trust your staff to make the right decisions. If you're worried about the outlandish views of an employee, then perhaps ask that employee to include a simple "personal views" disclaimer in his or her social media profiles.
Once you have all that down, implement the following action points:
- Identify your goals.
- Identify your audience.
- Allocate someone to be responsible for social media.
- Spend time at the start to get it just right for your firm.
- Create a social media use policy.
- Start broadcasting.
- Track results.
- Revisit content six months down the line and repackage or refresh it.
This article was first published on our sister site in the United Kingdom.