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Getting started with social media in your business

How does an adviser firm kick-start its social media strategy, especially when some of its directors are wary? We talked to Bridget Greenwood, director of Financial Social Media UK

Rob Kingsbury (RK): If I’m a director of an adviser firm and I want to convince my fellow directors that we should employ social media, where do I begin?

Bridget Greenwood (BG): You’ll need to start by deciding what you want to get from social media. There are so many avenues it can help with: public relations, client acquisition, branding and client care. Once you know how you want to use it then you can start building the business case.

A search on Google can identify plenty of examples
of businesses that have used social media successfully, to help build your business case.

Twitter recently had an independent body research and analyse how Twitter worked for business and the study showed that 72% of people are much more likely to buy from your brand if they follow you on Twitter. Of small-to-medium- sized businesses, around 82% felt they were getting return on investment in terms of Twitter conversations.

People who are following
you want to follow brands and they want the personalisation and engagement. This is where smaller brands can have an advantage, as it’s often easier for them to put across their personality than larger companies that sometimes struggle with that flexibility.

There is documentation out there that will help support your case when presenting to your fellow directors.

RK: It’s easy to see how a firm targeting the mass market might benefit from social media, but if I’m running a small financial adviser firm with a few hundred clients and a small target market, can using social media have the same impact?

BG: With social media it’s the social aspect that people like, they want to buy into who you are and what you’re about. So
a local firm, dealing with local people and companies will have a lot more local knowledge to talk around and share than a larger company. For example, I live in a town in Norfolk where there’s been a 15-year battle to keep Tesco out, and the whole town was split over it. Today, the new Tesco opened its doors and it’s all over the local papers. That’s a subject around which a local business could engage with local people.

The Twitter study reflected this, showing that smaller businesses were gaining more success from this type of
social media because of the personalisation they could offer.

RK: What are some of the specific benefits for a firm, whether large or small, in using social media?

For me it’s about client acquisition, it’s about generating interest from new people that could be of interest to me.

A lot of adviser firms say they get their new business through referrals but you only know that person has been referred when they pick up the phone. You don’t know how many other people you may have missed because while
one friend referred them to you, they spoke to three other friends and were referred to three other advisers as well. Social media provides the ability for a potential client to search for you based on that recommendation, and to take
a look at you and understand a bit more about your personality, the things you talk about and whether or not you can resolve their needs. In this way social media can help to convert more of your referrals, potentially those you don’t know about and so can’t influence.

Also, with social media you can have a conversation with one person but many people can listen in to it, which enables more people to find out who you are and what you are about.

By creating the right content, other people will begin to share it. So all of a sudden someone that you’re not connected to directly has seen your content shared by someone you are connected to and has re-shared that content with everyone with which they are connected. This creates the opportunity for people that you wouldn’t otherwise get to speak to, to come and take a look and learn more about you and your firm.

They’ll also be able to read what other people think about you – and that is what people are interested in learning.

If you use social media properly you’ll be able to take advantage of all of those benefits.

RK: What are the threats of not using social media?

BG: If you are not using social media and people are talking about you, then you can’t be engaged in that conversation and so have no control or input into what’s being said.

For professional services like financial advice it’s all about the connections you make and the engagement that you have and if you’re not engaged in social media then you are missing out on an opportunity to meet and connect with someone who could become your client or a professional introducer, or someone who is very good at referring new clients to you.

It’s about going out and having conversations with people but without having to leave the office to do so.

RK: What are some of the pitfalls in adopting a social media strategy?

BG: We’re in a regulated industry and so you need
to understand what your compliance department says you can and can’t do. This can depend on whether a firm is self- regulated or part of a network. Larger firms are often concerned about use of social media because the people undertaking it are not necessarily the business owners.

Also, there’s an education element to social media; it’s
a completely different way
of interacting with people in
a business sense compared
to other PR and marketing. Traditionally, PR and marketing is all about your company and what you can do and that’s what your message is about. When
it comes to social media it’s not about you anymore; it’s about the people you’re engaging with and how you can help them. 
If you go on to a social media channel and start using it as
a platform just to shout your message then people won’t like that as you won’t be engaging in the way that the culture likes you to.

RK: From a practical perspective, what are the five key points I need to consider if I’m to get my firm’s social media strategy right?

BG: 1. Define what it is that you want to achieve. Without knowing this you could have endless conversations with no real goal.

2. Define the people you want to engage with. Knowing what you want to achieve will help you identify the people you most want to connect with.

3. Ensure your social media is compliant. Do you need to put
a social media policy in place? 
If it’s just you as the business owner engaging then maybe not, but if other people in the business are going to be using social media then you’ll want to think about training, that they understand the tone, message and voice of the company, what they are not allowed to say, 
and if they leave the firm, how those profiles will be managed. You’ll want your social media policy to ensure brand and reputation compliance, as well as compliance from a regulatory viewpoint.

4. You’ll want to make sure you understand how much time and commitment a social media strategy will take. A good way to use social media is to have your engagement but also to share content. Initially you can start by sharing out other people’s content but ultimately you’ll want to create your own. So take a look at existing material you have and see how you might repurpose that either into blog posts, or audio or video formats. But be aware that will take some time to do alongside the regular engagements.

5. Define what key metrics you want to measure so you
can see if you are meeting
your goal or not getting the traction you want, that way you can stop doing the things that aren’t working well for you and do more of the things that are working well.

RK: How much of a social media strategy can I outsource and how much do I need to do in-house?

BG: Time is our rarest resource, we can’t get it back. So you need to look at the time you might spend on social media and what else you could be doing with that time and then decide whether it’s best that you deal with everything or you outsource some or all of it?

You can pretty much outsource most things. If you work with the right partner
and they understand your clients, your clients’ needs, your services and the messages you are looking to create, then they can help create the regular content that we spoke about.

You can put together an editorial calendar that identifies over a three-month, six-month or year-long period, the areas, themes and content that you’d like to share and the times that you’d like to do it. For example, content that can be shared in line with the end of the tax year.

Once you’ve agreed that and the channels you want to use, then that can be outsourced.

That said, the actual engagement with prospects, professional introducers or existing clients has to be
done personally. If you try to outsource your personality, that’s not going to be done so well.

So there is a lot you can plan, but the day-to-day engagement I think you need to keep in your control.

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