How to use social media to connect with customers and prospects
Financial advisers are increasingly turning to social media as a way to engage with new clients and build deeper relationships with existing ones. So, if your practice hasn’t yet started reaping the benefits of social media, here’s our guide to getting started.
The importance of planning
When it comes to using social media the worst thing you can do is rush in. Instead, start by figuring out exactly who you’re talking to, and how you want to engage with them - whether that’s through long articles, videos, visuals or a combination of methods. To guard against the risks of something going wrong, you should also make sure you have a social media policy in place.
The next question to ask yourself is which social media platform or platforms to use. Don’t try to master them all. Social media requires constant effort and most financial advisers simply don’t have the time or resources to master more than one or two channels.
Which social media channel is right for you?
The social media channel you choose should depend on the audience you’re trying to reach. In the same way people choose different newspapers or magazines to read, different demographics tend to gravitate towards different social media channels. You should also think about the type of content you want to produce, as well as which channel you’re most comfortable using.
Here’s a quick guide to five of the most popular social media channels.
Facebook is easily the most popular social media platform with more than 16 million Australian users. That translates to 65% of the entire Australian population and 71% of all Internet users. If you’re not on Facebook yet, you’ll need to setup a personal profile before you can set up a company page.
Who uses it? Almost everyone. Regardless of their age or social status, chances are the audience you’re targeting will be on Facebook. Don’t mistake it for being only a young person’s platform. More than 4.25m of Australia’s Facebook users are over 45 years old. Older users are also often more active: baby boomers are 1.8 times more likely to share posts than Generation X.
Good for: Connecting with a wide audience from millennials through to senior citizens. Paid Facebook advertising (you only need to spend a few hundred dollars) also lets you target specific market segments (age, location, occupation and more). Facebook’s review function means clients can recommend your services, acting as a powerful digital word of mouth.
Minuses: There is a lot of competition for attention. That can mean without paying to ‘boost’ a post, it may struggle to appear in people’s rapidly-changing feeds.
Created to make and share videos, one in two Australians now use Google-owned YouTube. That’s good news when you consider that videos aren’t just becoming easier to make, they also often have great built-in SEO benefits. So it’s no surprise that many businesses are taking to YouTube as a way to communicate their message and win new work.
Who uses it? The biggest users come from the 25-34 age group and YouTube’s demographics skew slightly male. However, like Facebook, it appeals to a wide range of people.
Good for: How to videos, interviews, market analysis (PowerPoint style slides), and anything that lends itself to film footage.
Minuses: You need to invest properly in video - wobbly amateur video won’t cut it and could turn clients off.
Image-based and Facebook-owned, Instagram is doing its best to increase its appeal to businesses. One in five Australians now uses Instagram to share photos and videos and the audience is growing fast. So, if you can find a way to post photos and visually represent your points of difference it could work.
Who uses it? Instagram’s core audience is young (it’s most popular with 18-29 year olds) and female but it is broadening its appeal. Instagram users tend to be quite active with 59% checking in each day and more than a third doing so multiple times each day.
Good for: Visual content, including short videos.
Minuses: Not good for the written word. You’ll need to keep your posts visual.
The professional networking platform, LinkedIn is often favoured by B2B marketers because it gives them the chance to target specific organisations and people within them. If you want to speak to a professional audience - as many financial advisers do - it can be an effective way to reach them.
Who uses it? LinkedIn has almost 7 million Australian users and skews male (56-44). More than 61% of its users come from the sought after 30-64 demographic .
Good for: Statistics show LinkedIn is good for prospecting. One of the most effective ways to do this is by posting long content, particularly articles 500 words or longer. You can also join and even start groups centred on common interests and can specifically target people by industry, geography and job title.
Minuses: Because it’s a professional network it’s less ingrained in many people’s day-to-day lives than Facebook.
As much a news service as a social media platform, Twitter is great for sharing stories and content. But you need to be brief: posts must be less than 140 characters, although you can – and should – link out to longer pieces. If you want to connect your posts to broader discussions and make them searchable, you’ll also need to master hashtags.
Who uses it? It may not be the social media darling it once was, but with more than 2.8m active Australian users each month, Twitter remains popular. Most compelling is that statistics reveal 66% of Twitter users have discovered a new small or medium-sized business (SME) through the network, 79% have retweeted an SMB’s post, and 94% plan to make a purchase from the SMBs they follow. Twitter is one of the youngest of all the social networks. Only 13% of Tweeters are over 50, although one happens to be the US president.
Good for: Democratising content. Your posts have the potential to go viral quickly if you get it right. You can do this by using hashtags (denoted by #) to indicate the topic you’re posting on (eg #financialadvice). This means that when a person searches for a topic on Twitter, your post may appear in their search results.
Minuses: Twitter’s strong news focus means you need to generate content that is in itself newsworthy or spend time to come up with a newsworthy commentary or comments on relevant news. Also, your posts won’t hang around long - just 24 minutes according to one estimate - so that means you need to be more active than on many other platforms.
Other social media platforms
While we’ve covered some of the major social media platforms, there’s really no limit to where you might find potential clients lurking. Some of the lesser known platforms can be great for targeting particular groups. For instance, Chinese app WeChat has over 800 million users globally, and a high uptake among Chinese Australians too.
There’s also Pinterest (female and visual), Snapchat (young, video-based), Google+ (great for SEO), Tumblr (young, theme-based), Flickr (photo sharing), Reddit (young, male, news-based), Vine (short videos), BizSugar (for small businesses), and many, many more.
Case study: How one financial adviser built his practice using social media
Few financial advisers can claim to have used social media more effectively than US-based Michael Kitces.
Kitces used a combination of Twitter and his blog to build his practice to the point where he had quadrupled his income within four years. Central to Kitces’ approach has been producing quality content on his blog which commentates on the business of being a financial adviser - something for which he has found a ready audience with more than 35,800 Twitter followers and a mailing list of more than 20,000 financial advisers.
In the process, Kitces has managed to position himself as a thought leader on financial advice generally and he is regularly called on to commentate on financial matters in the mainstream media. But he says that advisers need to be doing more than just building a following if they hope to use Twitter - or other social media - to build more work.
His approach is to treat social media as a cog in his marketing wheel, through which he can distribute his content and drive people back to his website.
“A well-designed website with high quality content is what actually converts people into clients,” he told the Financial Times.