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Lee Robertson: Social media presence is worth the investment for advisers

Lee Robertson

I participated in an overseas study tour by a group of Australian financial planning business owners this week by contributing to a session on how we use social media and technology in our firm. They were a really interesting group of people who had also spent time at business school INSEAD while over this way, so were definitely engaged with developing their skills and knowledge for the benefit of their employees and clients.

I covered our participation in social media and why we podcast and produce videos among other digital activity. I was able to demonstrate the direct financial contribution much of this had brought and ran through the positive client feedback we had received in relation to it.

I think my presentation went fairly well, with lots of input and questions from the audience. But I worked out fairly quickly there was common theme to the questions. While most of the room seemed to agree that technology could contribute to an improved client service proposition, there was a lot of talk around what it all ends up costing. There was a real fear that all of this activity was more of a cost than a benefit. Most said they had tried it but had not seen results quickly enough.

There were a few private comments made to me in discussions over coffee around social media, in particular. It was compared to trying to build a network of professional connections who often do not seem to get what financial planners do for clients. The concern was that, having attempted this form of networking, it did not really work for them.

I admitted I had also started out as a real cynic when it came to social media. But after much challenge and cajoling I am glad I persevered. It has impacted so positively on what I do, helping me communicate with clients, colleagues, journalists and peers. Indeed, in my experience, these things take time. There are always costs and massive and consistent efforts involved at the beginning of any new initiative.

Investment in new technology is a good way to differentiate one’s practice and reputation from the competition. Technology is going to continue evolving at lightning speed and virtually all clients will come to expect their advisers to keep pace at least to some degree.

That said, for all my eventual and hard won digital enthusiasm, their concerns over costs did touch upon the Scot in me. Costs always have to be considered and while it can be difficult, particularly in the early days, to quantify a return on investment, care needs to be taken not just to do something because everyone else seems to be.

Even time spent comes at a cost to a business, so a careful digital marketing strategy with aims and objectives clearly defined is vital. Work out where technology can be used to improve client outcomes and administrative standards, how much this should enhance overall client offering and how much it could then save the businesses on an annual basis.

My technology spend is an investment in my business rather than a cost to it. But it was right that the Australians challenged this viewpoint.

Lee Robertson is chief executive at Investment Quorum

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Comments

There are 2 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Well Lee each to their own.

    I think Social Media is a waste of time. (And I know I’m not alone). I canvassed clients a couple of years ago – just about 3.5% used social media.

    In my experience it is mainly populated by timewasters. As a means of generating business it gets nowhere near introductions from professional connections.

    Accuracy and truth are hardly bedfellows with this media. Linked in for example may work if you are an employee, but if you are a business owner it isn’t that useful and as a means of generating professional connections it is pretty useless. Recently I received a whole lot of messages from Linked in from people I had never heard of. In a couple of cases I managed to contact these people directly by e-mail and discovered that they had never intended these to be sent and will be complaining to Linked In. They also stated that they would probably cancel their membership as they had found little value in it.

    This prompted me to ask a about half a dozen of the people I know who seemed to use linked in. Only one (who changed jobs not too long ago) said he found it of use, the rest thought it was a waste of time.

    I wonder what is wrong with e-mail, telephone and post? Indeed even e-mail sometimes becomes what I call e-mail ping pong. Sometimes I tell people that I have a great piece of technology that is instantaneous and easy to use and solves this ping pong in one go – it’s called the telephone.

    I’m no Luddite and do embrace technology when it actually helps (running a one man band makes it imperative) but sometimes the technology tail wags the efficiency dog – so to speak.
    I also think it is a bit rude just to communicate en mass. Far better to communicate individually spelling out the precise and unique details for each particular client. Clients are not a homogeneous lump to be harangued by automation.

    Also judging by the slowing growth of Twitter and talk of it being sold, one may wonder that instead of being the future, is this heralding the slow demise of what many regard as not only moronic, but an insidious form of mass communication? It is utilised in too many instances by terrorists and criminals and in other cases to bully and intimidate others.

  2. Harry, thanks for taking the time read this article and to respond so comprehensively. In reply, I can only say things the way I find them and I too struggled with the whole concept of social media initially as I said in my short piece.

    Picking up on your point about what is wrong with the telephone etc I could not agree more and am well known within my firm for constantly referring to “face to face beating telephone beating letter beating email beating social media.”

    I still spend far more time on meeting people than I ever do on social media but I do see it as part our overall client and professional connections communications strategy.

    We obviously tailor our individual communications to individuals and this is done via personalised meetings and written communication by letter and personalised reports and never by social media. However, for generic information, to be sent in a timely or urgent matter then we do like to utilise the speed on offer. Remember, that if clients don’t want to be communicated with in this way then they don’t have to opt in or follow to receive them.

    Finally, I am completely puzzled by your final paragraph. Just because some people use what was designed to be a good and useful communication tool for bad purposes does that mean we should ignore or it not adopt it for good?

    Both the law and religion come to mind in that case.

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