It's no longer who you know...

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A book review of Michelle Golden’s ‘Social media for professionals and their firms’ by Jessica Hadley Here are two basic observations:

  1. The professional environment emulates near perfect competition- establishing and maintaining relationships remain the primary (if not only) channel by which a professional can differentiate and develop their business.
  2. Increasingly time poor professionals are also (like the rest of society) developing an immunity to the traditional ‘push’ marketing strategies but at the same time are struggling to find the time to maintain their professional relationships let alone form new ones. (There are only so many lunches and coffees one can have and still get work done.)

And, it’s fairly safe to assume that it’s not going to get any less competitive or easier to find the time to maintain relationships. Hence, it does seem strange that there has been a relatively strong reluctance to utilising a tool which is an additional or alternative marketing channel and provides the ability to extend professional relationships beyond a purely physical environment.

Slowly but surely many professional service firms are realising the too hard basket will no longer cut it. Most businesses -product and service industries alike- are beginning to see the demonstrable benefits from ‘liking’, ‘tweeting’, ‘friending’ and ‘connecting’ with customers, colleagues and contacts. Social media profiles for firms or involving them are also emerging regardless of their decision to join in (don’t believe it?- do a google search- type: [your firm] “LinkedIn” - chances are your firm is at least mentioned in a profile). So it makes sense that many professional firms would now want to start learning what it is and how they can leverage it - even if it is still a dirty word in the professions.

Even if the goal is to justify why your firm should not be using it - there needs to be an understanding of the beast to slay it.

As with most new technology, social media has also now well and truly attracted its fair share of local and international (and self proclaimed) “experts”. Social Media and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) advice is almost in line to be the next spam fad - soon to replace all those offers of cheap Viagra, diet pills and assistance claiming the lottery wins/deceased estates you are entitled to. And like spam, having to filter through all the experts and options is going to be a chore for any firm- and if anything is to be learnt from the social-media-gone-wrong horror stories it is that it is very important for professional firms to find and use the right advice (rather than tackling it alone or blindly listening to an ‘expert’).

There is a book that I think is one of the best resources for any professional firm looking at integrating social media into their firms strategies or simply wanting to understand it. Michelle Golden, CEO of Golden Practices brings together both her deep knowledge of social media tools and 25+ years of experience in professional firm business development and marketing in Social Media Strategies for Professionals and their Firms. This book is a standout because it is not so general that it could apply to any business - it is designed specifically for those who make a living from their relationships and credibility.

The book is a detailed guided tour through the social media landscape fit for everyone - from beginners to the tech savvy generation (or as I like to say, tech dependent) and provides a clear explanation of how the ‘social’ side of social media has been adapted for professional. It has both great practical advice on how specific social media tools can be leveraged and a ‘how-to’ for the 3 main tools - LinkedIn, Facebook and Blogging- how they can be leveraged (what, how & why). All the burning questions are answered- investments and measurables, potential risks, and the etiquette and writing styles for each tool, as well as factors to consider for any policies. She also includes many case studies and examples of how various professional firms have used these tools both successfully and otherwise. Best of all, it is a book written in plain English rather than TechSpeak.

This book makes you understand that social media has increased the ability (and need) to be findable, and provides a new avenue to demonstrate credibility and maintain relationships with many contacts at once without the need for physical presence. It also effectively debunks the common myth that social media amounts to asking everyone to be your friend and sharing photos of what you did on the weekend.

As Michelle says, “It is no longer who you know, but who knows you”.

If you don’t understand and don’t engage - how will you compete with those that do?

 

* Michelle Golden will be in Australia in early March 2012 working with professional firms as part of Firms Of the Future program