More and more advisers are using social media as a way to build brand awareness and engage with potential clients. However, there are still many that are sceptical of the benefits. Social media should most definitely form an element of your communications strategy but it should not be standalone. It will not result in a flood of immediate enquiries and it cannot replace more traditional marketing activity – however, it will supplement it. It can be used to create awareness and attract potential “ideal” clients if you engage with the right communities.
But social media is not a one-way street. Yes, it is an opportunity for you to build relationships and trust but it is a conversational tool.
It is an interactive channel and so you must be prepared and willing to put the time and effort in to interact on a regular basis. Importantly, you must talk to your audience via replies and comments on posts they make.
You also need to think about how you monitor and control your interactions – after all, the last thing you need is a rogue comment undoing all your hard work at building trust.
Audience engagement is always a challenge and with the noise and distraction that comes with social media it can be even more difficult. Nowadays you must visually engage your audience. While there is a place for text-only posts, social media is a visual communication channel.
To get any cut through in the social media space your posts must be eye-catching and stand out from the clutter in your audience’s newsfeeds. Sound easy? Not quite.
We have written before about the importance of content in your communications strategy.
Your content runway, I believe, forms the foundation of your social media planning: what messages you are going to take to your audience and when.
Not only do you have to think about your content, you also have to think about whether your messages will be text only, infographic, quotes, questions, pictures, surveys or video. With each of these come a bundle of other things to consider:
- What imagery will you use?
- What does it convey about your brand?
- Does it tie in with your content?
- Where are you going to source your images?
- Are you going to do video?
- Who is going to film the video?
- Who will write the script?
- What about editing?
- Where will you host it?
Very quickly, it is easy to see how social media management can become a bit of a beast. Many organisations have teams of people who do nothing but manage social media. Of course, many adviser businesses simply do not have this luxury.
My advice for smaller firms that want a presence online: keep it simple. Start with your content runway and plan what you want to say, where you want to say it and when. Aim for a couple of posts a week.
Mix up your posts to include imagery, inspirational quotes, links to other relevant content and video. Use keywords. Post via a package like Hootsuite, which allows you to post to multiple sites at once and monitor engagement. Put someone in your organisation on point to be able to check in a few times a day to monitor and respond to comments or questions your audience may leave. Monitor what does and does not work for your audience. Do not be afraid to reuse content (just do not over use it).
One thing social media is great for is to help build email lists: lists of people you can start to engage with on a more personal level and on a regular basis.
You can also monitor who is opening and reading your emails as well as when and what interests them. This provides you with a wealth of insight to make your communications increasingly sophisticated and targeted, which in turn gives you the opportunity to capitalise on your online relationship, become more involved with your prospects and ultimately increase their likelihood to become clients.
Jane Cuthbertson is a chartered marketer and associate consultant with Steve Billingham Consulting