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Tapping into the online network

The internet is a tremendous resource available to our businesses but social media is termed ‘social’ for a reason, says Pete Matthew

Many people think that social networking online is a relatively new phenomenon. But in reality, as long as the internet has existed, people have used it to socialise. There was Usenet and Bulletin Board Systems. Then Friends Reunited in 2000 and, of course, Facebook in 2004 all the way up to Snapchat and Pinterest. We are social animals and whatever technologies come along in future, we will always use them to chat, to connect and to show the world pictures of our cats. Or in my case, my Jack Russell, Maisy.

The internet is social, and so are we.

Not a passing fad
I think that once we grasp this, we will see the social networks less as a distraction, or worse, as a passing fad (they aren’t) and more as an integral part of what we do online. By now, every adviser understands that they must have a website. We all know that when a prospective client is looking for an adviser, at some point in that process, they will Google their local area, or even specific local firms to get a feel for who they are and how they work. Frankly, if you’re not online you’re invisible.

But this is just as true of the social networks, I believe. It is increasingly the case that businesses are expected to have a social presence, and to be responsive on it to queries and comments. If your business is not listening, there are definitely opportunities to engage with existing or prospective clients that are passing you by.

Perhaps the idea of being social online seems oxymoronic to you. How can one be huddled behind one’s laptop screen and be social?! Or maybe the thought of having to be responsive to whatever messages someone throws your way online fills you with dread?

Maybe I can dispel this by outlining some of the benefits of having a social media presence. Each of these I enjoy every day and they have helped my business no end.

1. Discussion with colleagues. The internet is the greatest repository of human knowledge ever created, and better still, it is a living, breathing thing, with real people behind the Twitter names. I have made great connections that have benefited my business and forged some strong friendships online. I have asked and answered questions, discussed cases, and argued for and against various points made by my peers. The best minds in whatever field you’re in can be found online. They are there waiting to be tapped.

2. Answering enquiries from prospects. It has frequently been the case that after a member of the public has seen one of my videos or listened to a podcast episode, they’ll send me a message via Facebook or Twitter. I’m sure that if I hadn’t been on either of those platforms, they would have found another way to contact me, but these were their chosen media and I was there to answer. Several of those initial enquiries have become clients.

3. Linking to your website. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are great ways to highlight your website or blogs. Just remember, no one likes the guy at the dinner party who talks about himself all the time, and loudly, so everyone can hear. The same follows on social networks. Be social. It makes sense to talk about others far more than yourself online. That said, if you have a new blog post or video you want to draw attention to, posting it on the social networks is a great way of driving traffic to your website. As long as this isn’t all you do on Twitter or Facebook, because if it is, no one will follow those links back.

Tapping into the network
If, 25 years ago I had offered you the opportunity to tap into the collective mind of the entire world, or a defined cross-section of society; if I had said that you can ask any question and get it answered by some of the most qualified people in the world; if I had given you the opportunity to advertise to exactly the target market you were interested in, for a fraction of the cost of print or media advertising, you would have begged me to tell you where this miraculous opportunity lay. This is exactly what the internet with its vast interconnected network of people – yes, people – provides for us today. We are lucky indeed to have this tremendous resource available to our businesses.

Pete Matthew is Managing Director of Jacksons Wealth Management in Penzance. He set up MeaningfulMoney.tv in July 2010 to educate the public about financial matters. He now teaches other advisers how to replicate his online success at Advisertech.co.uk

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