In today’s professional services marketplace, competition is fierce. In fact, 72.1% of the firms recently surveyed by the Hinge Research Institute named “attracting and developing new business” as their primary challenge in 2015.
Increasingly, buyers turn to online sources of information to learn about prospective service providers – and one of the most important components of a firm’s online presence is social media.
Figure 1. How Buyers Check Out Professional Services Providers
As you can see, social media has eclipsed more traditional sources of information like references, with about 60% of buyers relying on it for insight. And with 70% of buyers reporting that they use LinkedIn, it is clearly the social media platform where firms should focus their efforts.
Through LinkedIn, organizations can leverage the expertise of their staff and build the overall reputation of the firm. But how, exactly, can they build their visibility and credibility with buyers? Let’s dive right in.
- Build a Profile
Encourage your staff to create profiles on LinkedIn that emphasize their accomplishments. Profiles that are up-to-date and include a professional photograph receive more attention. Remember that for many future clients, a LinkedIn profile may be the first impression your firm makes – and this could drive them to your firm’s website or drive them away. To encourage more profile views, include keyword phrases related to your areas of expertise throughout the text of your profile pages.
In addition to personal profiles, create a company page where all your staff can actively participate. Use your LinkedIn company page to regularly post original content and links to your blog. LinkedIn has become an important source for professional content, with more than a million long-form posts on the social site today, and 50,000 new posts generated weekly. Joining the conversation and sharing your insight is the first step to growing your reputation.
- Connect and Network
As you establish your LinkedIn presence, start by considering what you want to accomplish through social media. Are you looking for new business prospects? Greater visibility and recognition among professional peers? Publicity and press? By sharing your expertise and connecting with relevant figures on LinkedIn, you can make progress on all of these goals.
One of LinkedIn’s most powerful features is Groups – industry-specific or topic-focused communities where you can build your professional reputation and recognition as an expert in one or more areas. You’ll grow your network by participating in discussions and adding insightful comments, demonstrating both your knowledge and your approach to solving problems.
As you become more experienced on LinkedIn, you should also consider starting your own LinkedIn Group around topics of interest to your clients and prospects. This can be a tremendously effective way to frame the way your prospective buyers think about their challenges and lead the conversation in your industry.
- Don’t Spam Your Network
An effective LinkedIn presence requires frequent posting and contribution. But it’s essential that these are contributions to a community, educational and relevant to the needs and interests of your audience – not purely self-serving promotions.
One of the most common mistakes you will see on LinkedIn is constant self-promotional posts and messages. This is social spam, and the people in your network will expect more from you. To make a powerful impression, focus on the needs and interests of your network…not yourself. In every interaction, make sure that you are providing value to others. If you’re not, you should rethink your strategy.
- Become the Visible ExpertSM
Once you choose five to seven LinkedIn Groups that best match your field or domain expertise, use them to build your professional platform. Write, discuss, and comment on subjects that allow you to share your insight and knowledge. Our research shows that those purchasing professional services are most commonly looking for expertise that is not available to them in-house (61.7%), primarily in order to solve high-impact problems (35.1%).
As you and other professional staff within your firm develop your profiles as Visible Experts, you will find that you are able to generate more leads and referrals, command higher rates, make more professional partnerships, and secure more speaking opportunities. In turn, these new benefits will help you further consolidate your status as a Visible Expert.
- Bring Value to Your Network
Be generous with your expertise. The more you can do to help others, the more you do to cultivate your expert status. Freely sharing your knowledge builds trust and credibility with prospective clients.
According to 38.1% of buyers of professional services, your ability to make a complicated subject understandable is evidence of your expertise. This is one of the most powerful ways your social media presence can impact your overall visibility. By making your area of expertise easier to understand, you demonstrate your mastery of that topic – and give your audience a reason to turn to you for solutions.