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Those of you that know me will be aware that, as well as being the face of Elephant Creative Solutions, I am also an ‘Organist’s Moll’. In practice this means I spend a lot of my time sitting in dusty organ lofts around the world… usually at about midnight… cold… trying to catch up on work (in between bursts of page turning and stop pulling) whilst my husband prepares for a recording/performance. I have learnt to understand what can only be described as a foreign language and to interact with individuals whose interest in wind pressure goes beyond a healthy level. When you’re married to an organist you quickly realise that, as a rule, they are not overly keen on change, communication or new technology. You can imagine my surprise, therefore, when I came across one of the most inspiring social media case studies I’ve seen in a long while… from a recording label specializing in organ music.

JAV Recordings was set up in 1997, by Joe Vitacco, following a life-long love of organs and organ music. They’re a small, niche label with a world-class reputation and a loyal following.

Importantly, JAV have really nailed their social media communication. They haven’t done anything flashy or expensive, they’ve just quietly ‘got on with it’ and embraced the fundamental concepts behind social media: building community, promoting discussion and developing relationships – all with a view to eventual sales. The fact that they have done all of this in such a quiet, unassuming way is a tactic the professional services industry can learn from.

This is all very interesting, I hear you say, but how is this relevant to professional services?

 

1.     Know where your audience is talking and don’t try to do it all

There is no denying that the brains behind JAV know their audience… they speak the same language and get excited about the same things. Of course, in the professional services world it’s rare to get that same level of audience ‘excitement’. But what if we substituted ‘worry’ for ‘excitement’? Whether you’re working in a law firm, accountancy or consultancy the majority of your clients come to you with a worry or concern.

Successful social media is all conversations in the places that people want to talk. JAV have worked out that there are thousands of organists on Facebook… but very few on Twitter and LinkedIn… they have also cottoned on to the fact that organists like to comment (and criticize) other organists. For them, therefore, Facebook and YouTube are the primary platforms. They allow mixed media (a chance to showcase some of their stock), discussion and also an all-important ease of ‘forwarding’ to other organists (thereby building the following). That’s not to say that they don’t have a presence on Twitter and LinkedIn… they’ve just worked out where their priorities are with the limited time resources they have to dedicate to social media (check out Joe Vitacco for a guy that juggles 101 demands on his time).

Too many firms want to be seen to be doing it all, without first working out objectives and where their audience is. There is no need to be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn if your audience is really only on LinkedIn. There is no shame in not having a Twitter account, you know?! Play to your strengths and do one or two things well and only build up if there is a direct, commercial reason for doing so.

Tip number one: know where your audience is talking and don’t try to do it all.

 

2.     Get the balance right

It goes without saying that whether your organization is ‘talking’ in the right place, using the right social media platform, or not… if you aren’t saying anything worth hearing, it won’t work. JAV have built on their understanding of the organ-world to strike a clever balance between initiated discussion, community messaging and sales promotion.

For example, if you look at their Facebook page you’ll see that some posts are asking people to comment on things. Others are about events coming up and interesting articles. Others are about CDs due to launch. By getting this balance right (and particularly, by integrating events and news with their JAV messaging), over the months it has been live, they are making their Facebook page the ‘go to’ resource for the organ world. It’s a no-brainer – if you can get more people going there because you’re providing a helpful resource, you’ll get more people seeing the sales messages you’re pushing out.

But it’s a careful balancing act when you start talking about sales messages. One thing you’ll notice is that JAV rarely ‘flog’ stuff on Facebook – in fact, they don’t appear (yet) to have leveraged the e-commerce functionality of the platform at all. They build on their audience understanding to get them interacting with the sales messages. A recent post asked their audience which front cover design they preferred for a CD due to come out soon. The responses flooded in – not just about the design but also recounting memories of that organ (St Albans) or the pieces on the CD.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how this could (and should) be applied to the professional services. We can use social media to communicate a good balance of knowledge, information about our people and services, special offers and ‘products’ as well as relevant information about events and useful resources. Indeed, terrifying though it may seem, there is much discussion amongst the key movers in the social media world to say that we should even be pushing out our competitors’ content as well… although that may be a step too far for most firms. What we share with JAV is a target audience that seems to want discussion and interaction – you only have to look at the massive popularity of the new LawDonut site to see that people want to discuss their legal and business problems and seek advice through this medium. We could even consider asking clients to choose brochure designs or profile photos. If you take the time to look at JAV’s Facebook page, you’ll see it’s not complicated but it is balanced.

Tip number two: get the balance right.

 

3.     Have a destination worth going to

Many firms come to me, saying that they want to get started with social media, and look surprised when I say that the first job needs to be sorting our their website. The fact is, social media is most likely to drive traffic to your website (unless, perhaps, we’re talking about networking through LinkedIn, which could conceivably bypass this stage and go straight to the phone/meeting). If you have spent a load of time developing your brand, via social media, to communicate that you’re real people and interested in interaction – but your website is one of the typical ‘navy blue/times new roman’ sites, with profiles focused on educational history – it gives a mixed message.

JAV have thought about this and made sure that their site builds on the themes established in their social media communications. You’ve got links to videos and the social media platforms, opportunities to get involved with fundraising campaigns… a sign-up sheet for their newsletter… as well as a clear statement about who they are (loud and proud at the top) and a superbly easy to use search/filter function. You are left in no doubt that this destination is focused on ‘calls to action’ – a noticeable, but not jarring gear-change from their Facebook page. In short, this is everything their target audience like…  but with a sense of ‘now we get down to business’.

Tip number three: Have a destination worth going to.

 

4.     Focus on real people

The first thing you notice about JAV that it appears to be ‘just one man’ – Joe Vitacco. Not only is he there on all the social media platforms, signing each Facebook post ‘Joe’, but he’s also there on the homepage of the website… His profile identifies with his target audience, talking more about his love of organs, and which he’s enjoyed playing/recording, than about JAV as a corporate entity. You get a real sense that you are talking with a person, not a business… something that professional services firms can learn from.

It is regularly said that the majority of clients assume that our ‘experts’ have professional expertise, by definition of the fact that they are linked with a recognized firm. However, what clients don’t know is whether they like us, our approach, support our culture and understand our way of doing business.  They don’t know the people behind the brand.

JAV really get this part right. They have realised that their target market wants to feel that they are talking directly to the expert. It may not be a co-incidence that many of the more traditional organ-music labels are struggling in the face of this increasingly personal approach.

Social media lends itself perfectly to combating the lack of personalization and personality that professional services firms have struggled with for decades. Gone are the days of getting comfort from a law firm ‘looking like a law firm’… now people want to know that they can trust their adviser – and that means that they have to be offered the chance to get to know them as people.

Tip number 4: focus on real people.

 

Finally, why have I spent so much time giving you a case study that isn’t professional services? Well… If we only look at our peers we run the risk of become an industry filled with copycat marketing… and that’s a terrifyingly dull prospect. By looking at what Starbucks or Graze or Mulberry… or JAV are doing we can, perhaps, be a little braver with our social media communications. It may just be that they’ve thought of something we’ve forgotten.

 

If any of you reading this are interested in the Save a Pipe Organ campaign that JAV are running you can read more (and more importantly donate) here. They’re only looking to raise another $50,000 (or so) to save an amazing organ in Joe’s home parish of Our Lady of Refuge in Brooklyn. Their hope is that they can use the money to rebuild the organ and use it for Mass and recitals. So what are you waiting for?

 

Comments

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  1. Laurie A 13th April 2011 at 07:31am

    Very interesting Helen. JAV certainly seem to have “got it”.

    A few observations:

    1. JAV have a very small niche, and in my experience those with a small niche can engage with thier “followers” much more deeply and effectively. Those with a wider area of interest (such as generalist professional services firms) find that much more difficult.

    2. The individual voice that Joe Vitacco presents is very compelling, but it is difficult to get that level of individual focus in a generalist firm.

    3. You mention the Facebook polls feature, which I think is excellent – but LinkedIn (which professional firms would tend to target) is way behind Facebook in offering this level of engagement.

    The JAV example would tend to suggest that professional firms should segment across practice areas or industry groups, so that one or two promient individuals can really engage with others in that field – but that is easier said than done.

  2. Helen Hammond 13th April 2011 at 08:39am

    Thanks for your comments Laurie. I agree that it’s often easier to provide this level of personal interaction and ‘voice’ in a smaller firm… but I do believe it’s what all firms should be striving for – irrespective of size. I’m sure you agree that size shouldn’t mean that you get a worse relationship with your lawyer.

    I’m sure you’d agree that it comes down to understanding what your audience’s key ‘push points’ are. For JAV it’s a common love of a certain, niche form of music. For professional services it may well be a worry about new discrimination legislation (not quite as sexy but the point still stands). The most important thing is that the ‘relationship’ is built on the basis of a small, narrow theme and, where possible, with a person, not a brochure. Where firms fall down with their use of social media (and conversely, what the employment team at Boyes Turner has done so well) is, in my opinion, because they try to be too general and then dilute their message. But I’m preaching to the choir on this one. You have a wonderful niche message in your social media development and it has built a good, loyal following.