Happy birthday to you

By Bill Coffin

LifeHealthPro


Keeping up with things on social media can be a pretty energy-intensive effort. But it is a great way to maintain the next best thing to constant facetime with people who are always in the market for it.

My birthday was last month, and the night before, I was up late surfing the Web. I decided to stay up until midnight to see the automated "happy birthday" messages I figured would come in. And just like clockwork, at 12:01 a.m., a half-dozen automated messages, mostly from online forums to which I belong, or online merchants with which I have done business, came in wishing me a happy birthday. I know it sounds a little silly and self-centered, but it just feels good to have total strangers wish you a happy birthday. Maybe I’m just easy to please.

Later in the day, more of these automated messages came in, and by the end of the day, I probably had a dozen or more of them in my inbox. Most were just little boilerplate things, and they were certainly generated by the personal information I entered when I created a profile on their site. (Lead gen matters in more than life insurance and annuity sales, it would appear.) But still, I appreciated the small amount of effort these things represented.

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, I got a flood of birthday wishes. I’ve currently got some 400 friends on Facebook (feel free to send me a friend request over there; there aren’t that many Bill Coffins to choose from) and more than 100 of them took the time to wish me a happy birthday. After a while, it starts to feel overwhelming. It’s just a birthday, after all, and not even a particularly meaningful one. But the phenomenon was, as one of my work colleagues mentioned, proof of how many people out there really mean to wish you well. What an affirmation that is.

Facebook, of course, realizing that it’s going to take you all night to respond to such messages, simply routes all such things to a single thread of messages on your Facebook wall. The custom now is for folks to fire off a single post thanking everybody for wishing them happy birthday. Strangely, this tends to kick off another wave of well-wishing, as anybody who didn’t do so before either realizes it now and makes up for it, or perhaps feels guilty. The point is, it is now ridiculously easy to surround yourself with well-wishing on your birthday, if you so choose. And it is just as ridiculously easy to pass along a little note to folks to tell them to have a great day. It takes so little effort. And it means so much more to the person.

So why, then, did I not receive any notes from my insurance agent or my financial advisor?
It doesn’t really put a burr under my saddle, but the following morning, I was thinking about how simple it would be for agents and advisors to take clients’ birthdays as a simple opportunity to reach out to them, even if it’s just something automated, even if it’s just something rote. True, in terms of personal interaction, this is a pretty low-level touch point. But in our world of social media, it is easier than ever before for professional contacts to maintain a certain kind of personal contact with their clients in a way that doesn’t cross any lines that ought not to be crossed.

For agents and advisors wondering what the point of social media is, perhaps it could be something as simple as this: a way to keep tabs on your clients, not just to wish them happy birthday once a year (and perhaps on the milestones to use that as a way to start conversations about important financial planning needs), but to keep tabs on how clients’ lives are progressing. When people buy a house, they put it on their social media venue of choice. When they get married, it goes on social media. When they have a kid, switch a job, enjoy a promotion, have financial hardship, endure an illness, lose a loved one, fret about the economy… it all goes on social media.

For agents and advisors, this is a gold mine of intelligence. And it is also a way to have a genuine interaction with clients over the milestones that matter most to them and that ought to make them consider what their financial planning needs are. I have no doubt that there are plenty of professionals in the crowd who already do this. And indeed, keeping up with things on social media can be a pretty energy-intensive effort. But it is a great way to maintain the next best thing to constant facetime with people who are always in the market for it. It isn’t just marketing. It’s not even constant prospecting. It’s maintaining a presence, and surely that can’t be a bad thing.