GUEST BLOGGER: Michael Silverman, CEO, Duo Consulting
When most professional service firms think of social media, they envision Facebook and Twitter followings. Then again, how many new clients have you gained from these social channels? You could probably count them on your fingers.
That’s the experience we’re seeing across the world of professional service firms. Slow traction in the social space can be attributed to poor social marketing. But that isn’t always the case. In general, B2B and other professional service businesses have trouble finding a foothold in a world dominated by social interactions.
Whichever way you slice it, Facebook and Twitter are noisy marketing channels, traversed by unfiltered messages that may or may not fit your niche. Online communities, on the other hand, offer your business a targeted venue for meaningful interaction.
An online community is vastly different from a social network. In general, social networks visualize real-world connections. There’s very little targeting in this world. Online communities are organized around topics and interests, filtering content and conversations around the chosen focus. They range from forum sites to full-blown webzines, with one simple consistency: members are stakeholders in the topic that communicate with other members.
Participating in an online community offers professional service firms benefits like:
- Filtered, targeted and valuable communication: Participants in an online community are stakeholders; the reason they’re taking time to participate in the first place is because they are interested in the topic and derive some value from that participation.
For instance, a law firm might participate in an online community where participants communicate around the subject of DUIs by offering tips and advice. (HINT: If that online community doesn’t exist, you have an opportunity to create it.)
- The ability to join a conversation cold with fresh leads: The general idea of online communities is that they’re open; therefore, you don’t need to have met potential leads in real life. Simply offering advice, without soliciting a new client, is an invitation for someone to check out your firm and what you offer.
- Potential to own the conversation: Can’t find any active online communities that cover your area of expertise? You now have a strong marketing opportunity. By creating that community yourself, you own the conversation. (Shameless self-promotion: For more insights on how to create an effective community, check out the book I recently authored, Capturing Community.)
To see how it’s done, check out BDO Seidman Alliance.
In addition to founding and leading Chicago-based Duo Consulting, Michael Silverman has headed up a number of online community development projects for 15 years. He just launched the book on online communities, Capturing Community: How to Build, Manage and Market Your Online Community.