How popular platforms can expand your client base.
For years, using social media sites to stay connected with friends, family and other contacts has been a convenient pleasure. But during the pandemic, these communication channels became a necessity, both for personal and business purposes. And, while we can expect to see a resurgence of in-person communication as pandemic-based restrictions fade away, future-minded advisors should give some serious thought to keeping the social media component of their business in motion, and perhaps even enhancing it.
The advantages associated with running a fully functional social media strategy are clear, especially when you consider the numbers. Every age demographic has seen a significant increase in social media use during the pandemic, especially in older populations who have migrated to online channels to stay engaged with everyday events and issues that might affect their finances. Today, more than one-third of the world’s population – over 3 billion people – uses at least one social media account every month. This usage is expected to exceed more than half of all the people in the world by 2025 and keep growing from there. Social media participation by Canadians reached 84.9 per cent in January 2021.
Where business booms
Currently, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are among the most popular social media apps for business. Each independent platform is a savvy digital tool capable of targeting information to a specific group, demographic or business sector. But to be successful at building or expanding the reach of a business with the help of these platforms requires both a strategic approach and a commitment to using them consistently.
Thriving in the social media landscape is highly competitive, so if you’re not already engaging clients through some form of online forum, you’ll have a bit of ground to make up. For those who have established regular touchpoints using one or more social media feeds, it’s important to stay on top of things by posting regularly to remain visible and relevant to your key audience. Monitoring activity and seizing opportunities to stay connected with your clients is critical to keeping pace with the swift-moving nature of social media culture.
What’s the point?
Your ability to manage a successful social media strategy is largely determined by knowing what your goals are and exactly who your audience is – and posting content that you know will strike a balance between the two.
Some advisors’ goals may differ from these, but it’s clear that the top objectives all relate to promoting the business and engaging customers.
What are you posting?
Deciding on what information to post can be a challenge. There’s no shortage of subjects, but do they all relate to the services you offer or your areas of expertise? Sharing a diverse range of content, including a mix of information shared from other sources and items that you’ve created, as well as whimsical or humourous posts, can help you stand out from the vast amount of dull and uninteresting postings that fill social media feeds every day.
Before venturing into creating original material, think about existing sources, such as articles, industry newsletters, news clips, videos and podcasts featuring respected leaders and commentators. Be sure to follow appropriate online etiquette and copyright rules. Remember to always share other people’s content; never copy and paste borrowed content into your posts. The same goes for images. With all the royalty-free image sites on the internet, such as pixabay.com, it’s never necessary to copy pictures or videos from other posts to use on your own account without the proper consent.
You can supplement your shared content with personal insights you’ve gained from any recent events you’ve attended, books you’ve read or courses you’ve completed, showing your commitment to the profession.
Grow your network
Social media feeds are essentially the business cards of the 21st century, giving you the ability to describe who you are, what services you offer and how to contact you to start a conversation.
With these fundamentals in place, you can move on to developing a strategy, engaging and growing your audience, and monitoring your success, including the number of followers you’ve amassed and the amount of material they’ve read and shared, through handy analytics. But remember, there’s more to connecting with your audience than just increasing numbers. The challenge is to keep people interested and returning to your feeds for relevant, engaging and helpful content they can associate with their own financial plans and goals. Your ability to focus on experience and to maximize engagement will add to the value of your business.
Social media platforms are designed to be interactive, so be sure to encourage visitors to comment on your posts. Respond to them in a timely fashion, to show receptive service and interest.
Cater to the client experience
In any online scenario, simple forms of communication appear to resonate best with consumers and clients – in most cases, they don’t have time to read the fine print. Social media is built to convey brief, simple messages to engage people and direct them to other sources for more detailed information. In this respect, it’s advisable to maintain a professional website with quick-loading content that can be viewed easily by visitors (be aware that a “non-responsive” website will render the content unusable on mobile devices).
When clients visit your website, make it easy to for them to find the information they want at a glance, saving them time and effort. Also ensure that your bio, including all professional designations, is up to date. This is especially important for first-timers who may be visiting your site based on a referral from another client or after encountering one of your social media posts and who now might be considering getting in touch.
Some people will undoubtedly have questions, so your website should offer a few different ways to contact you, including a phone number, email address and links to all your social media feeds. To encourage communication, consider adding a feedback page with automatic forms or perhaps enabling an artificial intelligence bot to answer questions directly on your website (a service that, for example, Intercom.com can provide).
Proceed with caution
While it’s often said that nothing can replace the experience of in-person communication, social media sites provide an excellent way to communicate directly with a large group of existing and potential clients that far surpasses clunky email or endless rounds of phone tag. A well-executed social media strategy is a valuable business asset that can bring your client relationships and brand reputation to a new level and open the door to expanding your network of clients. However, it’s important to remember to be cautious with the delivery of any client communication. There are regulatory requirements that advisors archive their online business activity. Be sure to check with your compliance team for any rules and regulations that might apply to your social media presence and plans.
To learn more about the business benefits of social media, visit the Manulife CE Centre, via Advisor Portal, and register for Social Media – leveraging digital tools. This course walks users through the process of managing one of the most versatile and applicable business tools available today.
The most popular social media apps for business
A Facebook business page is a digital gateway to building client relationships with your office. Built and accessed through your personal Facebook account, a business page is an effective way to offer appealing material and messages related to the services you provide in a format that’s familiar to many. A Facebook business page is a good idea because using a personal profile page for commercial or promotional purposes violates Facebook’s policies. A business page allows you to control the visibility of the posts on your page based on age, gender, location and language, as well as limit what visitors can post. You can even assign “page roles” that give people different access levels to help you manage your business page.
LinkedIn is most often seen as a professional networking and learning site, but it has a robust business component dedicated to product and service promotion with limitless potential. You can maintain a professional personal profile that increases your searchability online, as well as a LinkedIn corporate page to highlight your business. LinkedIn currently lists more than 57 million companies.
Twitter is all about getting straight to the point. Posting regular tweets can help you build an audience of followers. Some advisors may prefer Twitter for posting engaging comments and frequent updates about the events they’re attending or presenting at, as well as links to other interesting content, such as articles, surveys and reports.
Clients who are comfortable with your investment advice may still have questions about an array of other financial considerations, such as insurance, estate planning and taxation. Any lack of understanding about the different products and programs available could present a roadblock to expanding the client relationship into other areas. This is where the Solutions online tool can help. It enables you to send individual articles or entire editions of Solutions magazine (and videos) to clients in customized email campaigns and to easily track the content they’re reading. This convenient tool is free to use for Manulife advisors.
Tips on how to make your social media posts click with clients
- Build trust by being yourself.
- Share relevant insights and outlooks, not just product information.
- Offer your opinions on industry news to build client confidence.
- Contribute to the conversation – don’t dominate it.
- Add visual images, such as infographics and videos to convey concepts and information in a simple, comprehensible way. Remember that copyright infringement can be a serious matter, so only use visuals that you own, that are royalty-free, or that you have been given permission or secured the rights to use.
- Avoid overreach by using only as many social media feeds as you can comfortably manage (or are approved by your dealership).
- Ask people who follow your feeds to initiate referrals so you can capitalize on word-of-mouth success.
- Monitor the feeds of other advisors with different styles and market niches for hints on how you can keep your content fresh and influential.
- Continually aim to build and foster new relationships.