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Can you grow your revenue using social media?

I often get asked how social media can make you and your firm money – or help you increase fee income. Social media can indeed help you to do this. But more importantly, it’s the routine, yet often overlooked parts of a marketer’s everyday duties that can not only be carried out by using social media websites but can be done better, more cost effective and quicker by using them.

Imagine a marketing channel that offers almost infinite opportunities to promote, interact and prospect new business – it is here in the realm of social media marketing.

Don’t just think of it as a money making marketing opportunity As websites such as Linkedin, Facebook, Xing and co begin to mature, marketers and fee-earners are often asking themselves how these can now help their firm make revenue. The simple answer is – as standalone websites or without using them intelligently – they won’t. This, however, is the same as a print brochure, branded pen or any other marketing activity which is not linked together with your other business development activity. So what are successful users doing to integrate it?

It will build your brand, not just boost it In my experience, few tools above digital marketing and social media websites have done more to take a firm’s brand to the next level, allowing firms to reach out to new audiences, target specific sectors and interact with clients

A recent statement by PepsiCo confirmed that they were now spending 60% of their forthcoming financial yearly budget on online advertising, proving that large multi-national organizations see online promotion as a key and expanding channel. Social networking sites give you opportunities to create your own company profile page, forum, group and ‘alias’ where people can link with your firm, discuss it, and often be a ‘fan.’

In what other environment have you been able to attract 100 ‘fans’ to your brand, as we recently did – and keep them closely aligned with updates on your events, articles, and products posted to them – where the only investment is your time? The answer is probably in few other ways. Smaller firms can even position themselves in front of prospects or sectors where previously they would need advertising budgets or referrals into a marketplace – often taking them from an unknown brand into a known organization simply through social media.

The savviest marketers I speak to have ensured that all correspondence in their social marketing material refers them to corporate websites, brochure content, a specific consultant’s contact details or a place where a call to action is prompted. Similarly, their printed material carried details on their social media presence.

Networking Some of the best fee-earners I meet are unsurprisingly some of the best networkers. They continually cement the common assumption that professional services business development is highly relationship driven, and they are experts in starting and building these relationships.

We’ll attend two to three open networking events a month and meet new prospects, and socialize with existing clients that are also there. However, since the dawn of LinkedIn, Xing and Ning, we can do all of this online.

LinkedIn allows me to prospect and identify suitable targets I would like to work with, Xing offers a range of areas exclusive to certain sectors or firms – allowing me to socialize and email them; and Ning can be used as a social network just for your own organization of circle of colleagues. When I started to realize that I could do all the things on these websites that I could do by attending the real-life networking events – my confidence grew in being able to maximize opportunities simply by online networking. A contact actually joined our firm recently based on an initial discussion that started on LinkedIn.

Facilitate introductions LinkedIn has a referral system where you can ‘recommend’ contacts and write a mini-testimonial for them, it’s also a great way of learning which of your contacts could facilitate your next referral into a potential new client organization. Remember, you don’t need to do it all online – my colleague will often discover the head of a potential client is a contact of one if his contacts, so will then telephone his own contact to discuss the possible facilitation of a meeting or drink that way;  a perfect example of mixing the traditional networking opportunity with new.

Arrange events and promote Many firm’s events programs are promoted through existing database contacts, advertisements and invites in the press. My colleague’s daughter recently organized her 21st birthday party entirely through Facebook. She invited the guests, booked the DJ, hired the venue and promoted the party simply through the social networking site. I think the question for marketers should not be ‘how do we do this?’ but more simply, ‘When will we start?’ With budgets tighter than ever, this opportunity has never been so appealing.

I’ve been tweeting and it doesn’t seem to make me any money! And you shouldn’t expect it to. Twitter was set up to share and communicate – and that’s exactly what the best business development professionals use it for. Every update or tweet automatically updates my LinkedIn profile status, saving me time, and through that professional firms can publish their latest articles, news, and services. All those updates are now seen by my LinkedIn contacts. Through this means, it is a highly powerful channel to expose your business.

Ok, so can you make money from it then? I’ve talked about how to link your social media activity together and how to use it for things that you may have not realized before but the partners still want a return. The simple answer is, by integrating what I’ve discussed here into an overall marketing strategy, the investment in using social media can help facilitate leads, increase your brand presence and promote your products – helping you to increase your fee-income. The best business developers, however, integrate traditional techniques whilst embracing the new ones – and if you are able to successfully do that, you’re likely to be commanding a very rosy future indeed.