Put Social Media to Work for You
Contributed by: Amy Massaro, Vice President, Business Development at Aon
Firms that don’t add social media to their firm’s culture may miss opportunities as clients and potential clients attitudes towards it change. If your firm has not already established a social media policy, it needs to create one before developing its marketing strategy. Your firm’s social media policy should address various legal terms and what they mean in your business environment, such as defamation, endorsements, intellectual property, and forms of wrongful disclosure. Your marketing strategy builds from the established policy.
“Social media is a great tool to build relationships and foster loyalty with your clients,” said Robert Albertini, professional liability specialist for Aon, the national administrator of the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program. “If used effectively, it can create buzz about your services and build brand recognition for your business. Through networking and sharing your story with the right audience, you’re offering added value, for which companies are searching.”
Do your research
Firms that want to develop a social media marketing strategy must first understand how the firm and its members are currently using social media and if it’s current online imagery is consistent with its brand. They also need to review how their competitors are using social media.
Begin by asking:
- What type of online presence does the firm currently have? How does that presence compare to the presence of its competitors?
- On which sites are the firm and its professionals active?
- Are employees using LinkedIn to connect with clients and potential clients?
- Do staff members publish professional articles or make comments on social media sites? Do they comment on articles or comments posted by individuals and companies they follow?
- Does your firm have a Twitter account? How many of your staff members have individual Twitter accounts? How many followers do they have? And are these followers clients or potential clients?
- Which members of your firm are the most adept users of social media?
The last question is particularly important because those who frequently use social media may have experience and ideas from which the entire firm can benefit. Managers should seek out these individuals and get their advice.
Develop a Plan
Once your research is complete, you can develop your marketing strategy. First, identify the various media outlets where you want to be present and then create a plan to contribute to those sites. Be sure to provide guidance to staff members regarding the frequency and content of their posts. Model how to engage on social media by posting frequently yourself.
Invest some time in your social media strategy by discussing it with employees regularly. Consider including social media activity in your employees’ goals. Set expectations, drawing the line between personal and business use of social media in a positive way.
Encourage staff to post online regularly about their volunteer work because these postings can create an unexpected connection with a client who may share an interest in that organization and it also demonstrates the firm’s support for community involvement.
Ask employees how they are using social media to advance business development. Social media savvy employees may give you ideas for additional ways these channels can be used.
Contact the AICPA for ideas or recommendations about how to use social media and be sure to follow AICPA on social media.
Remember, social media continues to evolve. Your firm’s social media policy and its marketing strategy should be reviewed regularly, and new outlets for your marketing should be considered.
Tips for professional staff
Individual members of the firm are more likely participate in social media for business purposes when the firm has a marketing strategy in place. If you are not already an active user, it’s a good idea to ask other professionals in your firm about how to develop an effective online presence. If you are already an active user, consider asking a mentor to review your social media activity and tell you if any of your activity raises a red flag. Ask also what you should add. Have conversations about your social media efforts regularly.
Here are a few tips on how to develop business on social media:
- Position yourself as a skilled professional by sharing information with people you follow.
- Take full advantage of the networks available to you from your college affiliations.
- Consider using all the avenues that a site offers, including sharing someone else’s post or liking it and offering positive comments or congratulations.
- Translate personal relationships into business referrals. After you attend a business conference, consider following a speaker you liked on social media. It could be good for your personal development and also provide a value-added asset for the firm.
- Plan a specific time when you will use social media so that it becomes part of your work routine.
- Report your social media successes to your manager so that the manager and the firm develop best practices.
- Keep your comments positive. You should not criticize competitors or make controversial comments that could have a negative impact on your business development efforts.
- Consider the appropriate outlet to discuss religion or politics. Are you expressing a personal position or a firm position?
- Draw lines between your personal and professional online activity. Always be cognizant of the virtual image of the firm as well as the image you are creating of yourself—your personal brand.
If you think social media is your strength, think about how you can use it to foster relationships with client companies and further develop business for your firm. Your efforts need to evolve along with emerging technologies.
Visit aicpa.org/insurance for more information on the AICPA Member Insurance Programs.
Amy Massaro is Vice President, Accountants Professional Liability, Aon Insurance Services, the national Administrator of the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program since 1974, and has more than 20 years’ experience with the Program.
This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice, You should discuss your individual circumstances thoroughly with your legal and other advisors before taking any action with regard to the subject matter of this article. Only the relevant insurance policy provides actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions, and exclusions for an insured.