These days, even the most conservative and highly regulated industries are embracing LinkedIn and realizing why they should put more stock into employee advocacy.
Financial services, legal firms, even government agencies; they’ve all finally begun to accept the power of social media, and they’re incorporating it into their day-to-day operations.
Some may wonder why it took these industries so long. It doesn’t really matter why — I’m embracing that they are now, as witnessed from the number of speaking and training engagements I’ve had recently with highly regulated industries and government.
Of course, different organizations have different approaches to embracing social media. I think it’s just been a lot easier for them to focus on LinkedIn, which makes a lot of sense because LinkedIn actually is the first platform you would think of if someone says the word “business.”
What Drives Organizations to Use LinkedIn for Business?
Business flock to social media for a number of reasons:
- LinkedIn and content marketing are necessary to reach and educate their target audience.
- Social media can give any company the chance to build and nurture their own community.
- LinkedIn provides advanced search functionality that can used to narrow down results and find exactly who or what they’re looking for.
- Social media can enable them to fix customer issues in real time.
This is one of the many areas where LinkedIn shines, by the way: As an increasingly effective means of reaching their audiences – a fact recognized even by industries known for their lack of flexibility – this platform also has an important role to play in a company’s content marketing strategy.
Let’s take a look at some of the available statistics on social media use from the more traditional and conservative industries such as finance and accounting, law, and government agencies. These are industries that you wouldn’t normally associate with heavy social media use.
Key Strategies for Financial Services, Accounting, Law Firms & Government
Social Media and Financial Services Industry
It is perhaps not so surprising that the financial services and accounting industries have been slow adopters of social media, due to their highly regulated nature.
Interestingly, studies show that as far back as six years ago, an estimated 84% of financial advisers in North America had been using social media for business purposes, a 24% increase from the number of advisers who affirmed this in 2010.
A number of factors have influenced this shift:
- advancements in consumer and corporate technology;
- consumers’ increased comfort with new technologies and channels; and
- a more guided and predictable regulatory environment for the industry.
Furthermore, the increasingly popular school of thought is that social media platforms are actually a natural complement to these firms, due to their capability to build consumer trust and manage client relations.
This, of course, is exactly what these financial firms do, transforming their business and social media into a match made in heaven. See for instance the American Institute of CPAs, which sponsors a LinkedIn Group comprised of over 63,000 members that serves as a venue for professional discourse.
However, the full adoption of social media in finance and accounting firms is hindered by both their uncertainty with regard to how these platforms should be used and their concerns about how social media adoption might make it harder to comply with their existing regulations.
If you wish to get a head start in your organization, here are a few ways financial service providers can use social media effectively:
- Respond to enquiries on social media in a timely manner.
Twitter did a study that found a direct correlation between responsiveness and willingness to spend on products and services. It showed an increase in revenue when companies were quickly responding to customer requests and complaints.
- Use social media when in crisis.
Companies can use social media to manage a brand’s reputation when a crisis has occurred, websites are down, phone lines are not working so customers can feel reassured that their personal data is safe.
- Use data and analytics tools and apps.
For some financial service providers, the high volumes of social media traffic can get overwhelming. It’s hard to make sense of all the data coming through without a robust tool to help you monitor the traffic. One tool that can help to cut through the noise is PwC’s Social Observatory.
It will allow you to monitor customer sentiments and identify trends that you should be observing, benchmark your performance against your competitors and identify and target influencers.
- Identify influencers to reach your target market.
Financial service providers can reach their target market by making themselves visible to the a group of influencers who are already influencing the market. For example, if you are a bank who specializes in ethical and sustainable banking, you can create a list of influencers within the community to increase brand awareness, followers, interactions, drive traffic to your blog posts and find new business opportunities.
Key takeaways from social media-savvy financial service providers:
Before anything else, know the ins and outs of the social media platform before you commit to being more active on it.
One more thing to be done (prior to making this decision) is to understand why you have to make the leap to social media from traditional ways of capturing your audience’s attention. The biggest reason…that’s where your target audience can be found.
It is important for employees of an organization to have a clear idea behind what the company’s goals are, as far as social media is concerned. This ensures alignment between their online activities and the identity you want to project for your brand.
Lastly, you must formulate a set of regulations for social media use within your company, and make sure that every employee understands the risks involved in publishing content that is not aligned with these guidelines.
Social Media and Law Firms
You may think that attorneys and law firms don’t have time to engage in social media activities.
Objection – as a matter of fact, the results of the ABA Legal Technology Survey Report in 2016 strongly suggest that attorneys have embraced technology for growing their careers and their networks.
With around 76% of law firms maintaining an online presence and 57% of them preferring LinkedIn, social media-savvy lawyers can attest to the fact that their efforts to increase their online visibility has rewarded them with numerous benefits, including better client retainment rates and the ability to promote themselves as thought leaders.
In fact, the utilization of social media for law firms has become so commonplace that the New York State Bar Association already issued Social Media Ethics Guidelines for New York attorneys. I was even asked to speak on this exact topic for the America Bar Association, so it’s clear the legal industry is embracing the social sphere and even investing in employee advocacy and training.
While such rules may vary from state to state or country to country, it is still important to stick to a set of guidelines and best practices for the legal profession, no matter where they are located. And of course, for them to make the most out of their LinkedIn presence, it is a good idea for firms to ensure their law professionals are trained to maximize the opportunities.
A good example of a law firm that is getting social media right is Sapochnick Law Firm based in the US. They currently have close to 140k fans on Facebook and gets an average of 4 – 6 leads per day. Another attorney, Mitch Jackson has done a great job establishing himself as a thought leader through his use of social media.
Would you like to do the same? If you do, here’s are a couple of things they’ve been doing to reach their target audience using social media that other law firms could also do:
- Create content that is relevant and relatable.
Sapochnick Law Firm specializes in immigration law, so they blog about topics that will be beneficial for them. For example, they write about what’s new in immigration law every week, updates to application processes and publishes videos on their YouTube channel called Immigration TV, answering questions from the public.
- Commenting on other blogs and leaving a signature with a link to your blog.
A great way to build thought leadership is to share your thoughts with other people and this includes on other people’s blog posts. It’s also a great way to build relationships with people who are interested in similar content and create new business opportunities.
Key takeaways from social media-savvy law firms:
For even the most highly regulated industries, social media adoption can be a breeze. In fact, it should be even easier for such professionals to stick to social media guidelines, given how they’re used to having strict regulations in everything they do.
It also helps to have a regulating body for your industry when it comes to social media use. If you already have one, make sure to actively participate and comply with its regulations, and to keep abreast regarding relevant updates to the way you apply social media in your craft.
Social Media and Government Agencies
Even the folks in the government have seen and understood the value that social media can provide them.
Based on results and data from a recent GovTech Exchange survey among its online community, about 60% of the respondents confirmed that their respective agencies permit them to use LinkedIn during work hours.
The draw of LinkedIn for government agencies is the perception that LinkedIn is strictly all about business. I’d completely agree with that, LinkedIn is strictly professional and all business.
Thom Rubel, vice president of research at IDC Government Insights agrees with this, saying that, as opposed to LinkedIn, other social networking platforms (such as Facebook and Instagram) are specifically targeting “the consumer world,” with a distinct focus on “personal lives and personal connections” instead of just business.
This is likely the same reason why government agencies tend to be more relaxed when monitoring their employees’ activities on LinkedIn at the workplace. A combination of organization-wide policies on internet use and sufficient LinkedIn training should ensure that employees who are active on social media don’t need to be closely watched and scrutinized.
If your government agency is one of those that have successfully embraced social media, here are some ideas on how you can use LinkedIn effectively:
- Use for recruitment.
LinkedIn has over a half billion users and 10 million job postings. It’s become one of the most important places online to locate and assess talent. By having a LinkedIn page for your government agency, you’ll be able to communicate to potential staff, what you do and offer, provide access to the latest job postings and information on your agency key goals for products and services.
Having an agency LinkedIn Company page also provides the opportunity for staff to link themselves to it, bring more views to the page and awareness of your mandates and objectives.
- Contact management and stakeholder management tool.
LinkedIn offers the possibility to lead or participate in topic groups in a way that is far more cost-effective than the usual ‘round table’ engagements they have in government agencies. It can also be used to build business connections that otherwise would not be as easily accessible or available offline.
- Source of knowledge and expertise across many professional topics.
Joining Linkedin groups is a great way to access very specialized expertise and knowledge areas surrounding government. A good example of this is the AusGoal LinkedIn group by the Australian government. It was setup to discuss open access and licensing framework for commonwealth and state governments to share relevant information from around the world.
- Economic development and international business development.
Many government economic development agencies are finding great success in outreach via LinkedIn to decision makers in companies they’d like to speak with. I recently trained two different government agencies in Canada and New Zealand on how to find, connect and start a dialogue with decision makers of companies that they’d like to see set up manufacturing plants in their region.
Key takeaways from social media-savvy government agencies:
It is never too late to learn and adapt to new technologies. I think the fact that government agencies are warming up to social media captures this perfectly.
With the right guidance and mindset, your employees don’t need to be micromanaged and scrutinized when it comes to their social media use. It helps to trust that your employees will do the right thing when it comes to social media. Through an effective employee advocacy campaign, you can achieve this and so much more.
Employee Advocacy: The Key To Success
Employees are, in essence, the most trusted source of information in any business. Therefore, it is imperative to equip them with content to share to amplify your message to a larger audience.
And therein lies the key to successfully using LinkedIn for business: Building up and embracing employee advocacy.
What exactly is employee advocacy, though? It’s simple. Employee advocacy basically stems from the truthfulness of this single sentiment: your employees can be your best brand ambassadors. You practically have an untapped army of advocates at your disposal.
All you need to do is to equip them with training that’s aligned with your LinkedIn and content marketing plan. By enabling your employees to be more comfortable in navigating LinkedIn and sharing content, they’ll be able to maximize their presence on the social media site for your organization.
A simple example is to encourage your employees to link to your Company page on their personal LinkedIn profiles. This will automatically make them followers of your page, making it easier for them to quickly share your company updates.
It’s time to understand that your colleagues and employees are your biggest potential advocates, regardless of the industry that you’re in. By having them as your supporters, you can get connected with their networks as well, thereby helping you to further grow your audience in a more natural way.
If anything, these facts underscore a need not just for full adoption of social media (or at least LinkedIn) into businesses across all industries, but also sufficient training and rules that go hand-in-hand with them. The benefits of social media platforms like LinkedIn for business communication and employee advocacy are just too great to ignore.
Concerns about compliance with established regulations are certainly valid. With social media platforms still considered relatively new avenues for marketing, it’s easy to see why most businesses would rather err on the side of caution. However, there’s a solution to make social media adoption easier and more effective, and that is to develop a clear set of guidelines and provide the appropriate training to your organization.
Employee advocacy presents a tremendous opportunity for all organizations, especially the more conservative and highly regulated industries. If you would like help in understanding how your organization can benefit from fully embracing the opportunity, I welcome you to schedule a call with me.