For many businesses, social media is challenging and somewhat mysterious. Social networks are constantly changing and finding the time to create content and to manage them can be overwhelming. But for a service business, the goal for social media is building credibility and providing value to your audience. People need to like you and trust your expertise before choosing to work with you, and social media is an ideal channel for getting your expertise and personality out there.
Building credibility is the cornerstone of all marketing for service businesses and should be your primary objective with social media, but it can take some time to forge these relationships so be willing to stick with it for at least six months.
Here are the three ways to start building credibility using social media:
1. Have True and Consistent Information
Impressions are a big factor in trustworthiness so the easiest way to help your credibility is to ensure that all of your business information including service offering, taglines, specialty areas, credentials and certifications, and contact information is current and correct on all your social media pages. Use badges, seals and icons for certifications or special credentials since they can be quickly identified visually.
Consistency — both visually and in the messaging — with your website is important as well. Many people who visit your social media networks will also check out your website. If your website is different visually or your messaging is inconsistent with what you have on your social channels, prospects will be confused and potentially skeptical about your business. Review your information regularly, especially if you do major updates to your website that might create inconsistencies.
2. Create Content That Provides Value
Creating content is likely your biggest challenge, but one of the best ways to build your credibility and expertise. Social media is filled with useless content that largely gets ignored, so make sure your content provides value and is engaging. The goal with your content is to connect on both a business and personal level. This does not mean it has to be strictly educational or accounting-related content. Think about these other ways you can add value:
Be entertaining — Humor is good and often shared, just be careful that it is used in a positive way and it is appropriate for your audience.
Being inspiring — Putting a little positive energy out there is always a good thing.
Make it actionable — Share checklists, step-by-step advice or case studies that show how you have made a difference in a client's business.
Get personal — Build credibility by letting people get to know you on a personal level, but be careful to make sure what you share is appropriate.
Sharing other people’s content — Don't just reshare with two words, take the time to add a thoughtful comment, perspective or even counterpoint (but always be respectful).
Utilizing visuals and videos – Not all content has to be written. Mix it up and offer visual forms of content with short videos, infographics, your own photos, etc.
If you are just starting a content strategy and you get stuck on ideas for content, visit competitors or other related social business pages or websites and see what type of posts they have and what gets the most likes and shares. Create content around those ideas or topics to start.
Ask your current clients and vendors what topics or kinds of content they would like to see. Are there common questions that clients ask? Can you partner with a vendor to create something of interest for both of you? Can you create a helpful tool, checklist or tips guide?
For those who have been creating social content already, ask how you can add other types of content into your mix. Would adding short videos or doing live webcasts bring value to your audience? You might think about doing a Facebook live event or utilizing Twitter chat to make a more personal connection with your audience.
Another option is to look at your social metrics to see what articles, posts and content have gotten the most engagement and do a follow up post or refresh a popular past post with updated information or insights. You can create longer content pieces such as ebooks, webinars or videos that you promote on social media but ultimately drives traffic to a landing page or your website to increase qualified leads. Keep in mind however that you don't want to have more than 10 percent of your social content that is directly promotional. More than that does not help with your credibility, and only annoys people.
No matter what content you create, do a value check...does it provide value or usefulness to your audience? It is OK to add posts on social media that are just updates and short news items, but in order to build credibility, valuable (non-sales) content is much more important than the quantity of content.
3. Utilize Social Proof
Social proof is a great way to add credibility, build trust and validate your client's buying decision. The idea here is that people tend to trust others’ opinions and reviews in their decision-making process and choices. Think about how often you visit Yelp or similar review sites to get feedback on a company or product.
There are various forms of social proof, but for an accounting business customer reviews, recommendations and displaying your certifications work the best to build credibility. If someone sends you a message, email or tells you how great your service is, ask them right away for permission to use that as a testimonial. You might add it to your website, but don't neglect adding these testimonials to your social channels. If you have happy clients who are willing to say so, it adds a great deal to your credibility. Create a plan to regularly reach out to your best clients and ask for recommendations and testimonials and make sure your settings on your pages allow ratings and reviews.
If you have a hard time asking for recommendations or building social proof is new for you, start simple.
1. Make sure you have your credentials and specialties listed in your profile and business information. For instance, when someone is looking for a tax specialist, having an "Enrolled Agent" certification will be valuable. Use your bio or company information area to mention the size of your customer base, or how many clients you have served, specialty areas or overall results you get. Make sure your facts are correct and verifiable.
2. Focus on building up your follower base and page likes. Promote one or two of your social channels by asking your current clients and business connections to simply like or follow you by adding an ask to regular emails or communications you send out and including your social links prominently on your website and in marketing materials. For your more valued clients, a personalized email or handwritten invitation asking for a recommendation on your LinkedIn or Facebook page works well. Although Facebook has recently stated that likes and follows are not a big factor in their ranking of pages, having a good amount of followers can give a prospect enough confidence to justify taking a closer look.
For those who are more comfortable with social media or already have increased their followers, here are some additional things to do to build social proof:
1. Focus on building up engagement through social shares instead of just likes and recommendations. This helps to build your social proof in the eyes of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram (owned by Facebook), and they will rank your pages higher and display your content more often. These sites want to promote useful content and their measure is based on user engagement and sharing not just likes.
2. Show appreciation for engagement. Be sure to thank and comment back when other post on your pages to encourage engagement and create a personal connection. A short response can go a long way to help people start to like and trust you.
3. Monitor your brand online. It is also important to know what others are saying about you or your company. If you have multiple social channels, it can take a great deal of time to monitor them all, so consider integrating online tools such as Hootsuite, Klout or Social Mention. Most have free versions that provide basic monitoring which notifies you of mention. Using TweetReach or TweetDeck to monitor Twitter can help you to responds to questions, comments or feedback promptly.
Now go do it!
Social media can be a valuable part of the marketing strategy for a service business — as long as you understand that it should to be used for building credibility and relationships and not purely as a sales platform. When properly leveraged, it can build deeper relationships and encourage referrals. Take the time to map out your plan, and make sure you are always asking, "what is the value I am giving to my audience or prospects?"