Creating an effective social media strategy
Firms of all sizes can create an effective social media strategy Phil Calvert, founder of Life Talk, tells Rob Kingsbury
Rob Kingsbury: Creating an effective social media strategy is going to depend on your size and type of adviser business. But is there one core area that needs to be addressed across the board?
Phil Calvert: One very important aspect that applies to all firms no matter what their size or their client bank, is how they portray themselves on the internet.
In the more professional world, which is where financial advice wants to be, reputation is absolutely everything. Many firms have put a lot of effort and time into building a great reputation in the real world, and it is vitally important that they maintain that in the online world. Larger firms often are more cautious in their approach to the internet and will have laid down policies on how people conduct themselves. But we’ve seen people make an unguarded comment or worse still, rise to the bait in an online forum and do themselves no favours in the process. It is very easy to damage or even destroy your online reputation in this way.
What firms have to realise also, is that a brilliant reputation in the real world doesn’t automatically translate into having a great reputation in the online world. You have to build your reputation again. This is why the internet allows smaller companies to punch above their weight.
The internet gives us is a range of management tools we can use as part of our business strategy – but everything we do is going to affect our brand, our reputation and our image. It’s very important companies of all sizes think carefully about that.
RK: Smaller adviser firms will have less resource to create and maintain a social media policy, so where should a small firm start when they are looking to develop their business online?
PC: There are numerous tools firms can use to help build their presence online but the first step in creating an effective social media strategy, is to look at what you are trying to achieve in your business.
Is it to grow by finding new clients; is it to build professional connections; is it focused locally or looking to a wider audience?
Where a business is focused and where it is headed will determine how it then employs other activities, of which social media is going to be just one element.
If you decide your strategy is to find new clients, for example, think about how you acquire clients in the real world and then think about how those same people might be attracted to you firm when they find you online.
People aren’t going to come to you just because you’re using Twitter or Facebook. Similar to when acquiring clients in the real world, people have to get a sense of who you are, your professionalism and credibility and buy into you, the same as they would in a face-to-face environment.
I’m an advocate of smaller firms holding seminars for potential clients. They are powerful tools. In a seminar people can see the whites of your eyes and within 30 seconds or so, they get a sense of who you are and very basic human attributes come into play, things that tell a person whether they like you or not.
The same applies online as well. People have to get a feel for your character. There is a lot of evidence to show that people who are articulate and communicate well and who are seen as humorous and entertaining, tend to get more from social media than those that just put content up on their website, on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, in the vague hope they will get something out of it.
RK: What issues exist for larger firms?
PC: A lot of big brands in regulated industries find social media really worrying because what they are trying to do is get people to buy into the brand – its reputation, what it stands for, its history, where it is perceived to be going in the future.
Yet they know that individuals can do a lot of damage using social media and that makes them nervous about it. So, as I mentioned earlier, often they will have laid down policies on how people conduct themselves, some of which can be quite stringent.
The problem is, of course, that social media is fundamentally about people. Which is why it is brands that project a human face, that are really focused on customer service, which tend to work much better with social media and benefit more from it. Just as with smaller companies, people need to get a sense of the company and its character, as well as the people involved.
People buy into what they like – the word Like is a very powerful one online.
RK: Can you apply you offline marketing strategy to an online campaign?
PC: Research Life Talk has conducted has shown that 90% to 95% of adviser firms don’t have a specific marketing strategy, let alone an online one.
For most adviser firms, their online marketing strategy is to have a website and one that is identical to every other adviser firm in their area.
The first step for any firm is to decide if it is going to have a strategy or not, and if it is, then to commit to it.
Again, what makes a difference when potential clients are comparing the firms in their area online is less the services and qualifications of the advisers – most adviser firms offer a similar range of services and qualifications – rather it is the skills, reputation and expertise and how a firm portrays itself.
An online marketing strategy should review all the tools at an adviser firm’s disposal in order to get that message across and then make proper use of them.
Video, for example, is a very powerful tool. The reason it is effective is because people can see who you are and instantly get a sense of your character, your capabilities and that all important factor, whether they like you.
Based on those feelings, they will quickly decide whether they want to pick up the phone and give you a call.
RK: How can a firm monitor its social media success?
PC: Clearly, you can’t tell whether your social media strategy is working unless you measure it. Yet how you measure it will depend on what you were trying to achieve out of it.
Financial advisers aren’t very good at measuring their offline marketing activities let alone their online marketing. Most have no idea how much business has come in via their website for instance.
If you want a simple place to start, it is your website’s statistics. Knowing how much traffic you get, how many visitors to the website left immediately without even looking at another page (what’s called the bounce rate), the pages that received the most traffic etc. Another important piece of information is from which page most people left the website. Is there one page, for instance, where they lose interest. If you don’t know that, you can’t know why it is or what to do about it.
Once you start measuring and collating the numbers you can then do things online to improve them.