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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 32 seconds

Are you on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter, but you're not sure what to do to ensure your time invested pays off? Do you wonder how your team members are using them - especially related to your firm - knowing that most of them are probably on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, too? It's time to create your firm's social media strategy, training plan and policy! Having all three elements in place will drive adoption and usage of social media by your team members, ensure consistency of your firm's brand and positioning and produce measurable results.

Many firms have developed their social media policy. Your social media policy is intended to provide guidelines and parameters for social media usage by your team members. But before a policy can be effective, you must first draft a social media strategy that defines your social media objectives to ensure that your policy supports and does not inhibit that strategy. Then, decide what tools and platforms you will use to accomplish your goals and develop a training program to educate and inform your team members about best practices and how to maximize results from their social media use. Lastly, create a policy that will enable team members to achieve your firm's goals while maintaining a consistent and appropriate firm brand identity.

Let's explore each of these three elements in more detail so that you can effectively implement each to generate real results from social media:

1. Create your firm's social media strategy - define what results your firm wants to produce through the use of social media, such as:
- Increasing your firm's brand and name recognition
- Expanding your reach through additional communications channels
- Building thought leadership for the firm and key individuals in specialty or industry niches
- Enhancing you sales cycle with market research, warm introductions and identifying target accounts
- Conducting professional or college recruiting

One question that is often asked about social media is how to measure the ROI. It's difficult to answer that question without defining your objectives so that specific measures of success can then be developed. As you're defining measures of success, if you're just starting in social media, or with a specific social media platform, your measures will be things like creating your presence on the platform, making a certain number of connections, likes or friends, and the frequency that you will post content. As you mature in your social media use, you can measure referrals or introductions made, comments, responses or actions you receive on specific postings and even new leads or closed business that you can tie to social media use. You must first define how you intend to use social media and each platform and then match the measures of success accordingly - which will allow you to begin to measure ROI.

2. Develop a social media training plan - social media use will gain momentum, buy in and more effective, business-like use when you train all team members on social media, beginning with education on your firm's social media strategy and goals. Then, conduct in-depth training on each social media platform that your firm chooses to embrace to ensure an understanding of the possible business applications and ways to leverage firm resources and content for each.

When developing your training plan, keep in mind that you have different levels of understanding, comfort and willingness to embrace social media among your team members. While some of your younger team members may be actively using many social media platforms, they likely will benefit from training on how to use them for business, including how they personally will benefit by doing so. Your more mature team members may not fully understand social media - and may even be embarrassed to ask questions they may have, so consider holding a separate session for them, especially an overview session on social media or more introductory courses so they have the freedom to ask questions and even express concerns without other more experienced team members being present.

Your training plan should include a variety of sessions that can be held in person or, if you have multiple locations or remote employees, you can also conduct learning via web seminar. Some topics to consider include:
Social Media Overview - social media strategy for all team members, regardless of their social savvy, to ensure they are informed about your firm's social media goals, platforms in which you'll focus and the primary use for each, as well as your social media policies.
LinkedIn Overview - an introductory course that teaches the use of LinkedIn for professional networking purposes and delivers basic guidance to those who may not have a profile and steps to help them refine their use by making connections, posting status updates, sharing information, joining groups and scheduling events.
• LinkedIn for Business Development - a more advanced course to teach how to use LinkedIn to conduct market research, request introductions or find warm ways into prospects, and use the search functionality to identify target accounts.
• Leveraging Twitter To Build Thought Leadership - teach the use of Twitter to users who range from those may not yet have an account to those who are Tweeting and want to learn to maximize the platform and offer ideas for how to leverage it for your informational/educational benefit.
You can add training for other social media tools you are using, such as Google+, YouTube or Pinterest, as appropriate.

3. Develop your social media policy - Consider your firm's culture to help gauge how much structure and what guidelines you need to provide - but avoid being too "Old School"! Write a simple policy that is easy for team members to understand and follow. Instead of trying to control via your social media policy, use it to motivate your team, build their confidence with guidelines and suggestions and offer ideas to leverage the firm's content and social media practices. When writing your policy, browse some sample policies first, such as http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php, to get an idea of what other companies are doing for examples (and so you don't recreate the wheel!). Also, be sure to have your labor counsel review it to ensure you're in compliance with the ever-changing law in this area.

Firms that have incorporated social media into their growth plans are seeing real results. Maximize the benefits of social media by developing a clear strategy and training your team members how to use digital platforms to increase their personal brand and enhance their business development efforts, thereby furthering your firm. Don't just regulate. Instead, treat social media as a strategic initiative in your firm and you'll reap the rewards!

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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