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CHARTER 6. What Are the Biggest Social Media Myths?
It's happening all around you – in every demographic in every nation, people are using social media. And despite what you may assume, they're not just using it to stay in touch with friends, play games, and post silly videos. While these pastimes do represent one aspect of social media, you'd be wise to remember that the overwhelming majority of Americans have also come to count on social media for many of the more important things in life – from making strategic business contacts and following the companies and organizations they're interested in, to researching products and services and adding their two cents to national or even global conversations.
So it's hard to figure out why, when millions of people are engaged in countless social media exchanges every day that are shaping both the business and consumer marketplaces, any reasonable businessperson would ignore it. These days, you almost have to go out of your way not to engage in social media. The advisors who want to thrive now and well into the future already know this and are immune to the many myths. But it's still surprising that so many of their colleagues keep missing the boat, citing any number of excuses why social media, investors, and advisors don't mix.
Here we'll not only debunk 10 of the most common social media myths, but we'll also unravel the secrets to turning these myths into actionable realities.
1. Social media is just for kids, and they're not my target audience.
You could just as easily argue that not long ago, cell phones were just for adults, but now they're ubiquitous, even among kids. The same is true of social media – it graduated from the kiddie table to the grown-up table years ago. In fact, AARP found that 85 percent of the 50 or older population uses one or more social networks. The networks most commonly used – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – are cost-free channels that allow you to make an impression on your target audience, so it's natural for your clients to expect to find you there. In fact, if you're not on social media, then you just don't exist to your next generation of clients. To a great number of investors, a healthy social media presence engenders brand recognition, trust, and confidence in your abilities. Still skeptical? Yet another study, this one by BRANDFog, revealed that a full 82 percent of consumers will trust a company more if its leadership team and CEO are active in social media.
2. Even if investors and clients do use social media, it's not to find a financial advisor.
Wrong. A recent survey from Cogent Research found that millions of high-net-worth investors actively use social media to help make informed financial decisions. That's because today's consumers do more research across a broader spectrum of media than ever before, and they do it for virtually every service (think of Angie's List and Yelp), every product (there are innumerable sites, blogs, ranking organizations, podcasts, etc., to help inform their choices), and any issues they feel pertain to them. Consider how many investors follow individual advisors or companies like The Wall Street Journal on Twitter. The heart of the matter is social media works because you get direct access to literally thousands of engaged consumers in your specific market without having to shell out a single dollar. If you generate the content they're looking for, you can't miss them.
3. There really aren't that many benefits to using social media.
This is perhaps one of the most bewildering social media myths. As mentioned above, in addition to being a cost-free method to get your message in front of thousands of investors who are actually looking to do business with you, social media also strengthens your brand recognition and exposure and increases traffic to your website. Other clear benefits include very low marketing expenses, higher search engine rankings, and, of course, lead generation.
4. I can't use social media due to compliance issues.
While it's true that financial advisors have more concerns to address when crafting social media campaigns than professionals in other industries do, there nevertheless are countless ways to benefit from incorporating this medium into your marketing efforts while remaining in full compliance. That's what your compliance officer or broker is there for; he or she can provide you with details regarding what you can and cannot do in the social media world. FINRA and the SEC are disseminating more specific guidelines for helping advisors compliantly engage in social media, and this information is readily available on their websites.
5. There's no way for me to track social media's return on investment (ROI).
Sure, it may be harder to quantify how many leads you get from your social media efforts, but that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to measure your success. There are several tools you can employ to help measure your social media marketing's return on investment. For example, all of the top social media platforms provide tools aimed at revealing your key performance metrics, including your audience reach and engagement. (This includes things such as the number of followers you have, any other Internet mentions or comments about you, how often your content is shared, or how many tweets get retweeted, etc.) You can also use Google Analytics to gauge your website's traffic.
And don't forget the immeasurable benefits of even the most passive of campaigns. If a potential investor goes online to read a certain article and you just happen to be quoted in it, you'll get immediate recognition as an authority with whom they'd be interested in working. Or let's say someone is looking for tips on the best ways to manage their 401 (k) and come across your expertly written blog; you can count that as another win. Remember, no medium can give you exact information on impressions or leads, but that doesn't mean it's not occurring regularly.
6. I should ignore or just delete any negative comments.
Deleting or simply ignoring a negative post is the worst possible way you can react. It's impossible to make everyone happy all the time, so expect at least a few unpleasant comments to crop up during your career. And while it may seem unpleasant on the surface, these occasions are also an opportunity to demonstrate that you really care about your clients and are actively listening to what they have to say. Respond to every single one of these comments publicly and do so with class. Don't become confrontational or defensive. If need be, post any policies that may address the complaint, and then extend an offer for them to contact you personally to discuss the matter further. You may consider drawing the line at material that is patently offensive, not because it paints you in a bad light, but because it is hate speech. But, while deleting offensive material is one thing, if you are the target of criticism you do well to leave the post as is.
7. Social media is only good for prospecting; it's worthless to existing clients.
While it's true that social media can be a tremendous opportunity to market to prospective clients, it's equally valuable to your existing clients. You can bet that many of your current clients are already following you on Twitter, reading and commenting on your blogs, and even “liking” you on Facebook. This is because all the work you've done to position yourself as the expert in your market is working, and your clientele will want to know what you're discussing now or if you have any new products that may suit them. Yes, social media is a great tool for attracting new clients, but it's just as effective for maintaining and keeping your current clients satisfied.
8. Social media only works for B2B marketing, not B2C.
Many advisors seem to think social media can only be effective in the B2B space, since many of its marketing and sales practices differ from B2C industries. Granted, the content itself is different when dealing with consumers than with other businesses, but it serves the same primary functions: You use social media to be, well, social, and to position yourself as a helpful and caring individual with all the right information. All you have to do is ensure your content is audience appropriate; it can be wildly effective in boosting both your B2B and B2C connections.
9. A social media campaign will diminish the impact of traditional marketing methods.
This is simply not so. Did VCRs kill the movie theaters? Did the Kindle replace all paper books? The answer is obvious, as these new ways to access content only enhance a business's marketing efforts rather than destroy them. Your e-mail or direct marketing channels won't suffer from introducing social media into your plan; they'll only serve you better (especially if you include links to your social media content in these more traditional methods).
10. Using social media is too hard and too time consuming.
This is perhaps the worst and most destructive myth of them all. The great thing about social media is its innate economies of scale. You can easily post one of your relevant articles to all of these platforms and be done in a half-hour or so. That alone should be enough to disabuse you of the level of effort needed to operate a successful social media campaign, but if you're uber-busy, why not turn to some of your younger support staff? Chances are they'll be intimately familiar with how best to leverage social media, so consider entrusting maintenance of your social campaign to them. And if you're really hard up for resources, you can also consider hiring a professional social media campaign manager to do everything for you.
The point is, social media complements the way we as a society now live our lives and do business, and it certainly won't be going away. Forget these myths and step into reality: Either got on board and get social, or step out of the way.
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