Social media: marketing or spamming?
The private wealth industry has embraced social media in a variable way, with some doing nothing and others tweeting and linking as though their lives depended on it. The problem of this variability has been one of conflict between management boards believing that social media won’t add value and business development teams who are like wild horses being held back by short reins, ready to prove their worth. This new world has resulted in a frustrated group of business development professionals who are under pressure to make their brands perform with varying support. Times have changed, though, and wealth professionals and businesses are realising the importance of services like Linkedin for regular profile raising to peers and clients.
But with Twitter and Linkedin’s popularity, a new problem has emerged: it is now impossible to be noticed above the relentless brochure posting which has become white noise. Social media experts are birthing and their advice varies dramatically, so who has some gold standard answers on how to invest organisations’ precious time and money?
Communication expert Clare Jones, who works with organisations like Chelsea Football Club, advises to start by finding out who their target audiences are and to decide what channels they are going to use. “Then you can start to create great content and share it,” she explains. “Decide whether they prefer written, audio, video or images and pick one or two platforms with a written down strategy.”
In terms of channels, Linkedin has always been the go-to social platform for businesses and professionals like lawyers. According to MyCase, a legal practice management software provider, seventy-three percent of lawyers have a personal presence on Linkedin, with twenty-seven percent using Facebook and twenty-three percent using Twitter for professional messages. However, Linkedin is less engaging and less conversational than Twitter, which offers a ‘real-time’ experience.
Start with no followers and just keep going
Jones says the way to stand out is by being disruptive and choosing a channel that is less used in the private client industry like Instagram but that won’t work if your audience isn’t there. “Becoming known takes a long time so don’t expect instant results,” she confirms. “Be consistent and authentic in your postings and just keep going. Everyone who has become known started with no social media audience. Even Richard Branson,” she says.
Paul Blanchard, managing director of Right Angles, a boutique reputation management firm, adds his thoughts: “Twitter is great for short, quick updates and comments and it helps you position yourself as an expert fairly easily. “It’s also good for building and maintaining relationships with key people in your industry including journalists.” He adds that platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are suitable for image-heavy posts but need a more creative approach. For those segmenting their audience perhaps for recruitment purposes, he suggests Snapchat but adds “Snapchat can be very effective if you’re trying to reach Generation Z (born after 1996), but for businesses, it’s still too embryonic to give solid advice on.”
Geography is another important point to consider. If you are trying to reach clients or peers in China, none of the traditional channels will be of any use unless your clients are based outside of China because of the media ban by the government. You will need to get familiar with WeChat, a social platform that has 846 million monthly users, or China’s microblogging platform Weibo, which are mirrors of Twitter and Facebook.
One of the most difficult tasks of the social media age is defining the fine line between updating your followers and spamming them. With people spending on average nearly six hours a day on their phones and two on social media, the potential to reach your audience is huge but so is the risk of them losing interest in your content.
Post like you are at a party
So how do you avoid the corporate spam trap? “Say only what is genuine and from the heart,” says Jones. “Social media is just that: social. Imagine you are at a party and talking about yourself without a breath. You might enjoy it but for others, it may be boring. Be conversational. Repost, comment and retweet. Ask questions and respond to others.” Essentially, she says, the old networking rule applies: people will like you if you are interested in them. “It takes time to get to know people in the real world,” continues Jones. “It’s the same online, so be patient.”
Being corporate is old school
To make it really work though, your social media strategy must also be integrated with your other marketing activity. Jones says there are three points to consider. First, you need to be clear about why you are choosing to become known in your area of expertise for instance you may be launching a new service or introducing a new team. Then understand who you want to engage with and finally know what you want to say about your service. Blanchard says “It’s better to have authentic stakeholders posting or if it is you, to just be yourself. Social media is great because it has the potential to show the real you. You don’t have to be wooden or a cardboard cut-out. In fact, this can be detrimental to your success,” he adds.
Social media need to deliver clients and bottom line results but to do this, you and your BD teams will need to have solid objectives, understand the needs of your audience and create real value for them. “The beauty of data and technology is that you have the tools to test, refine and repeat your message and evolve a digital presence to help you achieve your goals,” says Jones. “We’ve already seen channels thrive and die. You also need to be agile and open to what comes next as you would be with the economy. To be aware that you are carving out an online reputation as you have done in person.”
For those who are still trying to master the 140 characters, the message from our experts for reluctant management boards is that these platforms can create a brand and bottom line value and you don’t need to overcomplicate what is ultimately a human conversation online. However, have a solid strategy with measurable analytics and just like at a party or a business meeting, approach it intuitively and with personality. Dabble with Linkedin or dare to go beyond to millennial portals like Snapchat. Whatever you decide, it is time to reap the benefits of these platforms and to put to end the conflict between business developers and their management boards.