While social media marketing has been embraced by many consumer-facing brands, its progress has been much less certain in the professional services. It has been a steep uphill battle for many marketers. After all, you are trying to get billable professionals to forgo client work!
To shed some light on the issues surrounding social media marketing, we conducted a study of 500 professional services firms. As part of the analysis we compared the social media profile of High Growth firms (those growing at 20% or greater per year) to that of Average Growth firms.
Use of Social Media Marketing
We had each of the firms rate the degree to which they focus (0-10 rating with 10 being the most intense focus) on 15 commonly used online marketing tools. For the purpose of this analysis we labeled four of these tools as primarily social media:
Figure 1 shows the focus rating for all 15 online tools in both High Growth and Average Growth firms.
A couple of findings are apparent. For each of the four social media marketing tools, the level of use is greater in High Growth firms. This is also apparent with most of the other online marketing tools.
The second observation is that all of the tools are not used at the same level. LinkedIn and Twitter are in the top third of focus, while Facebook is in the middle and YouTube is in the lower third.
But how does level of focus relate to effectiveness?
Effectiveness of Social Media Marketing Tools
The results for the effectiveness ratings (0-10 scale with 10 being most effective) are shown in Figure 2.
Here again the High Growth firms rated each of the social media marketing tools as more effective than Average Growth firms did. Hmmm… perhaps the High Growth firms know something that Average Growth firms do not?
When you compare the effectiveness ratings to the usage ratings, an interesting pattern emerges. Relative to other online marketing tools, the social media tools are losing ground. LinkedIn and Twitter are in the top third for usage but in the middle third for effectiveness. Facebook and YouTube are also rated lower for effectiveness than for usage.
What do These Results Mean for Professional Services Firms?
On a number of levels these results make perfect sense. After all, LinkedIn is a tool for professionals so the fit with professional services is a natural.
Facebook, with more of a consumer focus, has less direct applicability for many firms.
Similarly, Twitter fits well for sharing professional insights.
And although video makes perfect sense for professional services communication, not many firms have yet embraced its uses. Firms are still struggling with understanding how and why to use these tools.
So what do the High Growth firms see in social media marketing that Average Growth firms are missing? The answer may lie in how social media is being used.
It’s not about setting up a profile on Twitter or creating a LinkedIn group just to have them. It’s about a solid strategy. It’s about sharing useful content. It’s about consistency. It’s about engagement with your social media followers and peers. Without these four components, your firm is just another social media spectator. And what you really need is to be an active and visible member of the community. Then and only then will social media work for your professional services firm.