Adviser firms should engage with social media not fear it
Should you fear staff using social media or can employing it in your business help improve client service and boost your bottom line? Rob Kingsbury put these questions and more to Bridget Greenwood, managing director of Financial Social Media UK (FSM UK)
Rob Kingsbury (RK): Many companies have a fear of social media – around staff using channels like Twitter, for example. Is there too much fear?
Bridget Greenwood (BG): There needs to be some fear; you don’t want to let employees use social media without any training. But it shouldn’t stop you using social media effectively. It’s a matter of finding a workable solution.
Just this morning I was chairing at the Financial Services Discussion Club (FSDC), which is where the banks, investment houses and other large financial companies get together and talk about social media and compliance. We have the marketing and compliance representatives in the same room because while both are coming from different points of view, they have to be able to resolve the issues. This applies whether you’re a small firm where one person is undertaking both roles, or a larger firm with different people doing the jobs.
There are precedents for dealing with this fear – whether it’s a brand concern, or a compliance concern – for example in companies in the States. You should be aware of what the consequences may be if people using Twitter aren’t delivering the right message but that concern shouldn’t stop you using social media, it should help you with the operational processes and the training that you put into place.
RK: Are firms not employing social media missing out on opportunities?
BG: All the time. Social media is about engaging with people. You don’t know who you’re next going to talk to and what they can bring to you. Invariably, enjoying someone’s conversation, some shared interests, can lead to more detailed conversations around what you do as a business. While these people may not become your clients they might know plenty of people for you to talk to and who may turn into ideal clients.
Often what people forget, because everything is happening through a computer screen, is that they are dealing with real people who want to engage and may well become brilliant contacts and clients.
RK: Is a social media strategy something you tack on to your marketing or a cultural shift that the whole company has to embrace?
BG: It’s an interesting question. Hootsuite talks about social media maturity. They are talking about enterprise companies but you can take the idea and apply it to any size business. It starts with one or two people in the company that really want to use social media. Then a few teams around the enterprise start to use it so management start to look at introducing a more cohesive strategy. It’s then that they realise they can use social media for much more than they had thought – for marketing, for market research, for media relations and so on – and they put together a unified story for the company as a whole. They also start using it internally to communicate with employees.
Companies go through a cultural shift – they start using social media in silos and then they realise that it’s an engagement tool and a great way to get their message out and to build up loyal customers. Eventually, all aspects of the business will look at how they can become social.
You have to start somewhere and generally, that will be by saying how can I tack this on to my marketing. But, ultimately, you’ll want all aspects of your business to be engaged in some way.
RK: What operational changes will that require for a business?
BG: Looking ahead that may mean you need to think differently about different aspects of the business. Your compliance process may need to change, because if you have a 5-day turn around on compliance but everything you post on social networks has to go through compliance, that’s not going to work.
When you are recruiting, are you going to hire someone who is already engaging or is willing to engage on social networks? If you force someone to use social media then the likelihood is they are not going to be very good at it. What you want to do is have people in the company who understand it and are happy to use it in their job.
Having a social networking element to the business means more people can see the kind of business you are and the sorts of people you employ, and they will engage with them – because people like people, not necessarily the company.
It is cultural as well as operational change. But you have to start using social media before you can understand what those changes will be. It’s about helping other people, about sharing common interests and messages, as opposed to traditional marketing, which is more about how do we get this message out and what can we get from this.
RK: Can building a social media strategy into my business model help increase my income stream and improve my bottom line?
BG: Definitely. At Financial Social Media UK we’re about helping companies find new clients. I’m often asked: ‘But does it work?’ I answer that by explaining how I’ve built my business. I’ve only used social media. When I started the company
I didn’t have a big budget to do traditional marketing and advertising and I live in Norfolk so I couldn’t get out easily to see people but I did understand how social media is a great way to connect with people.
The other thing to remember is that it’s not just a relationship built on social media. Most of the people I regularly connect with I have now met face-to- face. Also, I’ve met people and then I’ve linked with them on one or other of the social networks.
All of the clients of my business I’ve acquired via social media and financial companies and adviser firms can employ the same techniques to obtain new clients for their businesses.
It does take time and it does take effort but then so does anything that is going to bring in revenue to the business.
What’s interesting about social media is that you can start to get a return in weeks but generally speaking social media is about putting out content and engaging in conversations and doing that consistently. You might not immediately see the same kind of hit as you would with a traditional piece of marketing but once that advert is no longer running, once you’ve stopped paying for it, it’s gone. With social media the content that you’re putting out there stays out there – people can continue to share it and you can continue to share it across your networks at appropriate intervals. It’s going to continue to work for you. So you’ll tend to find the more consistent you are the more returns you’ll get. If you talk to people who have been using social media for a couple of years, they’ll all say they’ve had a similar experience.
RK: In a similar frame, can a social media strategy improve my client service?
BG: Definitely, although it will depend on the type of client service you want to provide. There will always be an issue with how much data you can openly share – but as a means for a client to say I’ve got a question or a problem can you get hold of me, social media is great. It means clients don’t have to compile a big email, it can be done on the move.
You can use it to keep in touch with your clients and letting them know what’s happening in the financial world and how it might affect them. For example, when a manager like Neil Woodford announces he will be leaving Invesco Perpetual, your clients will read about it and know they have investments in his funds. You can post an article or blog on your website and through social media channels draw clients’ attention to the article to reassure them about their investments and explain that all affected clients will be contacted in due course. In this way clients can see you’re on top of the situation and everything is in hand, which is going to help the relationship with your clients and how they feel you look after them.
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