Ian Pascal The Expert
Clients are using it, consultants are using it, the media are using it and your competitors are certainly using it. In the worlds of a famous Australian artist, can you tell what it is yet? It is social media, and it is starting to have a real role in the financial services industry.
There is still a widespread misconception that these are primarily the preserve of teenagers. If that was ever true, it is certainly not the case today. Social media has entered the mainstream and offers a way of engaging with both your client base and your peers in a way which can be beneficial for everyone. A good place to start is LinkedIn (www. linkedin.com). It is free, and provides a contact database for professionals and a shop window for your services. It is also home to groups where you can discuss business issues with your peers and demonstrate your expertise in a public forum. As a member, you can create your own groups, giving you the opportunity to lead discussion on topics of interest to you and your clients.
IFA Life (www.ifalife.com) is another good way of getting involved in social media and connecting with a wide range of your colleagues in the industry. Unlike LinkedIn, its membership is comprised primarily of UK financial planners. A quick look at the discussion boards will show you how well used they are and how many people are making use of such platforms to expand their network.
The biggest social media site of all, Facebook (www. facebook.com), is still used primarily for social purposes rather than business, so I would say establishing a presence there is perhaps desirable once you have the other bases covered. However, I believe twitter (www.twitter. com) does have a role to play.
Twitter is a quick and easy way of communicating with the world and can be used to keep in touch with industry developments and as a broadcast mechanism to help raise your profile and drive traffic to your website.
Keeping in touch with industry developments on twitter is as easy as registering on the site and looking for industry figures or well known publications who use twitter. Many leading market comm-entators can be found there, such as Tom McPhail of Hargreaves Lansdown and Martin Bamford of Informed Choice, as can industry newspapers including this esteemed publication (@MoneyMarketing1).
Communications might be limited to 140 characters but it is surprising what can be said and many people include a link to the full story on their website. Sending out tweets as is as simple as typing in your message, and pressing update.
We established our own twitter address (@BaringAM) two months ago and our experience has been very positive. However, before you start, there are three points which are worth bearing in mind for all your social media interactions.
First, remember these are public forums. Don’t say anything you might regret later. Second, you will get more out of it if you make your posts informative. Sending out a constant stream of tweets with a strong sales message is unlikely to endear you to the community (think of it as email spam), while content which reinforces your expertise and helps to educate consumers is likely to be very well received. Finally, always remember the financial promotion rules if you are recommending products or solutions.
I believe social media channels should supplement the other ways you communicate with investors, not replace them. However, as an easy way of engaging with potential investors, they have an important role to play, and I expect to see more investment management groups following the lead established by progressive intermediaries in this area.
Ian Pascal is marketing director at Baring Asset Management (twitter: @Ian_pascal)