This is not a new debate.
Just as 20 years ago Architects, Engineers, Accountants and healthcare professionals hotly debated the dangers of any form of marketing, the discussion continues, though it takes a new focus.
Professionals have become quite accustomed to the idea of branding and marketing their professional practices and many have embraced the benefits of websites, brochures and even business presentations.
However, since the onset of the Internet the world has been changing at an unprecedented pace. Today, the popularity of social media websites and blogs has reached such incredible heights that they are impossible to ignore and, as a result, professionals have begun to dabble and debate anew.
The problem is that this debate misses the point and therefore the opportunity.
If you ran into a client in an elevator would you tell them you can't talk to them outside of client meetings or would you instead offer friendly chatter and general references they could read up on? If you were asked about your area of practice at a social event would you offer a tight lipped 'that's confidential' or present a passionate perspective about your area of expertise?
Yes, if used inappropriately, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogging would present liability concerns, as would any impromptu conversation that was mishandled. That said, we don't lock ourselves inside because we are afraid of mishandling conversations with patients or clients.
Demystifying social media websites and blogs enables us to explore them for the real opportunity that they offer as vehicles to add competitive value or showcase professional identity and expertise.
Professionals can, instead, follow the good example established by magazines, television shows and websites that have been offering general resources on money management, renovations and healthy lifestyle in a legitimate fashion.
What type of client do you want to attract? What do you want them to know before your first appointment? What do you want them to explore as you help them solve their problems? What resources can you recommend that might be of interest or assistance? Any of these ideas would leverage the capability of social media and blogging platforms without inviting any possibility of breaching client confidentiality, offering irresponsible diagnosis or advice or other form of liability.
Using the same good judgement you would use at a speaking engagement, dinner party or grocery store, social media websites and blogs can become your virtual trade show where the opportunity to learn about your audience and present your valued point of difference is unlimited. Using this lens on the debate, not only would Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and blogging be a good fit for professional practice development but they could possibly be an even better fit than they would for many other businesses.
- Sandra Bekhor, Toronto
President, Bekhor Management
Labels: Accountants, Architects, Blog, Doctors, Engineers, healthcare professional, Marketing, social media