Professional services firms are pioneers in content marketing. Consulting firms, law firms, accounting firms, engineering firms and architects: these are the professions that invented idea-based marketing. Since the early 1960s, professional firms have invested heavily in bylined articles, publishing, seminars, webinars, podcasts and conferences. But they’ve been slow to embrace social media.
According to a new survey – conducted by BlissPR, Bloom Group and the Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF) – consultants spend roughly 18% of their thought marketing budgets on social channels, up from 5% in 2005. Over the next five years, firms expect the percentage to climb to roughly 33%.
While challenges abound – including cultural issues, resource constraints and the need for integrated traditional/social marketing plans – savvy firms recognize that social media is here to stay and are adapting accordingly.
Among the major benefits:
- Professional firms are rich in content (data, methodologies, trend commentary, insights, stories), and content is the currency of social media. At a minimum, social outposts (Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, LinkedIn) are a natural way to extend the reach of existing content.
- Social media reinforces traditional thought leadership marketing activities such as speeches, seminars, studies and books. Firms that are experimenting with social media and breaking new ground (e.g., McKinsey, Cognizant), have found that online engagement increases attendance at offline conferences and readership of articles, white papers and studies. It’s not an “either/ or.” Social media and traditional marketing reinforce one another.
- Blogs and microsites enable firms to build a dedicated group of followers with deep interest on particular issues. Microsites also allow firms to aggregate their thought leadership on a given topic, which makes the information easier to find via search engines.
- Social and digital channels give professionals a cost-effective way to stress-test their ideas and collaborate with colleagues. Increasingly, professionals are using social channels to develop thought leadership – as well as to promote it.
- Social media is a cost-effective way to build personal and organizational brands, spread ideas and bring together decision-makers from around the globe. It’s also relatively easy to measure impact/reach, which satisfies leadership’s desire for quantification on ROI.
Social media is already reshaping the way that many professional firms build relationships, promote ideas and, ultimately, go-to-market.
How quickly do you think professional services firms will cross the digital divide?