The Consultant’s Evolving Relationship with Social Media

How are consultants leveraging social media?

Since consultants are seen as being on the cutting edge of innovation, it might be expected that they would be highly engaged with social media. Interestingly, there may be concerns that some consultants have had regarding social media that may have dissuaded them from fully engaging with the medium. While some consultants are highly involved in social media interaction, some others may have a more tentative approach to social media due to such reasons as client privacy and lack of perceived value.

The Evolution of Consultants’ Usage of Social Media

In examining the evolution of social media use by consultants, a 2010 study conducted by Bloom Group reviewed the comments from employees from 74 consulting firms, finding that consultants were laggard in using social media for marketing purposes. While such tactics as using microsites and blogs were popular among the consultancies, the consultants indicated that they believed the medium did not help them much regarding finding new clients.

By the 2013 version of the survey, Bloom Group found that consulting firms were spending less on social media activities that year versus the previous year. The survey also noted that clients, in general, didn’t find social media to be an appropriate place to find consultancies. The findings regarding the most effective uses of social media by consultants indicated that it can be a valuable communication tool.

In an interesting article by Michael Idinopulos from McKinsey in 2014, entitled “How the Elite Consulting and Accounting Firms Use Social Networks,” he postulated that some consultants may be hesitant to fully engage in social media due to a number of reasons. One of the most important issues regarding sensitivity to social media use is client confidentiality. Even actions that are seemingly benign, such as a consultant adding someone to a LinkedIn network, may actually give clues to other people that the consultant may be working with a certain client.

More recently, in 2015, a poll was done at a Management Consultancies Association (UK) meeting, asking consultants questions regarding social media involvement. When asked how many firms used Twitter, many hands were raised. When asked how many firms used Snapchat, no hands were extended. An article analyzing the findings suggests that consultancies can do more to promote social media usage among their employees.

Expert Suggestions Regarding Social Media Use for Consultants

For the consultants and the consulting firms that eagerly want to engage in social media, there are various tools to use and suggestions to read regarding the best ways to proceed. Some social media usage advice has been crafted just for consultants. MBO Partners and Robert Half International, Inc. are two such sources.

MBO Partners, a service provider for independent consultants, suggests that using social media can help a consultant to promote his or her business. Key ways to promote a consultancy via social media include establishing one’s expertise, expanding a network of potential clients, posting noticeable content, meeting new potential clients and engaging with other experts. All of these steps can help a consultant to use social media within a business development context, contends the article.

Additional helpful advice was published by Robert Half International, Inc. regarding the best ways to use social media for a consultant. This resource suggests that one of the most important steps to do is to have a complete LinkedIn profile. In addition to a comprehensive profile, the proper keywords within a LinkedIn record can also help people to find a given consultant. Further suggestions include participating in online discussions/Twitter chats; avoiding over-the-top networking (i.e, forwarding or sending out too many unimportant articles per day); using appropriate tags and considering connecting social media accounts for more control.

Conclusion

Based on individual needs and styles, consulting firms and individual consultants are likely to use social media for varying levels of educational, networking or marketing strategy purposes. As new, innovative social media tools are likely to enter into everyday usage, consultants will continuously have to decide whether to use these tools, as well as to decide to what extent the tools should be used.