Posts tagged social networking
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 the days of cellular flip phones and how happy you were to have access to your email? Granted, getting to your mail was often cumbersome and the small screen only let you see a sentence or two at a time. Yet, the capability was cool and helpful.
Fast-forward to 2015 and now you can do nearly everything with your smartphone that you can manage on a laptop. You can easily read your emails, open attachments, surf the web, and watch videos.
Whew! The technology advancements are truly amazing! While you may be enjoying the latest smartphone capabilities, are your clients? What do they see when they access your website, apps, attachments, and email?
According to a recent report by Salesforce, businesses must plan “with a mobile-first mindset” this year.
Yep, just when you thought you had everything figured out for digital communication, now you need to adjust your thinking toward an increasing necessity for mobile responsive designs! Just what does that mean?
Well, with mobile responsive design, a website easily adjusts or scales for viewing on a phone or tablet. If your website doesn’t have this capability then mobile viewers have a difficult time navigating and pages can take a long time to load. (On the techy side, there are a couple ways a website can adjust—responsive or adaptive—but don’t worry about the difference; just make sure your website creator understands the best option for you.)
Beyond your webpage, you need to think about the emails (which might include your newsletters) that you send clients and prospects since some 75 percent of adults now read and send email via their smartphones. For instance, consider the following:
- Subject line. Make them short and to the point so a mobile viewer can quickly determine if they want to open your emails. Listen in to my recent podcast with Susan Weiner for more tips about email subject lines and structure.
- Content. Engaging and worthwhile content is imperative regardless of the vehicle, but is especially important with mobile devices.
- Design 1. Keep the file size relatively small for your headers, photos and other graphics so they don’t bog down the time it takes to load your email.
- Design 2. For newsletters in an HTML format, consider multiple columns rather than one, so when viewers zoom in they don’t have to scroll left and right to see the content. Also make sure they are coded to adjust for screen size with media queries.
- Links. Your phone number, social media sites, website, and calls to action should be hotlinks or buttons that are easy to use and launch with a thumb.
Thankfully, some mobile marketing features are more B2C oriented, so you don’t have to worry too much about SMS (Short Message Service—those promo text messages/reminders we agree to receive from companies), website personalization, or location-based mobile tracking.
The technical capabilities of smartphones and tablets are only bound to keep improving. Make sure you don’t get left behind; remember, the days of the flip phone are long gone!
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.
The Internet is an endless repository of all things, wonderful and meaningless, incredible and absurd. But even the most meaningless and silly of information will exist . . . forever. For this reason we must be mindful of our own social media updates, posts, and conversations, both in our personal and professional lives.
Recently a friend and fellow financial services geek related a simple, everyday conversation with her niece she thought was harmless. Her young relative was debating which of two movies she should go see and my friend suggested a tactic she had used in her youth: paying for one and then sneaking into both. While the advice itself was questionable, what clearly was a mis-step was conducting this exchange on a very public social media network: Facebook.
Often we are blinded by the novelty and the ‘community’ aspect of Facebook and other social networks. In this bubble we can perceive a false sense of security and post whatever is on our mind. Yet, these platforms are, after all, networks. They are built to pass information through digital osmosis.
What if my friend’s customers had seen her admission of theft? It troubled me so I asked her how she would feel if a customer had paid for one thing from her, but stolen a second. She was somewhat perplexed: the conversation with her niece was on her personal Facebook account, so what did it matter?
Unfortunately, today it matters a lot. Clearly, the best rule of thumb given the transparent and long-lived nature of the Internet, is only post comments you would be comfortable seeing the next day on the cover of The New York Times.
As an entrepreneur, financial advisor, and individual, you must find the right balance of professionalism and authenticity on social networks. This social media tightrope is possible, and it’s not hard if you consider this advice before pressing “update” or “share.”
1. Be personable and respectful. So much of business today is about relationship building and being authentic. It’s okay to post photos of your dog (my Newfoundland, Aboo, is a regular star on my Facebook site) and comment on great restaurants, pubs, and local events. Feel free to share news items and your insights as well—just make sure your views are respectful and won’t offend your clients or prospects.
2. Tailor voice and approach to each network. Each social media platform has a unique vibe, so vary your posts accordingly.
• Facebook is casual and friendly, and a good site for sharing stories and pictures of your office or company picnic.
• LinkedIn is your place for providing thought-leadership commentary and more professional conversations.
• Twitter lets you combine both approaches by injecting some fun observations along with professional notes of interest.
3. Make wise photos choices. Before you post a photo of yourself on Facebook, consider the following: Who else is in the photo? What are the circumstances? How would it look to others who don’t know you well? Often an innocent picture captured at a networking mixer can be misconstrued as a “party” picture.
4. Update carefully. With mobile apps for updating your status, it’s easy to let your professionalism take a back seat. However, even when updating from your smartphone you must be cognizant of your word choices. In addition, be careful about posting constant stream-of-consciousness updates. I’ve known of a few advisors whose observations have gone awry and been misconstrued.
5. Check-in when appropriate. Are you at the right place at the wrong time? Wrong place at the wrong time? Either way, before you get too excited about checking in to a locale, make sure it’s somewhere you are a) proud to be b) would admit to your mother and c) would be client-appropriate.
6. Use social graces. Remember, your words will live on for many years; so make sure you consider tone and word choice with your postings. Emoticon winks to indicate you are ‘kidding’ are not enough to ensure your light-hearted intention will be taken the right way.
7. Consider compliance and regulatory rules. Many companies and broker/dealer firms have social media policies you must follow when engaging online. Even if there isn’t a stated policy, be careful with recommendations and casual product-based discussions.