Protection expert Roger Edwards on the merits of social media - and how it can provide some of the most honest feedback you'll ever hear…
Social media has become the buzz topic of marketers, PRs and consultants in just about every industry on Earth. But there remains a sense that many are still trying to work out where it fits with their overall marketing and communications strategy.
I use social media. Am I an expert in it? No, and I would not believe the claims of any consultants who say they are, because the medium is still evolving. Daily. All anyone can do is claim to have had more experience with social media.
So what is it? To put it simply, it is the web equivalent of traditional networking and word-of-mouth, something that IFAs are already good at. It is all about having a conversation with customers and potential customers and building a community around your brand and service. If used effectively, it can bring enormous benefits to a business; improve service levels, boost word-of-mouth business and bring in repeat business.
You can turn customers into advocates by engaging with them and gaining their loyalty. In order to do this, a business has to think about what it can contribute to social media and how best to engage with its customers.
I like to think of it as a spider's web of information, with data flowing out from a central point and returning to that same hub. A blog site with interesting and topical opinions can act as the centre piece. Twitter ‘tweets', Facebook and Linkedin posts can drive customers to the blog which itself might contain links to your main business website.
By also creating links to other blogs and related sites, you can very quickly create strands that start to make patterns that Google can identify. Such social media activity immediately increases online visibility regardless of whether or not the company has a website, because social media sites are very search engine friendly.
Advisers who use social media have told me that they can't sell directly off it - but it creates a forum for engaging with people and building up trust which will eventually lead to new business.
Facebook and Twitter can strengthen the strands you lay down. In the same way as someone may ‘like' a Facebook post about you relaxing with a glass of wine, a Facebook ‘Like' button built into every page of your website will allow your customers to create links back to you.
Social media also allows you to monitor what others are saying about your business, meaning that you can react quickly to both positive and negative feedback. Some advisers have been able to address customer concerns simply by reading what they are tweeting.
Getting to know social media personally, at first, is a much easier way of entering into the space. Time is the only start up cost and you will be surprised at how useful it is for both personal and business-to-business networking.
Roger Edwards is proposition director at Bright Grey and Scottish Provident
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From 1 March