With a well-executed social media plan, current and prospective clients will see you as a trusted friend and ally--and when they need your services, they will call on you.
Traditional media and social media function with some similarities. Both share information with the reader or subscriber. Both types of media inform, educate, entertain, and often have an opinion to stand behind.
One of the first priorities in building a media presence is to know your audience and how they will best connect with your media messages. First, look at the demographics of the client base. Then, survey clients and prospects and ask them what type of media they use most:
> Blog Posts
> Other: _____________
This can help you prioritize your outreach efforts and target those outlets with the biggest impact for your audience.
If social media is going to be a part of your strategy, be sure to ask yourself the following questions before you build your online presence:
> What is your goal?
> Who is your audience?
> How much time do you have to dedicate to social media?
Also remember that each financial services company will have specific social media compliance rules and recommendation for their financial advisors. In addition, consult the FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06: Social Media Web Sites – Guidance on Blogs and Social Media Websites as well as the CFP board's Social Media Guide for CFP® Professionals.
And one more thing for your reading list ... my own top 10 tips for social media success:
The most powerful social media tip and a best practice for all marketing is to stop talking and start listening. Social media is a conversation. When you listen quietly to what your audience is talking about and then politely join in the conversation, social media becomes a connection between like-minded people sharing opinions and similar needs.
Peter Drucker said, "The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customers so well the product or service fits him or her and sells itself."
2. Be Relevant
The information you provide must be relevant to the conversation you are joining. It must be pertinent and helpful. Is your Facebook post tied directly to information important for your audience to know right now? Is it tied to a current event? By sharing this information, will the people in your conversation benefit directly?
3. Headlines and Length: Less Is More
Do not overlook the power of your headline. Readers respond to headlines offering information that is relevant to a problem they are hoping to fix. For example, this headline is too long: "The Importance of Estate Planning to an Overall Financial Plan." But this headline is more immediately pertinent and relevant: "5 Reasons You Need an Estate Plan." Remember, social media is scanned quickly. Short is the new long.
4. Enough About Us…Let's Talk About the Customer
Once you know your audience and you have listened to the questions they are asking and the topics that interest them, you will be ready to blog. Unfortunately many bloggers focus only on writing about what they do and how their products or services are better, faster, or more reliable. Meanwhile, readers are hoping you will talk about them and their needs. When your product or service discussions start with customers' needs, it will be much more relevant.
5. Boost Open Rates With Images
Research is showing the importance that each image has on the open rate of your blog posts. The open rates on my social media and blog posts increase exponentially based on the images that I choose to pair with the information I am sharing. For instance, the open rate on two of my personal Facebook posts were greatly enhanced by images: One received over 90 likes and 12 comments, and the second post received 160 likes and 29 comments. Why? Because the images compelled my friends to want to know more about what I was sharing in my social media. They wanted to know what it felt like to go skydiving! The images I posted on my social media outlets dramatically increased the number of people who took the time to look at the post, like the post, and comment on the post.
6. Be Consistent
Delivering content on a regular basis is one of the keys to building your social media presence. If you tell your audience you will be delivering relevant content to them on specific dates, then be consistent in your delivery. If you can't commit to a consistent presence on a specific social media outlet, then carefully consider whether you should have any presence on that outlet at all.
7. Use Lists
Sharing lists in social media is one of the most popular forms of exchanging valuable and relevant information. Recently, I wrote an article titled "77 Books That Changed My Life & 3 Recommendations to Help You Read More." My personal recommended reading list received more than 2,000 shares and 603 Facebook likes. Why? Because people like digestible lists with catchy titles that they believe will add some value to their lives. This is what good social media does. That Internet post had nothing to do with Allyson Lewis. But it had everything to do with helping others.
8. Make Content Scannable and Digestible
Writing for the Internet is different from traditional media. You instantly notice I used a "Top 10" headline on this article to grab your attention. Then, this article features a numerical list format using a boldface, numbered list with short , easy-to-scan information. Current Internet writing best practices teach that your articles or blog posts should break up your information with boldface headers after every three or four sentences. This allows your reader to quickly decide if the information is useful and valuable.
9. Brush Up on Social Media Basics
Do you know the true importance of SEO, keyword optimization, meta tags, Google Analytics, backlinks, shares, likes, comments, guest blogging, and Hashtags? Building a social media audience is important. Even more important is building a social media audience relevant to your business and the products and services you offer. The tools of social media can help you reach the right network of people by helping them find your content when they need it.
10. Don't Forget the Big Picture: Helping Clients
Financial advisors certainly can increase their visibility by following the best practices of social media. But great financial advisors will create a loyal client base only by truly helping their clients. That means sharing valuable information and backing up their social connections with high-quality advice and service built on integrity and trust. Social media is a great way to extend and strengthen client relationships but is no replacement for the fundamentals of running a sound practice focused on helping your clients meet their financial goals and dreams.
I am primarily seen as an expert on time management, productivity, and organization. Notice in this article not one thing was mentioned about time management until this epilogue, which I would not have added except to prove a point. Time management is very important to financial advisors, so why am I writing a series of articles on social media and marketing?
Because social media marketing works. As you engage readers via social media in your target markets, your audience will begin to know you. They will begin to see you as a trusted friend--a likeable ally--and when they need your services, they will call on you. Selling ends and helping begins.
But also, building your social media marketing network takes time. How do I know? We currently have:
> 12,900 Email Subscribers
> 6,564 Twitter Followers
> 4,430 Facebook Likes
That didn't happen overnight. For instance, each article I write for MorningstarAdvisor.com requires hours of research, writing, and editing. I personally work very hard to ensure that my articles and social media offer valuable, compelling, and useful information. Yet, the only mention of how you can connect with me on social media is in the author's resource box at the bottom of each article. You have to be dedicated to consistently creating valuable content over time in order to build a meaningful following--but the results can be well worth the effort!