This is my second post highlighting the AMCF Social Media Workshop in Chicago at the end of September. At the event, thought leadership consultant Bob Buday of The Bloom Group shared a 2012 research study on social media usage in consulting firms. I’m not going to explore all the data here — Bob does a wonderful job of breaking down all the findings in his research report. That said, I drew 3 key insights I’d like to share.
#1 – Social Media is Primarily Seen as a New Way
to Distribute Content
Many firms are utilizing social media with the mindset of one-way dialogue. For the most part, social media was compared to more traditional, one-way, means of distributing a firm’s thought leadership (printed publications, in-person speaking events, public relations). Some interesting data:
- 85% of firms are publishing their content through social media sites
- Yet, only 19% of people were given the ability to post to social media sites without prior approval.
So, a strong majority of firms are sharing their content through social media. But, an extreme minority of them are allowing their people to comment or initiate conversations and dialogues within social communities.
Fundamentally, this is a misunderstanding of the medium. The social media explosion has been driven by a desire for more personal, direct interactions between people and companies. Firms that regularly participate in discussion groups by asking questions, offering opinions and encouraging participation are seen as much more thoughtful and credible by potential clients. Of course there’s a place for distributing useful content, but the two activities need to go hand in hand.
#2 – There’s No Risk To Content Sharing
When it comes to the content on their own sites, a lot of firms are simply not taking advantage of social technologies at all. Much of the data in this area I find simply astounding:
- Only 74% of firms allow users to email their content
- Only 57% allow users to share content through social media
- Only 45% allow users to recommend or “like” content
If you’re investing thousands of dollars to produce useful content, why in the world would you not allow people to easily distribute it for you? This is like handing an executive a position paper at a speaking event and then asking her not to share it with any of her colleagues. That’s simply absurd. More people reading, getting value, and distributing your content is exactly what you want. Making it as easy as possible for someone to do so just makes simple business sense.
#3 – Overcome the Fear of Feedback
The next level of making your content social is allowing users to comment on it within your site. In fact, only 55% of firms allow users to comment on their content.
There is a little more risk tied to allowing users to comment on a firm’s content. What if readers disagree with our conclusions? What if they cast aspersions? What if they publish comments that degrade the expertise of the firm in some way? These are all valid concerns, but the value of allowing users to comment on your content far outweigh the risks of doing so:
- Write Better – The risk of negative comments surely improves the quality of your content. If a consultant knows that any reader can comment on what they say they’re much more likely to be more thorough in formulating their opinions.
- Sharpen Thinking – Even the most experienced consultant learns something new from each and every client engagement. Your readers have valuable insights about what you have to say. You can learn from the comments you receive.
- Improve Your “Product” – 5-6 years ago when social media first started to become pervasive, I repeatedly told B2B manufacturers they should allow users to rate their products right on their website. Every company said I was crazy. After all, “what if they rate us poorly?” The simple answer I’ve given every day since then is this: “Then don’t design lousy products.” Surely, there are instances where you’re wrong. Where your point-of-view wasn’t entirely informed or well thought through. Surely, you’d rather have someone tell you that than walk away thinking you just don’t have the expertise you claim to. I know I would.
My next post will be on measuring the value of your content marketing and social media efforts.