Thursday, December 17, 2009

Refining your Approach to Social Media

Refocusing social media to add real business value

As social media makes its inevitable march to mainstream business, many small law firms, astutely, are already establishing a strong social media presence before their competitors. Many firms argue that, although all of the benefits of social media have not been realized, staying ahead of the curve will keep them well poised to take advantage of any benefits that may materialize in the future.

The risk, of course, is that early adopters of social media may find themselves still looking for greater benefits to their firm in three years. That, however, does not have to mean there is not real business value in social media. To keep your social media investment productive today, refine your approach by focusing on these three business goals.

1. Listening to your Customers – One of most useful thing that service providers are finding about social media is that they can listen to customer feedback in a manageable way. Prior to social media tools, such as Twitter, customers and businesses alike were frustrated with the lack of any good option for conversing. From a business owner’s perspective, the exorbitant cost of establishing a forum for customer feedback prohibited.

For customers, support lines, e-mails and Web forms generally were frustratingly slow and unresponsive. Now, business owners can listen to what customers are saying about their business and join the conversation. Customers are talking about your business, so you should listen, and perhaps more importantly, join in. For example, engaging customers with Twitter provides an easy, public forum for you to respond to your customers, and it sure beats mass e-mails with a “do not reply” link at the bottom.

2. Increase your Web Presence – contributing to social communities has the peripheral benefit of increasing your searchability. Google indexes your social media content, including your Twitter posts, so Google results may link back to your Web site, Facebook, or LinkedIn profile. Leverage that knowledge to your advantage by making more likely that potential customers will find you when they are looking for your services.

3. Networking and Word-of-Mouth Marketing – Building peer relationships – Finally, think of your social media time as networking time in the real world. You attend real social events to build your personal relationships that may result in business sometime down the line. The same principle applies to social media. Although you cannot measure social media’s ROI in the same way you would traditional marketing, you can still use it to expand your social network and develop your word-of-mouth marketing. So, stick with your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter efforts even though you are not seeing immediate results in terms of business walking in the door.

Focusing on these three social media benefits will guide you to making smarter business decisions about social media. The obvious pitfall to avoid, of course, is wasting too much time with social media. However, on the flip side, you do not want to fall behind your competitors and lose the opportunity to maximize your social media benefits.

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