Starting your Social Networking journey - a guide for Professional Services firms

  • //images/social_media.jpgWith a few exceptions, the professional services sector is still proving itself reluctant to embrace social media.  A lack of understanding, a fear of the risks and a question mark over the returns all lead to a preference to watch from the stands rather than become immersed in the thick of the action.

    And yet the public at large is being consumed by it, time spent online is dominated by it and the core attribute of trust is shaped by it.

    So what should a professional services firm do to ensure it enjoys the benefits while protecting itself from any possible downsides?

    At the tail end of last year, the Law Society issued a practice note on Social Media.  Practice notes represent the Law Society's view of good practice for member firms in a particular area.  The note on social media is a balanced set of advice, which could be adapted and adopted by any business.

    Here are the main points:

    Social media offers profile and client engagement on a large scale, at minimal cost and with manageable risks, if you adhere to the same ethical obligations as you would in an off-line environment.

    • Act with integrity
    • Don't allow your independence to be compromised
    • Don't do anything to compromise the trust the public places in you
    • Don't break rules on confidentiality or disclosure
    • Don't confuse personal and professional use.

    All of the above are important points, but it is inadvertent breaches of confidentiality that present the greatest day-to-day risk. For example, if you comment on Twitter that you are in a certain location at a certain time, you may unintentionally disclose that you are working with a client on a project that the client would consider confidential.

    A short social media policy is all it takes to put some firm-wide guidelines in place.  The Law Society recommends including:

    Guidelines for engaging: What are the limitations on what can be discussed, commented on or promoted?

    Management: Who will manage your practice's social media policy and be responsible for ensuring confidentiality, compliance and consistency?

    Roles and responsibilities: Who will take responsibility for the day-to-day administration of the different activities, and who will be able to participate in social media activity within your practice?

    There is more detail on these headings in the note, so take a read if you want more information.

    Once you have put in place the safeguards you feel your firm needs, you are ready to embrace the benefits. Like any journey, you shouldn't set out without a road map and it is worth re-stating the guidance contained in the infographic in our last post.

    • Define your target market - and what it wants to read and share
    • Get the tone of your posts right - be relaxed, yet true to your brand personality
    • Identify which types of engagement are effective - this is likely to require some experimentation
    • Look at it as a long term strategy - not as a tactical campaign
    • Keep it real and relevant - if you don't have anything relevant to say today, don't say it
    • Create a schedule for updates - regular updates are needed. Planning ahead and sharing the responsibility across the firm helps
    • Monitor and measure - there are plenty of free analytical tools available.  Use them to measure, learn and improve.

    There is myriad information online describing the various networks.  LinkedIn, Twitter, You Tube and Facebook are the main ones and sufficient for any professional services firm to be going on with.  Please contact us if you want more information on any of these.

    If your firm is not engaged in social media, now is the time to review your stance. We live in an abundant society.  As human beings, we need direction and approval in the choices we make.  We are no longer reading papers in the way we used to, instead we are gathering our news, information and recommendations online. Your firm needs to be active and omnipresent in this space. 

    Challenge the assumptions in this post by all means, but use it as a prompt to find out more. Don't allow fear and ignorance to be your reason to abstain.

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