I went to see Professor Brian Cox on his latest UK tour. It was a fascinating evening, although I do not mind admitting that 90 per cent of it went over my head. But one thing he said stuck with me. I am paraphrasing a little here but the gist was as such: the more certain someone is of their position, the less you should trust them.
I love that line. But what is its relevance to social media?
Well, I have lost count of the number of times I have heard that advisers must use social media. It is usually a position being promoted by someone with ‘guru’ in their self-proclaimed title. That said, there is no doubt social media can be hugely useful. My preference is Twitter, so that seems a sensible place to start. Here are my top tips for how to get the best from it.
1 Set realistic expectations
Do not expect to get new enquiries if Twitter is not used by your target audience. That said, even if your ideal client uses a different social media channel there are still many excellent reasons to use Twitter, as I will explain later.Also, do not expect to get quick results. It takes time.
2 Get stuck in
I often hear advisers complain that they do not know where to start with Twitter. Well, imagine you are at a networking event: what do you do after you have grabbed your bacon buttie or glass of wine?
Probably nervously approach a fellow networker, perhaps someone you already know or who you are likely to have something in common with.
The same holds true with Twitter. Follow a few people you know, as well as some you do not, post a few messages or links to articles you think people might find useful. Get stuck in.
3 Demonstrate your expertise
I am a big believer in knowing your target market and the financial problems you solve for them, then demonstrating your expertise. Advisers who are recognised as experts in their niche are inevitably more successful when it comes to generating new clients.
So use Twitter to show your expertise. That does not mean showing off but it does mean answering questions, engaging in debates and providing links to useful and relevant information, at least some of which should be content on your website.
4 PR boosts
If PR is part of your marketing strategy Twitter can be hugely useful. I have lost count of the number of times I have used it to approach a journalist, or have been contacted by one following up on a post of mine.
It is also a great tool for understanding a journalist’s area of interests or what they are working on, then engaging with them.
5 Mix it up
Many of us use multiple social media channels; the three most popular with advisers being Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The temptation is to use some of the apps available, such as Hootsuite, to write one message and then post it to all three platforms. Don’t. What do I get, as your follower or connection, out of seeing the same message three times? Nothing, apart from frustrated.
Furthermore, if you run personal and corporate accounts, do not post the same message at the same time from the same accounts.
If I follow both, all I see on my timeline is the same message back to back. It looks lazy and takes away any benefit of following both accounts.
Mix your messages up; give me, as a follower, something different from each account and each social media platform. In other words, reward my loyalty with different content.
6 Think about when you post
I only post when I am online and able to reply to responses. I never schedule tweets (although I have been guilty of this in the past).
My preferred times for being online, and therefore posting are early morning 7am to 8am, mid-morning (meetings permitting), mid-afternoon and then on the commute home. Engagement levels with my followers seem to peak at these times and it works for me.
So, spend some time understanding the best times to connect with your audience and then make yourself available.
7 Use it to learn
We get clients directly from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and you can too. But the thing I like most about social media is the interaction and the learning opportunities it provides. The combined wealth of knowledge of my connections is immense and I can tap into it with just a quick scroll through my timeline.
Twitter does not have to take over your life. I am probably on it for no more than 30 minutes a day, usually in short bursts. I use it on my phone and it is a great way of making the most of otherwise dead time – commuting, for example – productively.
Phil Bray is founder and director at The Yardstick Agency