To the uninitiated advisor, social media may seem a bit like the Wild West – unfiltered, uncouth, disorganized, filled with outlaw justice, and with heaps of gold just below the surface, waiting for the right tool to unearth it. And, honestly, it's actually a little bit like that. For an advisor in the early stages of starting their company, running in with guns blazing in an attempt to stake a claim can often be met with...crickets. Just like many who rushed to California in 1849, they find that all that gold below the surface is more elusive than they ever imagined.
Without the right tools, the right strategy, and the right claim, they come home with empty pockets and little to show for the effort.
Determine Your Audience
The first problem that many advisors have when attempting a foray into the social media universe is that they don't know to whom they are speaking. To be successful, the business must understand its audience. A good way to begin is by asking a few self-directed questions:
1. What is the age range of my audience?
2. What is their income level?
3. What is their education level?
4. Are they primarily male or female?
5. How do they prefer to communicate?
Knowing the audience, and how they like to communicate, is the first step to a successful campaign.
Remember: More Isn’t Always Better
Another problem facing advisors entering social media is scope. Having a profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr , Pinterest, LinkedIn and a daily blog at the same time may sound good in theory. In practice, however, it's spreading a valuable resource (time) very thin. Every platform has a specific communication style and each takes time to learn.
Managing content across so many different platforms takes a ton of time, and most business owners who try may soon find themselves overwhelmed. What's left, then, are several dead accounts and a burned out business owner. For the beginner, it is better to have fewer, active accounts than many inactive ones.
Curating vs. Creating
Is it better to curate or create? The answer is both. Sharing content that your audience cares about can get them to pay attention. However, the creation of original content that is shared by others broadens your organic reach.
The centerpiece of any social media effort, however, must be your website. It is critical that the website be a home base, to which prospective clients are driven and converted. Without the website, the social media efforts are just eyeballs in the dark. And if the website is bad, unresponsive, or nonexistent, those eyeballs will soon fade.
Talk With Your Audience, Not at Them.
All it takes is posting content to have people flying through the door, right? Wrong. This is a common misconception of how social media works. It's not like traditional advertising, such as billboards and television commercials. Those are one-way communications.
Social media is very much two-way media and engaging in conversation is elemental to its function. If your brand is not a household name, you must work harder. Commenting on clients’ activity, sharing posts from followers, and interacting with them throughout the phases of their lives is what gains loyal followers that can be converted to brand evangelists.
Building Your Plan
Once your audience is defined and the platforms are chosen, it's time to get a plan together. Here are two of many effective ways to lay this plan out:
Establish realistic goals: Take into consideration your team’s time constraints and requirements needed for each platform you want to engage. Use this framework to establish a realistic goal: on Twitter, you may strive for one re-tweet and two original tweets per day.
Create a social media calendar and be consistent: One of the most efficient ways to get started with a social media plan is to create a weekly calendar that assigns tasks to those who create the content. For example, if an advisor at your firm publishes a blog entry once a week, every effort should be made to draft and publish the blog on the same day each week.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that social media can be incredibly beneficial to a startup advisory firm. It takes some planning, a good bit of time, and plenty of effort. If the business isn't in a position to spare any of those resources, there are ways around it. Outsourcing is an option. For some, this option may save time for key employees and could be more cost-effective than allocating the resources of your staff.
A social media campaign isn't something to take lightly. Like the Wild West, it can be a raucous good time, filled with joy and discovery. And like the Wild West, it can be a dried up ghost town, with two sad tumbleweeds rolling down the main street of broken dreams.
Don’t be a tumbleweed. Use the right tools, develop your strategy, stake your claim and find your gold.
Jon Schriner is Head of Social Media for Blu Giant.