Getting social media to work for your firm

News that millions of  Brits are addicted to their smart-phones and other online devices should spark some soul searching.

It’s not just kids that are embracing the new technology. More than half of 65 to 74 year olds are now on the web, according to new Ofcom research, with up to a third of the over 50s on a social network. This is the key demographic that will be seeking to invest a pension pot, early redundancy cash or home equity – bread and butter income for the regular adviser. The question is; how does an IFA interact and communicate with a new breed of consumer that is difficult to reach through traditional channels?

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, IFAs must make sure they keep highlighting the invaluable professional service they offer to customers – and by demonstrating that they have the ability to attract and retain a large customer base.

So, how does a business go attracting the new clients? It seems obvious to say that to communicate with an audience it is necessary to select a medium with which you can engage, educate and ultimately promote your services.

Until recently the media selected for this task was traditional print (advertisements in local and national press) or radio and occasional television advertisements. Most IFAs will have  dedicated websites, the quality, functionality and usability of which are highly variable.

However, increasingly these are not the formats that the public employs to receive and act  upon information. They prefer to act on the recommendations of friends and family. People they trust.  And where do they go to communicate with friends and family? Social media such as Facebook. That’s where the aware IFA should be looking to build relationships with clients both old and new.

The opportunities to engage with potential customers through social media is huge. Look at the opportunity offered by Facebook alone. If Facebook was a country it would be the world’s third largest by population. Over 30bn pieces of content are shared on Facebook each month and with 98 per cent of people under 25 already on a social network, what organisation can afford to ignore such a customer-entry portal?

By taking this route you will have one great advantage over any other media – you will be communicating one-to-one with someone that has an active interest in what you have to say or the service and products you are selling.

Embracing the opportunity afforded by social media enables the IFA to continue the relationship established though initial face-to-face contact, online. In this way if provides a platform for offering personalised financial advice that is quicker than other channels.  At the same time, social media can also enable the adviser to contact numerous clients at  the same time without seeming impersonal and avoiding irrelevant contact that can be annoying to the client.

It is especially relevant for financial services firms as an opportunity to engage with potential new customers. The informality and sense of community peculiar to social media means that those people that have never before considered consulting an IFA are more likely to ask questions online than visit any physical premises or even make contact by way of a telephone conversation.

Another advantage of social media is that once you have cultivated an online band of happy customers these clients become active brand advocates and promote your products and services to their ’friends’.

Andrew Cutbert is  managing director of TIYO