By now you’ve read all the myriad ways to start marketing through social media in Part 1 (In the Game: New Rules for Social Media) and Part 2 (In the Game: New Rules for Social Media Part 2) of our debut In the Game column.
But with all these ideas comes one fairly sizeable risk: fear of wasting too much time on social networking—in addition to uncertainty over the effectiveness of that networking—has kept many advisors who are interested in using social media on the sidelines. But like anything else, once you know how to use social media efficiently, you will start seeing results. Here, in our final look into the rules of social media under FINRA’s new guidelines we reveal how to avoid the major faux pas of adding social networking into your marketing plan—the time suck.
AVOIDING THE TIME SUCK
To avoid wasting time on social media, advisors should focus on their target market and centers of influence, not just catch up with old college buddies. One way to make sure of this is to see whether your clients are online—and if they are, which sites they’re using. After all, there’s no point in having a Facebook profile if none of your target market uses that site. One tip to keep in mind, however: Women over the age of 60 are the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook right now, says Kristen Luke, principal of Wealth Management Marketing. Surprised?
You can begin to find out if your clients are social networking by simply asking them in their quarterly meetings or by adding a question to your annual client surveys. If you don’t feel comfortable asking clients if they participate, let them take the reins by adding links to your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to your monthly client newsletter.
Just how long should you be spending on social media? To get started, Allie Herzog, president of Integrate PR, recommends spending an hour each day across all of the sites getting comfortable with the conversations, joining industry groups and trying out the different tools. Once you feel comfortable on each of the sites—this could take a few weeks—spending just three hours a week on social media efforts can provide significant results, Herzog says. That’s not so bad now, is it?
To keep track of the amount of time spent using social media, Luke suggests setting aside an hour one day a week, say every Monday, to read an interesting article and post about it on a LinkedIn group’s discussion board and on Twitter. Luke also recommends using applications like Hoot Tweet, which allows users to schedule all their Tweets for the week.
PATIENCE IS KEY
Like all good marketing plans, results are important. But experts insist on being patient with seeing results from social networking—and to expect opportunities to acquire clients, rather than direct referrals.
“Even those who are great at this say it can take a year to get a client,” Luke says.
That’s how long it took for one of Luke’s clients who has heavily integrated social media into her firm’s marketing plan to acquire a client directly from her efforts. However, thanks to the online presence she built for herself, the client was asked to speak at several industry events and was quoted in various magazine articles—all of which produced a bevy of new clientele. See, patience really is key; all you have to do is stay open to the opportunities that may arise through social media.
Patience was also important for Carl Richards (Movers and Shakers 2010). Richards, founder of planning firm Prasada Capital, is now a staunch believer in the power of social media, which he equates to “going to lunch with 1,000 people any time you want.” Not long ago, Richards emailed The New York Times columnist Ron Leiber and told him he appreciated the work he was doing for the planning industry. After several email exchanges—and a quick look at Richards’ Twitter account (@behaviorgap) and blog, www.BehaviorGap.com, Leiber offered him an opportunity to be a guest expert on the NYT’s “Bucks” blog. Today, Richards is quickly climbing the ranks of the social media universe and is one of the leaders in this space amongst financial planners.
“All you have to do is start saying things you passionately believe in,” Richards says. “I’ve been doing this for five years, pretty heavily for two, and for the first one and a half years it was cricketville—not a word. Then, slowly, one to two people started communicating. It’s amazing what you can accomplish.”