Say what you will, but our lives are now completely and firmly dominated by mobile technology. Standing in line for a coffee? Perfect, check your email (and then get your Starbucks app ready to pay for that coffee). Sitting in a conference room waiting for a meeting to start? Might as well check your latest text messages, today’s stock market activity, and conduct some quick banking.
In short, mobile technology rules our lives, and from a business standpoint, that means the content we throw out in cyberspace must accommodate smartphones and tablets. Okay, I know I may sound a bit like a broken record (or would that be a broken MP3 file?), but study after study points to this resounding impact.
A recent Pew Research Center study on mobile technology found that 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone today compared with just 35 percent in 2011.
Not too surprisingly, 85 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 own a smartphone, while 79 percent of those aged 20 to 49, and 54 percent of adults aged 50 to 64, own a smartphone. Interestingly, when it comes to education and income, Americans with a college degree and annual income of $75,000 or greater are most likely to own a smartphone.
Understandably mobile tech devices are quite often the only means of online access for young adults and low-income individuals. However, even when other means of online access are available, smartphone users are increasingly using mobile devices for everything from business to banking at the following rates:
- Online banking – 57 percent
- Job research – 43 percent
- Job application – 18 percent
- Real estate information – 44 percent
In addition to internet use, the Pew study showed the top activities include text messaging, voice and video calls, email, and social networking. This usage, plus the always-on phenomenon is also increasing the amount of promotional emails smartphone users are now viewing, according to a study by Forrester Research.
In 2010, 59 percent of mobile users deleted email advertising without reading the content, but in 2014 that number dropped to 42 percent. The Forrester study also showed that fewer people care how a company obtained their email address and more people find emails are a good way to obtain product information.
So, let’s back up and think about what all this means to you as an advisor rather than as a smartphone user. First, it means many of your clients expect to conduct business with you by phone. Second, those same clients, and maybe even more importantly your prospective clients, expect to easily read and navigate your website to find quality information on your company and services. Third, your contacts probably read your useful emails and they may even read your promotional correspondences as well!
Yep, that means game on! So stop right now and ask yourself if you have a solid digital marketing plan that incorporates all aspects of our technical world with special emphasis on mobile devices. If you don’t like your answer, now is the time to get going and use the remainder of 2015 to craft a strategy. Mobile growth is driving content, and you don’t want to be left at the side of the road.
Remember when twitter meant a bird’s song and a “#” was better known as a pound symbol? Barely, right? Today, twitter conjures up a blue bird company logo and its social media platform which boasts 302 million active monthly users who send 500 million tweets a day that often include a hashtag topic!
Yes, it was just back in 2006 when Twitter arrived on the social media platform scene, and a year later when hashtags redefined how we sort, promote and organize topics, content, products, events, and companies.
Today, hashtags also exist on other social media sites like Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram. While many businesses were initially slow to embrace them, hashtags are now an integral part of nearly all business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing and communication vehicles.
Understandably, compliance concerns left advisors hesitant to embrace the activity at first, but now more firms are creating social media policies and using companies like Smarsh for archiving and supervising content.
Whether you are a seasoned social media user, a newbie, or someone in between, chances are you could use a rundown on the latest Top 10 Hashtag Best Practices:
- Use relevant hashtags. Just as we Google the web using keywords and phrases, social media users look up information by pairing a hashtag symbol and a topic (for example: #wealth or #financialliteracy). Don’t include hashtags just to draw attention to yourself; if your content is not applicable, you will alienate followers.
- Research hashtags before you include them. While some hashtags may seem straightforward and have a singular reference in your mind, a quick search my turn up some surprising results. For instance on Twitter, #myRA does indeed provide some posts on the new U.S. Treasury Roth program, but it also shows posts regarding people named Myra! While you may often see a content mix, you want the majority of the posts to cover the topic you are targeting.
- Create new hashtags with care. Using a unique-to-you hashtag for your advisory firm, product, or a special event is a great way to generate conversations with your followers. Just carefully consider all interpretations (with upper and lower cases, and a mix of both) to check for unintentional meanings or references. Also, don’t make it so unique or unusual that people cannot remember it.
- Use your unique-to-you hashtag on all social media sites when possible. Be consistent and gain traction with all your followers and clients.
- Monitor your hashtags. A hashtag on a public account is viewable by all users of that social media site, and you cannot control the use of the hashtag conversation.
- Not all hashtags are created equal. Not surprisingly, there is often a huge collection of hashtag posts for a given topic on Twitter, while you may only see a handful of hashtag posts for a topic on LinkedIn. Other social media sites tend to fall somewhere in between.
- Less is more. Don’t use more than two hashtags in your tweets; any more, and the tweets look like spam!
- Sometimes the best hashtag is no hashtag. In a call to action tweet, skip hashtags and use a URL link instead to avoid confusion and properly direct followers (usually to your website).
- Use hashtags to monitor topics, industries or groups. Most likely, you have a number of hashtag topics worth tracking. With Twitter, consider using Twilert to streamline and manage the flow of information. The paid service provides several tracking options (for both the number of topics and the alert frequency) starting at just $9 a month for five searches and hourly/daily alerts.
- Hashtags count. The 140-character limit for tweets includes hashtags, whether they are used in a sentence or as a separate topic identifier.
Hashtags are a convenient social media phenomenon. They help us converse, listen, promote, and research a myriad of subjects. Don’t be afraid to use them!
For those of you who have heard me speak, you know I often counsel advisors in the financial services industry that the magic of digital marketing is content, contact and consistency. However, before you can go waving your wand and sprinkling magical marketing fairy dust everywhere in the wired world, you need an overarching plan and a strategy for each key component.
Take your Twitter activity for instance: does this marketing component have a stated purpose, a definition of success, and a way to measure your efforts? Interestingly, Twitter recently launched an Audience Insights dashboard to help improve measurement. However, before we dive into the analysis phase, consider your strategic purpose, which may be multi-faceted and encompass the following:
- Expanding your client base
- Pointing more people to your website
- Sharing your smarts to build customer trust and loyalty
- Promoting a special event
- Eliciting a call to action
Likewise, your may define you success on Twitter in multiple ways by considering increases in your number of:
- People who read your tweets
- People who re-tweet and/or carry on a conversation you initiate
- Click through rates to your website or your call to action
To measure those success points, you can view your Followers dashboard (a feature Twitter added last year) for a quick breakdown, or use the new Twitter Audience Insights dashboard for a more in-depth analysis. The Followers dashboard includes your number of followers, along with a percentage breakdown on the following audience characteristics:
- Interests (most and unique)
- Location (country, state, city)
- Who they follow
The new Audience Insights dashboard covers these same categories plus the percentage of your audience by:
- Lifestyle types
- Buying style
- Household Income
- Net worth
- Wireless carrier
- Marital status
In addition, the dashboard lets you compare your audience insights with all Twitter users.
Visit your Tweet activity page (also launched last year) to see a breakdown on your tweets, tweets and replies, and promotions by:
- Impressions (number of times users saw the tweet)
- Engagements (includes clicks on the tweets, retweets, replies, follows, and favorites)
- Engagement rate (engagements divided by the number of impressions)
Twitter is a valuable marketing tool. Make sure you develop, define and analyze your Twitter strategy within the context of your digital marketing ecosystem. No sense having that magical marketing dust going to waste!
With today’s increased focus on digital marketing and automation technology, the continual push for better access to goods and services through the Internet is inevitable. Equally understandable is the growing role of robo-advisors in the financial services arena.
The term robo-advisor brings to mind the futuristic scenes from RoboCop and creates an ominous worry for traditional advisors. How real is the worry, and what can you, as a seasoned advisor, do about it? Plenty!
First, start by accepting and understanding the goodness associated with robo-advisors; chiefly, that more people now have access to the world of investing. Many of the robo-advisor customers are young professionals just getting starte who are attracted to the lower entry minimums, the 24/7 data access, low fee schedule, and the ease of investing. Note that an increased knowledge base now means more savvy investors in the future who could conceivably go beyond this starting point and reach out to financial plan advisors in the future.
Next, realize that you cannot compete on price with these online investment management sites. The fees and the overhead costs are lower. Period.
Instead, you need to recognize the technology aspects you can address, while also differentiating your strengths from the algorithmic portfolio models commonly used by a robo-advisor.
This means you cannot ignore digital marketing! The Internet is not the problem, just as robo-advisors are not the problem. In fact, there really isn’t a problem, merely opportunities.
Your website, blogs, social media presence, and email newsletters must be an integral part of your marketing strategy. Nearly everyone, from Millennials to Gen X to Baby Boomers, wants and expects a solid and rich online presence. If you don’t have one, you’re considered old school (not in a good way) and out of touch, and your abilities are questioned.
How can you be knowledgeable and up-to-date about the latest trends and investment strategies if your digital marketing is suspect? You cannot.
Just as importantly, that digital marketing must say something about your value-add. Pretty pictures and graphics may attract attention, but you won’t keep a customer’s interest for long if you don’t provide a give and showcase your industry knowledge.
Clients and prospects want to know why they should work with you now and in the future. What do you offer that they can’t get from a robo-advisor? What is it about your skills and background that make you special?
Your day-in and day-out relationships matter as well. Yes, an online presence is vital, but do you also take the time to get to know your customers? Do you understand their wants and needs? Do you know what keeps them up at night?
The bottom line is: How can you help your clients and prospects? What can you do for them that no other advisor, and certainly no robo-advisor, can provide?
Craft your value-add, your mission statement, and your give carefully and with your customer in mind, and you will put yourself way beyond the commonplace and futuristic competition.
Quality content is vital for developing and communicating your brand on social media today. With educational and insightful posts you can help your clients and prospects by distinguishing your services, expertise, and knowledge. Yet, as a busy financial services professional you have a limited number of hours to work on your social media content.
To maximize your time you must create evergreen content, and then repurpose it. Now, this doesn’t mean copying everything you write on Facebook to LinkedIn. Instead, using evergreen content means following some basic planning and execution strategies to create longevity and multiple uses for your subject matter. Consider the following steps:
1. Create a topic list. In the financial services industry there are some key subjects you know your clients and prospects value. For example, if you’re a retirement plan advisor your employer followers probably care about how to pick a TPA, understanding ERISA, addressing the retirement needs for varying generations, and so on.
Make a list of your topic ideas and then consider subtopics. Take advantage of your vast knowledge base to make each of these subtopics a separate and distinct content item. You don’t have to spend hours researching each topic, just use what you know to cover each subject. Granted, you’ll want to stay abreast of industry changes, but those changes create additional opportunities for you to update or further illuminate a topic.
2. Consider your audience. As with your subject matter, list out your different audiences and target markets. While a specific topic may be vital to each group, your approach, tone and examples may vary among your followers.
You may not have to recreate an entire blog or post for each audience; instead only tweak the content a bit. Think of a politician on the campaign trail: they don’t create new speeches for every stop, they just tweak the opening and closing and keep the body the same!
3. Explore different content mediums. With today’s internet connectivity and various social media platforms, there are many ways to repurpose your content. With just one topic idea, you can share information using any or all of the following formats:
4. Promote across channels. Remember to link your content between your various social media sites when possible and applicable.
5. Re-share popular topics. Sometimes your content may be so good, it’s worth sharing more than once. For instance, a blog you wrote a year ago might be worth linking to again on your social media sites. Provide one or two lines outlining why it is still relevant. Also remember you have new followers who haven’t seen your older posts. And existing followers might not have seen the original post—and if they did, they may value a second read-through.
Evergreen content is recycling at its best, plus it’s a time-saver. Make your content interesting and valuable, be creative with your positioning, and you can easily become a financial services industry thought leader without spending hours pounding out social media content every day!
You can’t be an expert in everything, and you certainly can’t do every task imaginable to run your financial planning business. Instead, you align your strengths with key tasks and seek help where needed. You call on an accountant or attorney for tax and compliance issues, an admin for calendar management and clerical duties, and centers of influence for thought leadership and insight.
But who handles your social media? Do you write and post your own updates, or do you have an intern posting them?
Luckily, there isn’t one and only one way to address your social media needs. However, there is a careful balance to be considered if you delegate the work or seek outside help. Social media is an extension of you and your company; you cannot ignore your role in creating the purpose, content and voice of social media communications in your business.
Here’s why: we’ve all read social media posts that just don’t ring true. The content may be well written and interesting, but the posts just don’t sound like the person you know—and that little doubt makes you wonder what else may not be true. You want to avoid that scenario in your own social media communications.
To set yourself up for success, first determine how social media plays into your entire marketing plan. You cannot think of social media as singular and separate entity. It needs to align with your business value proposition and vision, and share the same voice.
Next you need to consider your audience and how the different social media sites work. Each one has a distinct style and followers tend to expect a certain attitude and form of sharing. You can certainly belong to several sites and target your postings accordingly. Your voice shouldn’t change drastically, but you can be more casual and personal on some sites, while others require more professional positioning.
If you opt to delegate the work of creating social media content (or even just a part of it), you must be prepared to share your social media plan and purpose with the people who will be helping you. Spend time outlining your strategy and discussing content and schedules. Consider creating an editorial calendar to outline and track your various postings.
Just as you wouldn’t send an intern to run a meeting with one of your best clients, don’t ask someone who isn’t yet qualified to manage your social media posts. You’re more likely to take an intern or new employee with you to a meeting or event to offer guidance and a learning opportunity. So adopt that same approach with your social media needs. Don’t put someone in a position they aren’t qualified to do; instead, help and train them first.
Make sure your guidance also includes a social media policy so your employees understand what is and isn’t okay when posting to social media on your behalf. Pay special attention to compliance issues and rules regarding monitoring and archiving, too.
Also, if you have an outside company helping you with content, just be sure to personalize the posts with a sentence or two introducing the subject, and note why you think it’s important.
Last, provide oversight and review of content once you do hand off some of the work. Remember, you are probably most in-tune with what your clients and prospects think and want to know via social media. Pay attention to those nuances, trends, and other industry cues—and make sure they are built into you social media conversations, no matter who creates and posts updates.
How is your social media strategy working for you? Driving lots of sales? No, I’m not surprised. Social media is not about selling; it is about creating relationships. Don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise!
Social media may seem like the perfect way to pitch your financial planning services, but it is not the place to sell. Instead, social media is the place to develop and make new connections, find centers of influence, and exchange ideas and information.
Social media does not replace traditional face-to-face networking and referrals, it just provides you with another way to reach people. Sure, setting up profiles and remaining active on your chosen sites takes time, but the work is well worth the expanded engagement opportunities.
Just make sure your social media use is strategic and a part of your overall marketing plan. Your content and voice should align with your other marketing efforts and you must participate consistently and with purpose. Likewise, remember your manners and be polite!
Want some specific strategies? Try these methods for improving your connections:
Conduct background research — Before you meet with a prospect spend five minutes reviewing their profile on LinkedIn to learn a bit more about their background and interests. You don’t have to reveal this knowledge, just keep it in mind when addressing their needs and how best to offer solutions.
Follow company activity — Companies are increasingly using social media to communicate with their employees. By following your clients and prospects on Facebook and Twitter you can learn about the company culture, benefit changes, and other nuances. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, “Social networkers can help business leaders, HR and ethics professionals improve workplace culture.”
Access your clients’ rolodex — Check out your current LinkedIn connections for new prospects by seeing and sorting their contact lists. Simply go to a client’s profile page and click on Connections in the lower right-hand corner of the main box. From here you can use key search words, like HR manager or CEO, find good prospects and then ask your contact for a personal introduction. Granted, some people are not as intentional as others with their connection lists, but never under estimate the power of a second-degree connection.
Find Centers of Influence — Search for industry experts, local business groups, and relevant thought leaders on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and follow their sites and posts. Consider joining a few LinkedIn groups, as well, to expand your knowledge base and share your expertise.
Well done, social media can provide meaningful connections and help build relationships. Granted, you will expose your connections to competitors, but remember your clients and prospects will judge you by the company you keep.
While “A picture is worth a thousand words,” in the world of social media a picture is worth more than words. With time constraints, character limitations, or worse, lengthy monologues, photos have the power to stop a feed scroll and make connections.
I’m an easy mark for bright colors and rich visual imagery; post a beach vacation with beautiful azures and panoramic vistas and I stop to look instantly. Humans are naturally drawn to aesthetically pleasing or provocative images that tell a story and make us feel. Causing an emotional reaction makes an image memorable.
Using pictures within social media has undeniable power. However, just as we use a different language and tone on different social media platforms, we should also use different criteria for picking photos.
• LinkedIn: Stick to more professional, or business-related photos. Photos with text are also a good bet for LinkedIn. A wonderful and easy app for editing and customizing photos is PicMonkey.
• Facebook and Twitter: Both sites offer a more informal setting for showing the humanity of your business. Your clients and potential clients want to get a glimpse behind the scenes and see your human side. Consider posting images that capture a great brainstorming session or an energetic team meeting. Did an employee grab a photo of you dressed up as Santa at the holiday party? Great! Post it. Facebook posts with photos generate 53% more likes than an average post without photos.
Here are some additional tips and considerations for using photos with your social media posts:
1. Use your cover photo to establish authority. Create an image that displays your credentials and accurately represents you, your company and its image.
2. Celebrate your interests and causes. Just like a person, your company needs a personality. Consider causes or lifestyle imagery that can be either humanizing or aspirational.
3. Use the proper photo size. The ideal photo size for Facebook and other social media sites is 403 pixels x 403 pixels.
4. Keep your clients interested. Assure your clients and social media fans that you haven’t hit the snooze button with your posts. Update your profile picture every month or two, and tie the change to new credentials, awards, or the seasons.
5. Create new leads. Tie cover photo changes to calls to action by directing clients to a newsletter or blog link, or even a request to add their emails.
6. Infographics. Have a teachable moment? If you have a lot of images that explain information, use an infographic to relay your message in a compelling manner with colorful pie charts, bar models, or pictures. Piktochart is a great site that can help you easily create your own infographics.
Your company and brand have some great stories to tell, so show them off with photos!
Don’t settle for long updates that get glossed over and lost in the social news feed. Engaging photos and infographics will help you connect more with your clients and prospects—and clients who feel more connected to your company are more likely to advocate for your brand.