As consultants, our personal online reach is an increasingly important part of our employer’s communications toolkit.
The social media accounts of individual employees offer the chance for firms to convince potential new recruits to fill-out a job application, motivate alumni to stay in touch and persuade prospective clients of the quality service they’d receive if they changed advisers. And of course, we can keep existing clients up-to-date, whilst reminding them why they chose us in the first place.
But today, shortened attention spans, a distrust of big business and the overwhelming volume of social media content have all put a strain on our ability to get noticed and stay connected with those beyond our existing core networks.
Here are four things you can do to overcome this:
1. Get personal
Sharing our employer’s online posts can certainly form some part of our social media activity, but there’s a risk we come across as impersonal or distant if we overplay them.
By instead looking for your own personal angle, you’re more likely to communicate in a language which others can connect with.
For instance, your employer might post some stats about its increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce.
Whilst you no doubt find this pleasing, can you add something that gets across your personal feelings and insight?
One approach would be to spotlight some of your colleagues in a series of posts about the particular team you work with. You could include a little about their background and why you enjoy working with each of them, with a focus on how they contribute to your team’s diverse range of thinking, which challenges you, keeps you learning and leads to better ideas for your clients.
Getting personal in this way lets your individuality shine through, allowing others to get comfortable enough to trust you and want to hear more of what you have to say.
2. Find your shared purpose
Show you think and feel like they do.
In our eagerness to get across the belief we have in our firms and what they can offer, it’s tempting to jump straight to the ‘this is what we do’ and ‘this is how we do it’.
Whilst we might do this because of a genuine enthusiasm for our firms’ services, too much of it will turn our social media feeds into nothing more than a mechanism for trying to sell a proposition, rather than a tool for connecting with and helping others.
Instead, we should use our understanding of each of our main would-be follower groups to find the shared purpose between us, and use our social media feeds to do something about it.
For instance, you might have one group of followers who are mainly middle-management level employees from UK firms in a sector long characterised by cost-cutting and consolidation.
You know from experience that they’re under pressure to take growth ideas to their leadership groups, but they’re unsure where the best opportunities lie in this new, volatile world, particularly outside of their domestic market.
From this you might consider that your shared purpose with them is to re-energise the sector, and do all you can to help unlock its transformative power and potential. Your social media feeds could therefore be used to deliver uplifting messages and insights about the sector, focused on bringing about a new chapter of growth, including potential opportunities outside of the UK.
By focusing on your shared purpose, your follower groups will begin to understand that you think and feel like they do. Over time, wanting to hear more of your thoughts on how you can act on that shared purpose, becoming a loyal follower will feel like a natural, inevitable consequence.
3. Preach what you practice
Turning the old adage on its head.
To make online connections that last, we need to combine relevant, interesting content with authenticity.
This means turning the old adage on its head and using our social media feeds to preach what we practice.
This will help us in two ways:
- i) It encourages us to post content which focuses on what we’ve done – not what we want others to believe – making our content more relatable and easier to engage with; and
- ii) It will draw out the aspects of our work which make us come alive, inspiring others to stick around (longer) to hear what we have to say.
Mini case studies of recent client or project work are a great way of preaching what you practice.
Being specific about what actions were taken and why this put your client in a better place, will make it real and interesting.
Better still, structuring some of your content as a series of short stories will let you take your followers on an emotional journey, inspiring them to make a connection that’s more likely to last.
Different followers will want to engage with different aspects of your social media content.
Given the sheer volume of posts filling up everyone’s online feeds, ensuring that your various followers get to see enough relevant content to want to continue following you, can be a bit of a lottery.
One way to overcome this is to segment your online presence into different social media channels.
This involves first identifying who your main (would-be) follower groups are, and then deciding which of these groups you would like to prioritise and on what social media platform.
For instance, you might use your Twitter feed to prioritise engaging with decision-makers on your client prospect list, or your Instagram feed to reach-out to potential new recruits.
When making these decisions, it’s also helpful to consider whether the set-up of each of your social media accounts is going to allow your content to be seen by each of your target follower groups.
For instance, if your Facebook settings don’t allow you to post publicly, your content on this feed is unlikely to be seen by people you haven’t met personally. Likewise, a Twitter account username or bio which makes no reference to you or your employer is unlikely to be successfully searched out.
By getting personal, finding your shared purpose, preaching what you practice and segmenting your online presence, others are much more likely to lower their defenses and follow you and what you have to say.