As U.S. president Donald Trump has demonstrated, we now live in a world in which social media plays an important role. You should be comfortable operating in the digital world, and that means understanding how effective your social media efforts are and how the social networking landscape is changing.
Perhaps the biggest shift among social media users today is in their attitudes. The 22.7 million users of social media platforms in Canada are becoming less willing to accept messages that are posted simply for the sake of posting something. Those posts are what Halifax-based social media expert Anita Kirkbride calls “lazy content.”
Facebook is leading the charge against lazy content. The social media giant has indicated very clearly that content that gets people talking to each other will be prioritized because, the company contends, that benefits everyone.
For you as a financial advisor, that may mean a shift in both how and what you post.
“Advisors need to curate and create content that not only speaks to their ideal clients, but encourages those clients to speak back,” says Kirkbride, owner of Twirp Communications Inc. “Sparking a two-way or three-way conversation will not only help you build relationships with your audience, it also will help your content to be seen by more people.”
Developing content that sparks conversation requires analysis and insight. Samantha Russell, chief marketing and business-development officer with Twenty Over Ten, a website development company for financial advisors based in Pennsylvania, recommends you begin with a strategy that is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
The first step: zero in on what you want to accomplish with your social media presence. Is the goal to help existing clients learn more about the services you provide? Is it to build stronger connections with colleagues and build name recognition?
“Each goal you set is going to carry with it a different set of tasks and strategies,” Russell says. “But the more specific you are, the more easily you will be able to track your progress and success overall.”
A good dollop of realism also is essential, she notes: “Don’t be too ambitious with your time. Focus on one or two social media networks that are going to serve your financial advisory business well.”
Then, she adds, create that original content users crave.
Once you have posted content that aligns with your goals, the next step is to measure the success of your social media activities. Analytics tools can help determine what resonates with readers – and what doesn’t. Google Analytics may be the best-known resource. It allows you to track referral traffic coming to your website from social networking channels, so you can see which channels are responsible for the largest number of sessions on your website. From there, you even can see which specific links were clicked on on your social networks, helping you determine, for example, which blog posts are generating the greatest interest.
Despite the advantages offered by Google Analytics, that tool is underused and misunderstood, says Kirkbride: “Adding a simple piece of code to your website helps you figure out where your traffic is coming from, how long visitors stay, what they like and what type of technology they are using. Some businesses miss out on really valuable information because they haven’t taken the time to get [that code] installed and learn how to analyze the data.”
Native analytics tools that are found on the major social media networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have become more robust in the past year, Russell says. These tools enable you to track page visits, engagement rates, reactions to posts and growth in followers. You also can uncover demographic information about your audience, such as household income, interests and lifestyle. Although analytics tools offering basic data on the Big Three networks are free, other platforms may charge a fee, depending on the depth of information requested.
As with any communications program, your social media usage must comply with your firm’s and your dealer platform’s rules.
“The regulations still are evolving and catching up with advances in social media,” says Marshall Beyer, senior director of curriculum development with the Canadian Securities Institute in Toronto. “The regulations still focus on the nature of various communication and not the means by which they are sent.”
Some firms have gone so far as to prohibit their advisors from using social media because compliance is too complicated and onerous. One challenge of remaining compliant in social media is adhering to record-keeping requirements. Keeping records of paper correspondence – or email – is easy. But recalling social media posts can be more difficult.
Always check with your compliance department when in doubt about any message you plan to post.