How to Use Social Media Effectively for Sales and Marketing. Cold calls no longer cut it in a landscape dominated by pre-existing connections and online networks. Hinge conducted research on 500 professional services firms to learn more about the changing marketplace and what online marketing tools are essential for success. We found that firms with high growth are much more likely to generate leads online, while firms with average growth acquired customers through digital means much less often (Figure 1). And high growth firms focus on using sites like Twitter and Facebook almost twice as much as firms with average growth.

For optimal growth, firms need to get online. You need to know the tools to meet your potential customers and, once engaged with prospects, social media etiquette is just as important as real world manners. Perhaps more so, as ties are easily blocked or ignored. A great many inflections, gestures and traditional graces are often invisible online, so making and managing good impressions is critical.

In general, sharing and sharing alike is a good starting point for social media etiquette. Here are some tips for navigating the big three (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter) effectively:

LinkedIn

In some ways, LinkedIn is the most important social network for business because it’s tailored specifically to professionals. By establishing relationships with individuals, businesses, and groups within your industry, you can increase your visibility. As the saying goes, content is king these days. Generate thought provoking content and then share it with those in your field and you’ll build a reputation for being an industry leader, or at the very least for being a thoughtful, engaged member of the community. Marketing is a combination of reputation and visibility, so a platform like LinkedIn is perfect for increasing both.

Facebook

What can we say about Facebook that hasn’t been said before? It’s the biggest social network in the world. What it lacks in LinkedIn’s professional-focus, it makes up for in number of users. Facebook and LinkedIn are both best used when you have a significant stock of content to promote. Share your content, comment positively on others’ content, and, if you spend upwards of an hour a day on Facebook, you’ll start to see spikes in engagement and traffic.

Twitter

Recall the minimalist mantra, less is more? Twitter is this ideology incarnate. Everything you share through Twitter must be 140 characters or less. Clever content-smiths can shine in this format. Link to industry news in real time to generate buzz, and tweet your firm’s recent triumphs to build interest. Promote whatever content you create elsewhere (blogs, videos, etc.), and retweet others’ content to grow relationships. Single tweets are quickly washed away in the flow of a busy Twitter feed, so it’s important to update often. Like the above sites, don’t expect payoff from Twitter unless you spend at least half an hour interacting with other users each day. Twitter and social media etiquette is all about sharing. Retweet and you’ll be retweeted. Follow and you’ll be followed. Seek out those in related fields for greater shared interest.

These last points are true for all social media. Groups exist within most platforms for members with shared interests, backgrounds, or industries. Share and comment positively in these circles and you’ll find that the goodwill and interest you generate can extend far beyond your original post’s intentions.

Combined with other online tools, such as SEO and web analytics—and, of course, dependent on the quality of content you’re sharing—networking online and employing proper social media etiquette and strategy will encourage growth far beyond your current levels. Hang up the phone and get online. If content is king, social media is the royal procession that gets His Highness noticed.

To see more results of this research, download our free book, Online Marketing for Professional Services.

Guest Post:

Katie Sanner is an Associate Account Director at Hinge. At Hinge, Katie consistently assists her clients in brand building, improving their brand strength, and increasing marketability. Katie is an active member of the Society of Marketing Professional Services, where she currently sits on the DC Chapter’s Board of Directors.