Unfortunately, it’s probably rare for a prospective client to call you requesting a financial plan.

    It’s more usual for consumers to request help to solve a specific problem or achieve an aspiration. We call these ‘triggers’ and they mean that the initial conversation probably starts with: “I need help…”.

    You can then fill the blank with anything from pensions to estate planning, from a defined benefit transfer to Woodford.

    The same is true when financial planners contact us. There’s always a trigger. Recently we’ve had several planners request the same thing; help with social media.

    Strategy first

    Whenever conversations start in that way, we remind the planner that social media is simply a tactic. It might be the answer to the problem the planner is trying to solve. It might not.

    Therefore, the first thing we need to do is diagnose the underlying problem.

    Usually, it’s to increase the number of enquiries and consequently clients. Assuming that’s the case, the next question to ask is whether social media is the answer or whether the planner is self-medicating with a remedy of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook due to a fear of missing out.

    In fact, “being on social media” is such a wide term it’s frankly meaningless. It could mean, for example, any one of the following:

    • Promoting your content
    • Engaging directly with users
    • Joining online groups
    • Advertising

    Or any combination of the above.

    Ignore the doubters and the gurus

    I once had a financial planner tell me he wouldn’t want to advise someone who was on Facebook.

    Aside from the irony that he communicated this message on Twitter, that attitude is unbelievably short-sighted. As I explained last month when I wrote about why I might be wrong about LinkedIn, approaching social media with an open mind is essential.

    I hope the planner in question read that piece!

    Some people will correctly point out that thousands of successful businesses have been built without the help of social media.

    Indeed, thousands more were built before the internet became available to the masses. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider whether harnessing the power of social media will help your business achieve its goals.

    Conversely, the penetration of social media, coupled with marketing ‘gurus’ extolling its virtues, shouldn’t mean you dive headlong into an activity which could sap time and energy. 

    The key, as always, is to think strategically. Understand the problem, then create a strategy to solve it.

    That starts by understanding two key things about your target clients:

    1) Their propensity to use social media. After all, if your target clients aren’t active on social media, your efforts to use it to generate new enquiries are likely to be fruitless.

    2) The social media channels they use. For example, if you’re targeting people in their 60s considering retirement, you are likely to get better engagement on Facebook than Instagram.

    Shoulda, woulda, coulda

    If you’ve established that social media could work, you now need to establish whether it’s the right tactic by considering the following:

    1) Your goals, what do you want to achieve and is social media the most effective option?

    2) What’s your capacity and desire to use social media? You could pay people to post for you and interact with your connections, but it’ll be far more authentic and beneficial to your business if you make time to hang out online yourself.

    3) Should you use social media organically or pay to advertise? It isn’t a binary choice, but you do need to understand the differences between the two options, as well as the potential rewards.

    4) Do you have the time, skill and inclination to produce content (blogs, videos, podcasts etc) which you can promote on social media? Content is king and hugely important for any social media strategy.

    5) What’s the opportunity cost? If you use social media, what other tactics might you not have the capacity to use?

    Taking a logical, considered approach, and ignoring the noise, will help you make better decisions. Answering these questions will help you decide whether social media should be part of your marketing strategy.

    Remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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