For advisors to get the most out of social media requires a strong consistent approach. Marie Swift, the Marketing Maven, offers these six handy strategies:
1. FOLLOW IMPORTANT PEOPLE
Follow and interact with journalists who write about personal finance. Watch for ways to add value and build rapport. Youll be learning as you read their posts and follow their links. Youll find good content to share with your followers. Youll be getting a feel for whats of interest to that journalist.
If determine that youd be a good resource for the journalist and decide to pitch a story idea, dont do it publically on Twitter. Send a Twitter direct message (DM), which is a short private comment, or an email.
Be careful not to overstep traditional business boundaries. No one likes it when someone is just using their Twitter handle in posts to promote a product or to seem more important. Ill often chastise (and then officially block) Twitter followers who post inappropriate or spam-type content.
Follow VIPs and industry influential and retweet their posts or comment on their tweets. Be sincere and judicious. Being seen in the company of other like-minded professionals who share your values, especially if they have a bigger brand name than your own, is a good way to create alignment and expand visibility online.
But dont expect or ask that people follow you back just because you are following them. You need to earn your followers. Ive gathered over 2500 followers, not by asking for followers, but by trying to add value.
Also prune your list of who you follow from time to time. Im following over 500 people, which frankly is a gradual creep. Its way too many people to really track and keep up with. To make it manageable I plan to go through from oldest to newest followers and unfollow a bunch of folks.
2. SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS
No one really wants to know what youre making for dinner unless its an old family recipe and has some sort of real meaning. But tweeting occasionally from a conference with highlights, or upon returning from a family reunion? Thats a good thing to do because it gives followers a sense of who you are as a person on the planet, not just a business professional.
Photos can also be good. Use your smartphone to capture something interesting at that FPA conference. Post snapshots of things you do in and around the community. If you volunteer at a food bank, for example, have someone take a photo of you helping out. Post that with a short tweet to give context without seeming too boastful.
When theres nothing going on at your firm or in your personal life that would be appropriate to share on Twitter, send out a motivational quote that resonates with you and shows your true colors. Tee these up on an automated scheduling system such as HootSuite.com. This will keep a steady stream of content going while you come up with your own more focused content related to your professional acumen and good works in the community.
Bottom line: Be yourself, but be your best professional self.
3. MIND YOUR MANNERS
Exercise good judgment when posting. While you may sometimes try to be clever, dont be overly flip or sarcastic as that can be misunderstood or put people off. Dont be boastful no body likes a chest thumper. And never ever post when you are tired, emotional or drinking thats a recipe for disaster.
Remember that once you post content online, you may never be able to take it back; even if it looks like its gone from the social media site, the search engine spiders may have cataloged and cached it. Think twice before you hit post. Watch your grammar and spelling too. Manners count. Always take the high road.
Be sure to look periodically at the people who follow you on social sites, especially Twitter. Block the people who seem like they may be up to no good (for instance, blatant spammers who use your Twitter handle just to get your attention and the attention of your Twitter followers). A
On the flip side, be sure to thank people who are behaving well and following good Twitter etiquette. Thank them for following you and retweeting or favoriting your posts. Try to engage people in meaningful conversations (if your compliance department allows that kind of interactivity).
4. JOIN THE COMMUNITY
The biggest mistake advisors make on Twitter (and on any social media site) is to be overly promotional. It is better to promote good ideas and helpful information than it is to overtly promote ones services on social media sites.
Advisors should work hard to be seen as part of a community of like-minded people. They should stand out as the helpful expert who has others best interests in mind. Advisors are wise to promote other people more than they promote themselves directly. Pointing to good information that others have provided is a great way to position oneself as a helpful expert, not simply a sales professional.
The other mistake advisors make is not being active enough on social sites, particularly Twitter. A good rule of thumb is to tweet 3-4 times a day, at intermittent times, not all at once. Using a scheduling system such as HootSuite.com can help you create and push out a steady stream of good information.
Its okay to serve up the same tweet a couple times, if spaced out over an appropriate time period. For instance, if you have a seminar coming up, you could tweet a comment that invites people to attend and a link to the registration page on your site. A week later, change the comment but keep the link and send that out, using your HootSuite.com scheduling system. A week later, add a little more about the event teasing the information out over time. As the event draws near, tweet reminders about the deadline for registration and that its not too late to register.
Use hashtags such as #advisortalk or #T32013 to aggregate content that would be of interest to a particular community of people.
5. GET HELP
Some advisors are hiring social media directors who not only help with set up and strategy but to orchestrate the ongoing social media work effort. Other advisors are asking their office managers and marketing directors to take this on.
If you have a relationship with a PR and marketing firm, that outsourced work partner can help with social media strategy, set up and ongoing content creation.
Some broker/dealers such as LPL, Transamerica and Securities America are partnering with specialty firms such as Wired Advisor, Financial Social Media and Impact Communications to offer turnkey services and support.
6. BE CONSISTENT
Think of tending to your social media sites like you are tending a community park. Dont just put in the garden, plant some trees and install a nice park bench. Trim the trees, water the flowers, pull the weeds and repaint the park bench from time to time.
After a while, youll see the right types of people gathering in your park. They may even help you keep it fresh and fun, while bringing other desirable people into view.
You can use this diagnostic tool to find out if there gaps in your online presence. If you have other suggestions or comments, Id love to hear them. Simply post your thoughts in the comments area below.
DIG DEEPER: 4 Advanced Twitter Tips for Advisors
Marie Swift (@marieswift on Twitter) and her team at Impact Communications have been working with independent financial advisors and allied institutions for twenty years. While the tools have changed, the communication essentials never do. Learn more at www.ImpactCommunications.org.