How should professionals in regulated industries use social media

I’m often asked how professionals can use content and social media effectively if they’re in regulated industries and there’s a simple answer, by being helpful.

When you help someone, you put the focus on them, not you. This forms a relationship that strengthens as your advice is shown to be credible.

The same principle applies on social media, with the difference that you release content to millions of people rather than just individuals. This is achieved by using platforms with global reach. Over time, this content adds up, saying something about who you are and what you do. It makes you visible, findable and done well, likeable.

Subject matter experts are the best people to do that work because they’re trusted most within and outside an organization. But often they are reluctant to poke their heads out because they are concerned it may be unprofessional or cross regulatory boundaries.

You do have to know the no-go zones for your industry.

For example, in some jurisdictions, LinkedIn endorsements for financial planners may give rise to concerns re misleading advertising, in which case, switch them off. Regulators may not be able to share point-of-view but they can educate members. Putting the focus on how to help rather than who you are keeps you veering into the grey zone.

Your credibility can be put to work with:

  1. Clear intent
  2. Clever content
  3. Coordinated channels.

Set your social media strategy

Asking these simple questions provides clarity around intent.

  1. Why are you doing this?
  2. Who is your audience?
  3. Where is your audience?
  4. What can you share with your audience that helps?

Why are you doing this?

  • Do you want to be a thought leader?
  • Create brand awareness?
  • Reach new customers directly?

Your strategic intent will absolutely impact content and channel choice, although there is cross over.

If you have a particular specialization for which you want to be known, you’d need Twitterfor global reach and a channel on which to host helpful, thought provoking content, such as a blog, podcast or video channel.

This is very different to a company that wants to provide real time social media care.

Xero straddles both worlds with links to its educational blog and podcast shared across social media network.

Alongside its Xero Gravity podcast the company also runs Xero In on Australia where Jeanne-Vida Douglas and Rob Stone dig into digital marketing tactics, brand loyalty, setting salaries and innovation.

The company then uses Twitter to share links to educational content hosted on the blog but also for customer support.

Their customer service staff have loads of personality and engage person-to-person in real time, although issues are diverted to email for resolution.

I once tweeted about an issue I was having and a board member got back to me within minutes, followed by a customer representative who sent me a link to a video tutorial. Hard not to love.

Who is your audience

If you’re aspiring to be a thought leader in paedeatric osteopathy, your audience will include peers and related industries like GP networks, sports scientists and teachers.

This is different from an osteopath who is trying to raise visibility around a clinic by helping existing and potential patients.

Being a thought leader means you are selling ideas, not products, although you need to market those ideas as you would a product, because otherwise you’re putting in hours of effort for a talk at a seminar that lives and dies on the stage. This means bringing a point-of-view around specific not generic issues that you convert into content that lives forever.

You can do this by producing research — White Papers, eBooks, podcasts or webinars that take a base level of understanding for granted.

Mayo Clinic is a standout example in this area. Lee Aase uses Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs and podcasts to talk about how healthcare is being changed by social media. He recently spoke on the Health Standards HITcast podcast, which hosts expert discussion around issues from the digital transformation of patient care to health tech start ups.

Lee even filmed his colonoscopy help raise awareness about cancer and hosted it on the clinic’s YouTube channel. You may not want to go that far. However, Mayo Clinic has used video cleverly to showcase edge, a video of a patient’s first view from a bionic eye got over 1.5 million views.

They even wrote a book about it.

However, if you want to influence patients directly you could share annotated photographs with showing correct posture or other helpful tips on Instagram or Pinterest or through short 30 second video feeds.

Although all leverage content and social media the pitch is audience-specific.

Where are they?

Find out where your audience is and go there, whether that’s an industry newsletter, a Facebook page or a LinkedIn group. Here are some tools for finding them. 

Be aware that a combination of channels is generally more effective than using one channel alone.

While professionals gravitate to LinkedIn and there are now 433 million using it, studies show that of all the networks, Facebook drives more traffic to websites that all the other social media networks combined. It is also the number one search engine, ahead of Google.

No surprises then that recent research found lawyers using a predominantly LinkedIn approach weren’t converting as much as accountants using multiple channels.

You should also take every opportunity to convert existing work into a form that can be socialized. Preparing a PowerPoint for a seminar can take days or weeks and is often delivered within 30 – 45 minutes to a limited, although targeted, audience.
By converting that presentation into a SlideShare, you can reach a much broader audience interested in the same topic. This simple 12 page powerpoint on insurance trends has nearly 30,000 views.

The annual KPCB Internet Trends 2015 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers has nearly 4 million views.

What can you share with your audience that helps?

You know your customers better than anyone else, or should. Therefore, it should be easy to identify their needs and create content that fills them.

Umpqua bank found that 77% of people didn’t like to talking about money, a finding they published on the website. They then launched a podcast based on the idea that ‘conversation takes courage’ and that ‘it’s okay to talk about money’ with SueChin Pak that talks about money. “Open Account is a podcast about making losing, and living with money, aimed at addressing America’s #1 source of stress by getting open and honest about it.

According to research by Activate we now have 31 activity hours a day. That’s because we’re layering activities, like multi screening or listening to podcasts as we go walks.

Such is the fight for attention that being able to gain a minute of time can lead to a billion-dollar dollar business, Buzzfeed being a great example.

Whatever you can imagine doing with content, there’s likely already a platform or tools. Sometimes content is just about cementing the relationship that you formed when you decide to reach out and use your professional expertise to help others.

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