Social media can be daunting, especially when starting from zero, says Simon Goldthorpe, but it can be a key tool for advisers to grow their businesses and burnish a good public reputation
In the 2010 film The Social Network, Sean Parker - played by Justin Timberlake - described the invention of Facebook as a ‘once in a generation holy-s**t idea!'. He wasn't wrong.
In just over 15 years, Facebook has grown from a million to 2.3 billion users. From changing the way we consume news to influencing the choice of people who govern us, it has become an intrinsic part of modern life.
The social media revolution doesn't end there. More than 500 million people are using Instagram every day and three-quarters (77%) of recruiters now use LinkedIn to source candidates. And let's not forget Twitter, where the leader of the free world conducts a significant amount of his international diplomacy.
If you're not already adept at social media, using it to market your firm may feel like venturing into the scary unknown. However, there are a number of straightforward and fool-proof ways financial advisers can use it to attract new business and keep in touch with existing contacts.
Here are the five fundamentals:
1. Positioning yourself as a go-to expert
Social media is the perfect shop window, particularly if you have a specific niche.
If, for example, you help first-time buyers, business owners or members of a certain profession (such as teachers or doctors), be sure to have this listed on your LinkedIn profile. Not only will this help people see where your areas of expertise lie more clearly, it will ensure you are flagged up to anyone searching for these terms.
Aim to keep all profiles professional, using a business headshot for your picture and avoiding any photos that are overly staged, filtered or low resolution.
2. Post useful content
Sharing useful, good-quality thought-leadership content is a great way to showcase intellectual capital and help burnish a reputation in areas of your expertise.
Content should seek to help people increase their knowledge on a given subject, or understand how they can solve problems. If writing isn't something you enjoy - think about videos, case studies or even podcasts as an alternative to help bring your skillset to life.
3. Post regularly… but not too regularly
Social media is about quality, not quantity. Aim to post something a couple of times a week and engage with anyone interacting with you.
Creating a high-level content plan will help you stay on track and ensure content is varied for those following you on different platforms. Rather than simply posting a link to one blog on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profile at the same time, alternate what you are posting to encourage people to keep engaging with each of your different channels.
4. Engage with followers
Since there's never a time where social media is really ‘off', posting once a month is unlikely to be enough to drive engagement. As such, it's important you're looking to log on frequently and get involved.
Aside from posting regular content, make sure you're keeping track of the responses given by other social media users. This feedback opens up opportunities for interaction and can provide useful insights on your audience too.
You should like other posts, reply to messages, and engage in conversations about subjects in which you're an expert. By doing this, you will build genuine, long-lasting relationships.
This may seem onerous in the beginning, but it's worth getting into the habit to generate genuine engagement with your audience.
5. Be proactive with prospects
If the aim is to generate business leads, you want to move prospects into your database so that you can cultivate a relationship.
Building a social media presence and increasing your online influence will take prospects on a journey to a point where they are comfortable interacting with you. Once people are ready to interact, your website can be used to facilitate further opt-in opportunities - creating guides, newsletters and invitations to seminars or events are good places to start.
Social media can be an excellent way of cultivating relationships you may not have had the opportunity to make in person. Once that's been achieved, you can look to nurture them offline.
Simon Goldthorpe is chairman of Beaufort Group
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