- Connect with key client contacts via Facebook or Linkedin with quality posts.
- Experiment with emerging technologies such as AI and delve into the growing trend of video content.
- Make use of paid media posts and consider partnering with appropriate social media influencers to cut through the noise of a competitive industry.
Story Scott Drummond
Additional reporting Adam Turner
1. Develop a ‘social organisation’, not just a social media marketing plan
Successful customer service and high-performing content on social media have something in common; they tend to happen in organisations where internal barriers between siloed teams have been removed, so information and insights are shared.
For example, a customer interaction on Twitter can turn up an insight into a target audience, which marketing teams can then use to develop campaigns and content to boost awareness and generate new client leads.
Beyond marketing, human resources teams can use social listening to better understand what potential hires want from their future employer and to help firms to optimise their recruitment processes. And when senior leaders get involved in social media, there are even more positives.
Australian research by Hootsuite in 2016 found that CEOs on social media have a positive influence on many aspects of the organisation.
“We found that there’s a 40% increase in employee engagement as a direct correlation to CEO or executive engagement,” says Amy McIlwain, Hootsuite’s global industry principal, financial services. “We also discovered that companies with social CEOs have better overall brand perception in the marketplace and attract talent and drive sales.”
2. Get personal to strengthen client relationships
Smaller firms especially should look to leverage the personal nature of social media and connect with their key client contacts on social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. As well as sharing posts that showcase the company’s values, firms can also show they care by supporting their clients in a convenient channel.
“We use Facebook to promote content on our website and upcoming events, plus it’s a great way to show people the fun side of what we do and help them get a feel for us as an organisation,” says Elle Atkinson, the marketing manager with Peer Wealth, a family-owned accounting and advice firm with two offices in NSW.
3. Tap into the massive appetite for social media video content
Back in 2017, researchers at tech giant Cisco predicted that by 2021 more than 80% of all internet traffic would be video, and more and more professional services firms are searching for smart ways to get their message across in this format.
For small firms with limited production budgets, embracing the potential of Facebook Live to bring thought leadership content direct to the mobile screens of current and prospective clients could be a great way to tap into this trend towards video content.
With larger budgets, more ambitious video projects can help firms stand out from the crowd. A great example of a creative use of video was Deloitte New Zealand’s ‘Will you fit into Deloitte?’’ graduate recruitment campaign. This interactive video challenged viewers to walk in the shoes of a new Deloitte employee, making choices along the way that helped to highlight the company culture and major service lines.
4. Focus on quality social media posts, not quantity
You should assume that your audience is time poor and not necessarily taking to social media with the intention of engaging with accounting firms. So rather than pushing out large quantities of marketing posts that are all about you and your firm, focus on publishing quality content that is highly relevant for your target audience and that provides real value to them.
“The concept of ‘care for clients’ is fundamental to our philosophy,” says Melanie Leijer, general manager of NSW firm Boyce Chartered Accountants, “and social media offers the perfect avenue for putting that into action. The idea isn’t to bombard clients; instead we want them to engage with us on social media because they know that we’ve always got something valuable to say.”
The bonus of this approach is that you can take the money saved by reducing the amount of content you publish, and put it towards paid distribution for your posts, ensuring they reach the right audiences.
5. Use targeted paid media posts to reach your audiences
The major social networks use algorithms to filter and sort the vast number of possible posts that could appear in a user’s newsfeed, prioritising the content a user sees by relevance rather than the publishing date. This means the marketing content that businesses publish won’t necessarily reach their followers or fans.
By using highly targeted paid media such as Facebook or LinkedIn advertising, businesses can get their content in front of the people that matter most to them. “Facebook lets us reach audiences beyond those people who already know us, and then bring them back to our website, so they can get to know us,” says Peer Wealth’s Atkinson.
If you’re investing in thought leadership content, you need a clear plan to make sure that the content reaches your desired audience. And you don’t need a big budget to get started – test your ad campaigns with a small investment and then scale up the spend as you see positive results.
In 2017, Grant Thornton created more than 60 pieces of thought leadership content for its Growth and Future of Industry campaign, which it supported heavily through social media. The firm invested in paid media to improve the campaign’s visibility among its clients and prospects in specific industries, exceeding its reach targets by 4x and its conversion targets by 7.5x.
6. Connect and partner with trusted social media influencers in your industry
A Kardashian clone hawking lipgloss on Instagram for money feels about as far removed from the world of professional services as you could imagine. But true influencer marketing goes beyond paying celebs huge sums to tweet about your latest product.
Firms can develop ongoing relationships with respected (and influential) industry figures so that they become positively associated with the brand. That association can in turn drive real business benefits for the firm, such as improved brand awareness and perception.
For users trying to navigate the sea of digital content out there, influencers act as a trusted guide to what is worth consuming. “Having real people tell real stories helps make the category less intimidating,” explains Holly Pavlika, senior vice-president of marketing and content for Collective Bias, a US influencer marketing agency.
“Having real people tell real stories helps make the category less intimidating”
For firms, partnering with influencers represents a cost-effective strategy to ensure their marketing messages cut through the noise of a competitive industry.
Global software giant SAP’s Audience Marketing team partners with influential authors, academics and business consultants to drive awareness of their events, products and services. Influencers are invited to attend SAP events where they are interviewed, and these live video interviews are then shared through social networks, generating online conversation around the brand.
7. Experiment with emerging technologies in AI and voice
Social media platforms are constantly changing. Advances in mobile technology mean that users are now engaging with text and voice chat applications on their smartphones, which are platforms powered by artificial intelligence (AI).
A survey of 5000 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany, released by CapGemini’s Digital Transformation Institute in early 2018, showed that 28% of users had already used a voice assistant to make a payment or send money, and a further 44% were interested in using voice assistants for bank transactions in the future.
There are many ways businesses can harness these technologies in simple and practical ways to operate more efficiently.
“44% of consumers were interested in using voice assistants for bank transactions in the future”
For those on a smaller budget, start by switching on the ‘Send instant replies’ feature in the Messaging settings of your Facebook page – this lets you send automatic instant replies to anyone who contacts your business’s Facebook page.
National Australia Bank (NAB) already allows its customers to request their account balance or details about deposits by asking Amazon’s Alexa. If the experience of the banking and financial services industries is any guide, accounting firms with an eye towards the future of customer experience should be exploring AI tech and voice-user interface opportunities now.
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From the CA library
Available from CA Library: Social media for business: foolproof tips to help you promote your business or your brand. Reveals how to build a marketing strategy using social media, from creating profile pages to establishing profit-driving followers.Read more