Organization is one of the major keys to a successful and sustainable social media strategy.
This year, make a resolution to create an editorial calendar—it’s a great way to bring some calm to the chaos.
One of the greatest social media challenges is keeping pace. It’s important to create, curate, and publish fresh content frequently, maintain a consistent presence on social media channels, and stay on top of the ever-changing trends. Being relevant, informative, and there are huge parts of what define you as an expert and a thought leader in this industry; that’s largely how you’ll build a valuable audience. It can feel like a lot to juggle, but an editorial calendar is an excellent tool that can help you keep everything running like a well-oiled machine. Here are some tips for creating your own editorial calendar:
1. Keep it simple.
You don’t need a new app or web-based system to create or maintain an editorial calendar. Send messages to yourself; keep a to-do list, or voice-record brainstorming ideas as they come to you using tools you already have, such as a smartphone or tablet.
Or, you can add an editorial calendar to your WordPress dashboard, and then write and schedule weeks or even months of content to post whenever you choose (once your blog posts are finalized, you can set a schedule, and they’ll even auto-publish). Some of the most reliable WordPress calendar plugins are Editorial Calendar by Stresslimit, Edit Flow, and Future Posts Calendar by AaHa Creative. If you aren’t comfortable with website tinkering, or if you aren’t a WordPress convert, Microsoft Excel and Google Calendar are great alternatives.
The purpose of an editorial calendar is to corral all those fantastic ideas that unexpectedly pop into your head and gather them in one central location. This alleviates you of the stress of remembering what that great idea was you had two weeks ago while pumping gas.
2. Create Monthly Themes
Start now and create an overarching theme for each month. This will help create a focus for your brainstorming and your blog ideas will flow more freely. Identifying a theme also allows you to get ahead of the content game and identify other industry-leaders you may wish to invite to guest blog. A monthly theme creates a sense of organization, which followers and writers always appreciate.
The organization lent by monthly themes is also, overall, an attractive quality to your followers. Even the most left-brained individual cannot thrive in utter chaos, so your readers will appreciate the organization of your content. Additionally, it conveys that your company is a brand with focus and direction. Those are admirable qualities we all expect to find in a trusted industry leader.
3. Have a Weekly Routine
Establish a weekly routine to dedicate time to your editorial calendar. These are the articles your followers will look forward to every week. A schedule ensures you fulfill the expectations of your followers.
Perhaps you have a weekly feature titled Monday Money that is a recap of the previous week’s investment-related events. Whatever you do create, be consistent with it and make it your own. (And, when you post it on social media, make sure you’re using a custom hashtag!) When an audience specifically seeks you as their source for information and advice, you’ll know your editorial strategy is working.
As the year winds down, you may find yourself with some downtime. Why not grab a mulled cider, eggnog, or a candy cane with this list of tips, and start working on your own editorial calendar for the quickly approaching 2014?
Recently, while dining out with friends, our food server delivered the wrong order to our table. The dish also happened to be topped with an ingredient of which one friend is seriously allergic. While thanking our server for the prompt delivery I calmly explained the situation. She was horrified and apologetic. We threw in some humor to provide levity and five minutes later the food we originally ordered made its arrival. When we received our bill, two meals had been taken off our total. It spoke to the effectiveness of courteous, respectful interaction. Being kind and engaging often just works.
This principle extends to all modes and areas of interaction. Minding your manners in the digital space is critical, but that’s often underestimated, unconsidered, or just plain forgotten.
Without The Tone, What is the Message? Internet communications— on social networks and in email correspondence—can easily be misconstrued. Without the benefit of observing social cues such as voice inflection, tone, and pitch, as well as facial expressions, it can be difficult to judge the actual tenor of a situation. Perhaps you’ve been there; maybe you’ve received an email and wondered about the sender’s true intent. Were they being sarcastic or were they expecting a serious reply? Be sure to review your own communications before pressing that send or publish button, (particularly given the regulatory hurdles financial advisors face) to ensure you are sending the right message. If your message is light-hearted, keep your jokes squarely in neutral territory; all other dialogue should be straightforward and sincere to eliminate any chance of confusion or misinterpretation.
Venue Change, Rules Remain: Connecting through a smartphone or laptop must be regarded as the Digital Age equivalent of a face-to-face advisor-client meeting. The existence of Twitter and LinkedIn don’t exempt us from social graces. Though many of our interactions now happen on these social media platforms instead of boardrooms or restaurants, we are still able to extend that metaphorical hand. Greet people, introduce yourself, be as respectful as if you were having coffee, and engage, engage, engage. This takes a little practice, but in short time, you can become quite skilled at relationship-building with a vast audience of people located all over the world.
Social networking platforms aren’t faceless communities; these are real conversations with real people. It is as important as ever to remember your ‘please and thank you’ when making connections and looking for business opportunities. Don’t hesitate to express gratitude for recommendations or introductions to potential new clients. Everyone appreciates appreciation.
Don’t Go Directly to No: With a presence on several social networks, I often receive connection requests from people with names I don’t recognize. Frequently, I don’t know the person at all, or maybe I met them once in passing, or perhaps they are associated with a mutual friend. I can choose to decline or ignore the request, but networking isn’t just about connecting with people I already know. Take a close look at those requests; initial haste runs the risk of overlooking a valuable connection. I usually respond to hazy requests with a note, asking the person for more information on why we’d make a good connection.
Never lose sight of the fact that your online personality and behavior are major factors people use to form first impressions about you and your business, similar to the way your physical presence and demeanor are influential. Be mindful and intentional, never forgetting that Virtual You is acting in alignment with behaviors Face-to-Face You embraces every day.
We’ve all heard the stories of disgruntled employees who are pink-slipped after participating in some social media activity deemed unacceptable by their powers that be. Are the principles and standards that govern your employees’ use of Facebook clear and accessible, or are they undefined or too vague?
There’s no room for ambiguity here—particularly given all of the compliance-related issues you must address. In the same way you and your clients draft investment policy statements to define and confirm your clients’ financial objectives, a social media policy ensures your firm’s management and staff are on the same page about social media activity related to business. The policy eliminates any confusion, and can help protect the best interests and image of the firm and employees, by establishing and educating everyone about acceptable vs. unacceptable social media activity. Here are a few tips:
- Understand the Playing Field. Any advisory firm should be aware of the compliance-related issues associated with social media participation. This information needs to be clearly outlined in your social media policy.
- Common Sense=Common Use. Despite disclosures and disclaimers, the public may still form opinions about your firm based on employee statements or actions. Anyone on the payroll who is allowed to speak about the company must write knowledgeably, accurately, and display top-notch professionalism. There’s no place for argumentative, offensive, or abusive behaviors or communications.
- The Internet Never Forgets. Thanks to search engines, screen grabs, cached files, archiving, and way back machines, every shred of content put forth on the internet lives forevermore. Coach employees to understand they shouldn’t publish any statement, photo, or comment they’ll be embarrassed to see five, 10 or 20 years from now.
- Confidentiality. Company information that’s not available to the public cannot ever be shared or discussed. This includes information regarding personnel. A confidentiality breach can expose your firm to liability.
- Privacy is an Illusion. The opposite concept to confidentiality is that privacy is a myth where internet activity is concerned. Behave as if any update, direct message, or communication will be posted on the front page of the New York Times. If it’s not suitable for the newsstand, don’t hit the publish button.
- Inform Management. Any employee who intends to create personal, non-company content (such as a blog) and reference their company or its current or potential products, employees, partners, customers, or industry competitors must inform management prior to posting, to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. (The term “getting dooced” didn’t materialize out of thin air, after all.”)
- It Never Hurts to Ask; It Sometimes Hurts When You Don’t. Err on the side of caution. If an employee is ever doubtful of the appropriateness of a potential comment or post, ask them to consult with human resources prior to publishing.
These guidelines will get you started on the road to realizing the importance of putting a social media policy in place. However, you must consult with a legal professional to assist in the development of your official social media protocol.
There’s peace in knowing your social media outreach will be protected by a staff that has full understanding of the boundaries you’ve built around social media use.
Gossip: In high school, it was the worst. I hated being talked about in passed notes and hushed whispers. It felt so personal, and I never knew quite what was being said about me. How times have changed.
Today, gossip is a financial advisor’s best friend. We likely spend many hours talking about our firm and our solutions as part of our efforts to grow an audience that will listen to all we have to say. Some of these brand-building efforts can be taken online—where we can listen in on the results.
We all want to know what people think, don’t we? If I was aware in ninth-grade that Gavin Mackenzie* had a crush on me, I would have most certainly chosen him as my biology lab partner. Alas, my school was too big and that bit of gossip didn’t reach my ears until it was too late. In our businesses, of course we want to be as attentive and accommodating as possible to the people that use our services. We don’t want any of our clients to pair up with a different lab partner because we don’t offer what they like, want, or need.
Many financial advisors view social media as a one-way communication vehicle—a broadcast and marketing medium meant to sell services, share news, and post opinions and ideas. They miss out on the opportunities to research consumer trends, investigate competitors, and actively engage with clients and prospects through listening. Paying attention to the two-way communication in the social media space provides valuable information and feedback; it’s worth dedicating time to this effort lest we end up sitting alone in biology class.
Listening to your clients is easier than you think. What ten keywords do you want to track? Start with names: yours, your firm name, people in charge, and services or products you offer. Get specific. The first step in setting up listening channels is establishing an email address specifically used for email alerts. You won’t have to check a million websites and get distracted on Facebook; you can just order everything to your inbox and go from there. Don’t just make one email address; make two. The first is dedicated to your brand, while the second email address is dedicated to tracking the web conversations about your biggest competition. (Don’t you want to know who else Gavin Mackenzie has a crush on?)
The first alert you want to set up is the tried and true Google Alert [www.google.com/alerts]. Which are the most highly trafficked websites where you’d be likely to appear? Yelp, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, LinkedIn? Most mainstream networks offer a quick URL designated to set up email alerts.
RSS [rich site summary] feeds are another helpful tool. You can set up RSS feeds for your favorite websites, news sites and the blogs you read for inspiration (like this one!). A wonderful resource that teaches the basics of establishing RSS feeds is http://www.webmonkey.com/2010/02/rss_for_beginnners/.
Twitter is an obvious choice for listening, as well. Although there are tons of great Twitter applications that can be customized to your specific needs—when just starting out it’s easiest to use the traditional Twitter search bar. Type your brand name and your relevant keywords, and examine the results. Make sure you select to view “all” tweets and not just the top ones.
Follow your clients and any of the firms you do business with, too. Watch their feeds for clues about what they like, what they dislike, and any personal preferences they may express. You’ll learn other sites they visit online, topics that may interest them, possibly restaurants they visit and more.
For financial advisors serving the consumer market, Facebook provides a huge opportunity to get to know your clients on a very personal level. If you’re able to connect with them, you can learn a significant amount about their families, pets, restaurants they enjoy and their most favorite topic of conversation—themselves! Attend to what you learn by listening, and bring those facts and findings into your relationship. Show your clients you care about them on a level beyond business, and you can build brand loyalty and cement your relationship beyond your quarterly investment meetings.
Gossip has a new look. It’s not the mean-spirited, ambiguous chatter of yesteryear. Today’s talk is specific conversation we are privy to courtesy of resourceful tools that allow us access to the discussion. Instead of creating rifts, we’re using this dialogue to improve our craft and better serve our clients. It’s talk worth listening to.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Once you’ve created and curated content that best supports your brand strategy, no doubt you’ll bring it to the digital space. Hashtags, those pound signs (#) we often see on social media networks, are couplings that group our digital matter with other related, online content.
And, that is what hashtags do. They organize content and increase the visibility of your posts. For example, as media outlets stream online content related to the recent government shutdown to various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, they’ve largely agreed to tack the hashtag #shutdown to related social network posts. This collective tagging effort neatly organizes posts for interested parties who are following this event. Utilizing a #keyword search, users will receive a relevant search return of topic-specific posts. Also, hashtags keep track of trending topics—when people tag, we have insight into where the people’s interests lie. The hashtag also acts as an exclamation point to this social media post—a specific and striking hashtag is eye-catching and less likely to get lost amid your customers’ social media feeds.
Hashtags are also used at a variety of organized events. By tracking a hashtag associated with the event, attendees can interact with one another even while seated in a breakout session.
Where and How Hashtags Should Be Used
Used first on Twitter in 2007, hashtag capabilities exist today on most mainstream channels of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. It is important to use hashtags sparingly and strategically, thus giving you the most bang for your buck.
- Don’t tag article words such as #a or #an. People aren’t searching for these words.
- Be judicious. One or two tags per tweet or status update is sufficient. Tag the relevant keywords that people will be searching; be strategic to yield the greatest impact.
- Tag complete ideas. Separately hashtagging terms such as #Financial #Solutions won’t categorize your content successfully. (Do you know how many “solution” bits of content exist on the internet?) Tagging #financialsolutions greatly increases the chance of reaching your right audience.
- A hashtag may be placed anywhere within a sentence; it can be postscript (Great game! Another victory! #Dodgers) or incorporated within the text. (Great game. Another #Dodgers victory!) Make sure not to use any punctuation or spaces in your hashtag.
- Realize that you can also use hashtags as listening devices. Consider a regular basis for terms such as #401k, #finances, #money, etc. (Twilert is a great resource for following a variety of hashtags on a regular basis.) There are many words that individuals use when describing their financial life. Listening in on those conversations via Twitter may provide some ideas for your client outreach, or content creation.
If you’re referring to a specific event or article, consider searching Twitter; most likely, there is a hashtag assigned and you’ll want to ensure you use the established version. Creating your own obscure hashtag in relationship to a high-profile topic probably won’t benefit your social media visibility.
Hashtags are also a valuable resource in supporting your brand. Creating a unique-to-you custom hashtag groups your content, but, if done creatively and mindfully, also adds an extra punch of brand voice to your online presence. Before committing, research the tag you have in mind to confirm that it hasn’t been adopted by another party; you don’t want to align yourself with some unusual or unfortunate group.
Hashtags Gone Wild
To fully understand the reach of hashtags, it’s important to realize that outside the scope of financial marketing and organizational applications, hashtags are also used in social media to gather memes, images, content, and engagement surrounding many other genres such as pop culture and humor (#failedchildrensbooktitles, anyone?).
Hashtags: They may seem irrelevant—another thing to do—but actually they’re quite important. Hashtags are the complement to your well-crafted social media strategy; they come in the form of a user-friendly tool that steers your digital presence onto the online streams of your key targets. Visibility to the right audience=#win.
The proliferation of new communications channels, from social networks to file sharing platforms, has tested compliance professionals who need to ensure all business communications are appropriately retained and supervised, as required by FINRA, SEC and other regulatory bodies.
In this environment, which compliance professionals are more confident about their practices surrounding the oversight of social media? Those who allow social media and have policies governing its use for business purposes – or those who prohibit it?
Findings from the just-released Smarsh 2013 Electronic Communications Compliance Survey are striking. Surprisingly, they show respondents who indicated they allow and govern social media use are nearly twice as confident in their ability to provide specifically requested messages, within a reasonable time frame, for compliance purposes.
On the other hand, respondents who prohibit social media were less confident in their ability to prove their policy of prohibition works. This was true across almost every type of communication, including public and enterprise social media, and text messaging.
One can infer that firms that prohibit the use of social media want to avoid any compliance issues by banning the medium altogether. However, these firms still have the burden of proving their policy is being followed by employees (most important in an audit scenario). That can be challenging when non-sanctioned social tools are adopted by employees for personal and corporate communication (Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, enterprise social media platforms). Without clear social media policies and enforcement, compliance professionals have the difficult task of making sure there are no rogue social media users and tools in their company.
The reality is your employees are going to use social media, in some form, in the workplace. The survey confirms that it’s a good idea to embrace social media as a valid form of business communication, and have a proactive policy in place to enforce proper use, similar to your company emails.
Even better – have a social media archiving solution that lets you capture, supervise, review and produce employee communications when they are requested, with ease.
Find more information about social media compliance trends in the Smarsh 2013 Electronic Communications Compliance Survey Report.
For more information about Smarsh archiving and compliance for social media, email: email@example.com.
Smarsh released the third annual Electronic Communications Compliance Survey Report at FINRA’s 2013 Annual Conference on May 21, 2013.
This year’s report shows us that while compliance professionals still experience challenges in the oversight and retention of electronic communications, professionals in financial services have become more comfortable with greater regulatory scrutiny, new communications tools and channels, and the increasingly complex demands of email surveillance.
Compliance professionals are also adjusting their policies and procedures to adjust to the proliferation of social media and mobile devices in the workplace, too.
As compliance professionals move past the initial fear and uncertainty of using these for business communication, they are becoming more comfortable and familiar with the day-to-day, practical challenges of managing oversight of social media and mobile devices. The survey also reveals they are more confident in their ability to meet compliance obligations related to social media and mobile, too.
In the report, you’ll also find out…
- What social media platform leads the way in adoption by financial services professionals, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents now permitting its use.
- How many survey respondents say they have policies regarding the most popular social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, AND how many have a corresponding archiving/supervision system in place to support policies.
- Who is more confident in their ability to provide specifically requested social media messages within a reasonable time frame during an audit (it’s not who you think).
- What types of company-issued and personal devices are on the rise at financial services firms, according to survey participants.
- Why policies governing the use of company-issued and personal devices are only part of the compliance solution (and firms need a follow-up step to ensure they meet compliance regulations in this area).
- Which respondents have more confidence in the capture and archiving of business communications on mobile devices, and more.
Find more insights about compliance and electronic communications trends in the Smarsh 2013 Electronic Communications Compliance Survey Report. Download it now at www.Smarsh.com/2013ComplianceSurvey.
Smarsh recently released its second annual Electronic Communications Compliance Survey report, revealing the findings of a survey of compliance professionals in the financial services industry. The report examines the concerns of compliance officers in today’s demanding regulatory environment and indicates significant challenges in practice for electronic recordkeeping and supervision, particularly for mobile devices, social media and websites.
“This year’s survey findings illuminate the shifts underway related to electronic communications compliance,” said Stephen Marsh, CEO and founder of Smarsh. “The retention and oversight of electronic communications has becoming increasingly complicated as employees are presented with a growing number of options to communicate-from instant messages and mobile devices to websites and social collaboration tools-and compliance officers must adjust quickly and comprehensively to mitigate risks to their firms.”
Mobile devices and communications a top concern
Over the last year, there has been a significant increase in the number of firms that allow a variety of mobile devices for business purposes. Extending compliance practices to oversee these communication devices is a top three compliance concern, cited by 63 percent of survey respondents. More than half of firms now allow iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets on the corporate network.
Last year, FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 11-39, stating that firms are required to retain, retrieve and supervise business communications regardless of whether they are conducted from a work-issued device or personal device. Archiving and supervision practices governing communication from these devices, however, lag behind those in place for laptops and desktop computers. Today, the majority of compliance professionals (65 percent) said they would have minimal to no confidence in their ability to produce text messages during examinations.
Firms adapt to social communication channels
New communication channels remain the second biggest concern for firms. However, organizations are adapting and increasingly taking steps to formalize their position on social media use. Nearly eighty percent of respondents indicated they have written policies to address use of LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, a significant increase from the year before, when less than half indicated they had a policy in place. However, the findings reveal that when it comes to putting archiving and supervision systems in place for social media, most firms (more than 60 percent) have not yet taken action.
“Social media is following a similar adoption path to instant messaging and email,” said Marsh. “As with those communications channels, we are seeing firms first put policies in place. Then, they turn their attention to enforcement and how they can effectively and efficiently supervise and archive the communications – ultimately leading them to employ a technology solution.”
Websites in use, but retention and supervision systems lag
Most financial services firms have an online presence through their websites, which have become increasingly interactive with videos, slideshows, Flash and other interactive elements. Respondents indicated that website content was the second most requested communication type during regulatory examinations, second only to email. At the same time, 41 percent of respondents indicated having minimal to no confidence in their ability to produce website content during an examination, and only 35 percent reported having an archiving and supervision system in place for websites.
The full survey report is available for download at www.smarsh.com/compliancesurvey.