Consumer behavior drives every business.
You can have the best product or service in the world but if it doesn’t fit the customer’s needs or desires it will still find its way onto the fail pile. Consumer behavior is also important when it comes to your marketing and communications efforts, including social media. We live in a day and age where people fast forward through commercials on their DVRs, avoid ads altogether with Spotify and let incoming phone calls go straight to voicemail. If you want to get the attention of your target market today you need to engage on their terms.
Check your assumptions about social media.
We are all guilty of making assumptions from time to time that are later proven false. I shared one of my biggest misses in a post about the importance of connecting to active users on social networks. It took me a few months to come to the realization that Twitter is a powerful tool for the financial professional. Like I did, I am sure you have a few assumptions about how you will use social media, what it is good for, who uses social media and which tool is best for you.
Below is a short list of assumptions I have heard in my conversations with financial advisors in 2011. Each assumption is a challenge that needs to be addressed before you, the advisor, can achieve success with social media in your practice.
- “My clients aren’t on social media.” Are you sure? Have you checked? With 800 million people on Facebook, 200 million Twitter accounts and 120 million on LinkedIn are you sure none of your clients are using social media? The big problem with this assumption is that it halts you from digging in to see which clients are using social media and what are they using it for.
- “I’m only going to focus on LinkedIn because that’s the most professional network.” True, LinkedIn is a professional network. However, are all your clients professionals who spend significant time on LinkedIn? LinkedIn is important and a great source for networking and seeing money in motion opportunities created by people changing jobs but what about small business owners or people who don’t really do much business networking like say…developers? How much time are these people spending on LinkedIn? Be aware that your clients and prospects may not have the same preferences when it comes to their social networks of choice.
- “I am going to use a Business Page for all my professional interactions on Facebook. I don’t want to mix personal and professional networks.” Did you know that over 90% of the people who “Like” your Facebook Business Page will never come back to that page? Your Facebook Page also can’t friend people on Facebook, so you are going to have work extra hard to drive traffic to your page to generate likes so you can take advantage of all that Facebook has to offer. Should you have a business page? Sure, but remember people are connecting with you not just your business.
- “I’m never going to get on Facebook. I’m a private person. I don’t want people knowing everything about me.” Come on…we all remember plenty of people (maybe you were one of them) who said they saw no need to have a cell phone or that the internet was a fad. I had people tell me the same thing about LinkedIn back in 2004 but they are all using the service now. Planting your foot in the ground doesn’t help you explore the potential value of a new technology. What’s worse is such a statement increases the likelihood that you will be a laggard and feel completely out of touch with your network at some point in the near future. Lastly, who said you have to share details about yourself that you aren’t comfortable sharing on Facebook? It’s not like joining Facebook magically causes all of the most intimate details of your life to be sucked in. What’s most important is that you are there for your clients and prospects when they are sharing things that are important to them.
How your clients, prospects and referral partners use the tools available to them should be the primary driver of your social strategy.
When in Rome…Go Native!
You wouldn’t show up to a black tie dinner wearing shorts and flip-flops just as you wouldn’t go to the clambake at the beach in a tux. Observing the cultural norms of the community and the situation is key to successful networking. I often use the cocktail party analogy to illustrate how to effectively work the “social media” room. The key takeaway being that you should consider your participation on social networking sites to be akin to your attending a real world social event.
More importantly, remember you actually KNOW the people at this social event. You need to be real and approachable with these people.
The assumptions listed above and many other preconceived notions can hinder your ability to navigate this new world. This is especially true if you let it blind you to the value of how your clients, prospects and referral partners are choosing to engage online.
What should drive you as a professional in any social situation is a desire to add value and build relationships. Relationships are built on shared interests, values and connections. Your ability to add value to those with whom you have, or seek to have, a relationship is predicated on your relevancy to that person’s life. Value, is created in many ways (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and people engage at nearly every level you can imagine via social.
To be successful you have to pay attention to how, and why, people are using the tools. Here are a few things people use social media for:
- Connection – People are social beings. They love to connect with others. Using social allows them to feel connected and ensures they will never lose touch. Your clients, prospects and referral partners are people too.
- Fun – People like to laugh and play. “But, I want to make money!” you say? Hello?! Golf course, tennis, sailing, wine tastings….any of these ring a bell? You are already out there having fun with your network. You can do it here too.
- Venting – People love to blow off steam. It’s not uncommon to see someone go off the hook about the little things that drive them nuts on social networks. You can learn a lot about people by understanding and identifying with their pain points. Remember, people want to be heard and understood.
- Requests for Help – People turn to their networks for referrals (that got your attention), information, support and occasionally genuine pleas for help. Does it makes sense that you might want to be there for your network when they need help? If for no other reason than to protect your client base?
- Exploration and Discovery – People love to find new things, venues, services, entertainment and connections. The cool thing is, they tend to remember the people who introduced them to the new hotness very fondly.
- Sharing and Thought Leadership – I put this one at the bottom so you would have to scan through the others and let their importance sink in. People absolutely share business updates and thought leadership on social channels. They have professions and goals too. They want to plug in to social in hopes of their network spreading their message just like you do.
The list could go on forever I am sure but you get the point. Your network is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and beyond and they are using the tools for all sorts of reasons in all sorts of ways. Your job…join the conversation.