Tuesday 27 June 2017

Key things every adviser should – and should never – do when it comes to social media

Social media can be an effective way to market your financial advice practice, connect with your existing clients and promote your services to people who wouldn’t otherwise find you. So how do you get social media working for you while avoiding the common pitfalls? To find out we asked one of Australia’s leading experts on social media, Karalee Evans, Head of Social at Bastion Effect.

1. Find your authentic voice

The first step in mastering social media as a marketing tool is to find your authentic voice, Evans says. And you can’t do that without first understanding who you’re targeting and what you can offer them.

“Don't try and be all things to all people”, Evans says. “There are so many businesses all floundering on social as they don't have authentic voices. Australians want to know why they should follow you, and why you should take up valuable real estate in their social media feed.”

Evans suggests that the only way you can do this to make the value you add clear and to use social media as an opportunity not to sell, but to help your audience and demonstrate what sets your business apart from the competitors.

2. Be prepared to pay

Because it costs nothing to set up a social media account, many people fall into the trap of seeing social media as free marketing. But Evans explains that good social media marketing actually requires a proper investment - both in time and money.

The financial adviser’s guide to social media

“Social media is not free,” she explains. “From 'zero reach' to content production to community and audience engagement, the time you put in equals the results out.”

Evans says that the cost of using social media well also now extends beyond the time taken to develop content and monitor a social media account.

Most social media channels now offer users the chance to pay for a post to appear in front of a target audience, through ‘boosting’ or ‘sponsoring’ content. And Evans says financial advisers who are serious about growing an audience through social media should take advantage of this option.

“The main social media channels have little to no organic reach now,” she explains. “That means brands needs to ‘boost’ their content to be seen.”

3. Stop thinking about likes

Evans says that for newcomers it’s easy to get addicted to the ‘vanity metrics’ of likes and shares. But these count for nothing in the end (You can’t bank a ‘like’, after all). If you really want to analyse the effectiveness of your social media efforts there are more important metrics to follow.

“We can measure social media as well as any other marketing channel. Cost per action, return on investment, cost per clicks and cost per leads are all common metrics that enable businesses to understand the value of social media, and how it is driving results for their products.”

Read more about measuring return on investment for social media.

4. Understand your audience

Evans says that a mistake many businesses make is not taking the time to understand who their audience is and why they’re on a particular platform. That can make it very hard to cut through in an environment where people have so many other messages competing for their attention.”

“While they’re on Facebook to connect with their friends or on Instagram to check out the latest holiday destination, they are also open to looking at products and services they’re interested in,” she says. “The problem is that they have on average, more than 200 brands trying to communicate to them on social media every day.”

Getting it right is both a science and an art - and one that requires a proper time investment and a willingness to experiment.

5. Invest in experimenting

Speaking of which, Evans suggests that, when they’re beginning with social media, a financial advice business should commit time each week developing content, responding to comments, looking at analytics and trying new things.

“Don’t be afraid to learn as you go,” she says. “But make use of the channel’s insights and analytics to make decisions about what is working and what’s not and go from there.”

6. Don’t mix advice and social content

When it comes specifically to financial advice, Evans says that it’s important to understand and adhere to both the law, as well as each social media channel’s terms of service. “As in any other channel, providing financial advice shouldn’t be part of your content calendar,” she points out.

Instead, your focus should be on priming audiences to understand the value of financial services. “Help your potential customers know why you’re the best and use happy customers to advocate for you transparently, on social media,” she suggests.

“Tell their stories in engaging content to use on your Facebook or LinkedIn and let customers bring you new customers through a review and referral program.”

7 social media risks advisers should prepare for

7. Be honest about what’s involved

While a quick Google search for ‘social media disaster’ pulls up more than 51,700,000 results, Evans is more worried about the small disasters that happen every day for Australian businesses who waste time and money on social media because they’re not prepared to use it properly.

“These are brands who don’t understand how to successfully engage with audiences online. The brands who started Facebook Pages and haven’t updated them for over a year. The brands who underestimated the cost required, and just share or re-purpose meme-based popular culture content. Don’t be one of those brands!”

Be upfront with what’s involved in doing social media well. And if you’re not prepared to make that commitment, walk away.

8. Get buy in

Evans believes that, when it comes to social media, the most successful businesses she’s worked with have all had one thing in common: “The whole of the business understood the social media plan and the business had agreement and buy-in.”

To this end, Evans argues that you will only ever succeed with social media if the main stakeholders in your business – i.e. the owners and managers – all believe in the strategy and contribute and support it, and are prepared to add their voices and ideas.

“You don’t need to be a big, multi-national to succeed online,” she says. “You just need to have stakeholder buy-in, an authentic voice with a purpose, a ‘test and learn’ mentality and a passion for transparent communications.”

9. Make sure the other parts of your business aren’t letting you down

The final piece of advice Evans gives is to always remember that social media isn’t a vacuum. You could have the most amazing social media presence ever but if the other parts of your business aren’t up to the task also, it will count for nothing.

“You could be the best, most successful business on social media;’ she explains.

“However, if your services aren’t up to par, your customer service approach is lacking or your products aren’t up to scratch, social won’t grow your business.”

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