I recently read how Facebook is losing millions of members in its most developed markets. In the same week I also read how snail mail is staging a comeback. All of which must come as a bit of a relief to those firms and advisers that are still without a website, let alone a social media policy. For a moment they must have thought the rest of the world was going stark raving mad and that now perhaps things will return to normal.
However, dig behind the headline and a slightly different story emerges. Yes, some people are ditching Facebook but they are not deserting the internet or social media sites, rather they are becoming more selective.
A recent study ranks the UK as the leading country in the world for per capita e-commerce spending and second largest online advertising market after the US. The UK consumer is apparently very comfortable with online retailing and marketing – and that includes financial services.
What we are probably seeing is email fatigue and a resistance to sharing everything with all and sundry who happen to find you on Facebook.
If clients are feeling as overwhelmed by emails, newsletters and information as I am, they have my sympathy. The trick, though, is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. The internet and social media should not be ignored but used in a manner that supports clients and delivers information that is suited to these outlets.
We need to remember that we work in a very personal business and clients want to feel valued, remembered and respected. Does this explain why the re-emergence of snail mail is being accompanied by an increase in quality writing materials as well.
There are some things the internet can do but a handwritten note of congratulations on a birthday, wedding or anniversary is not one of them.
I wonder just how valued people feel receiving another email telling them a charitable donation has been made in lieu of a Christmas card.
As it happens, we have always sent Christmas cards and almost always penned a personal message inside, which is so much better than half a dozen signatures from office staff.
I find that most of my clients enjoy a decent bottle of claret with a hand-written note, which brings me to another recent discovery that wine bottle corks are making a comeback. It seems we want a wine experience that has a bit more theatre than a simple screw cap. Perhaps our clients want a bit more theatre than a blog or a tweet?
One to ponder over a glass of perfectly poured Pomerol.
Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning