We just conducted our third consecutive study on the use social media for marketing by management consulting firms (with AMCF and Research Now). We found that social media is becoming ever more important to those firms and to their clients. And we wondered, as it does, how will that affect the importance of thought leadership?
Social media is becoming an ever more important marketing tool for consulting firms. They have steadily spent more on it each year from 2% of the marketing budget in 2005 to 22% today, and expect to be dedicating 31% of their budgets by 2014.
They are using social media especially in the following ways: posting mentions of content on social networking sites they do not control; posting comments in discussion areas of external online publications; posting questions and comments on threaded discussion sites; and writing guest blogs in external media.
We worked on a survey of buyers at the same time (also with AMCF and Research Now) to find out how clients find consulting firms. We found that the top two channels are personal referrals from people they trust, and the next five are all concerned with thought leadership. This confirms what we’ve found in every prior study we’ve conducted: after personal referrals, potential clients care most about what a firm has to say on topics they are concerned about.
Importance of channels for finding consulting firms, on a scale of 1 to 10
Social media channels ranked lower on the list. So why we wondered, are professional services firms spending increasing amounts of money on social media while their clients barely have those channels on their radar? The answer, firms tell us, is that they are using social media to drive people to the content clients are looking for, not as a place to publish it.
There are some lessons we can take from these findings:
- Good content continues to be the next most powerful lead generator after personal referrals (which presumably depend on doing good work)
- The best use of social media (especially Twitter and LinkedIn) is to drive people to content
- Tweeting comments alone is roughly worthless
- Using social media to send people to poor content is even worse
So as social media becomes ever more important to promoting and finding content, the quality of that content will remain as important as ever — perhaps more so.