So you want to be a social media rockstar? Pt. 2Article added by Stephen Forman on June 22, 2012
Stephen D. Forman (LTCA)

Stephen Forman

Bellevue, WA

Joined: February 07, 2011

This is part two in a series on becoming a social media rockstar. Are you getting out of social media what you expected?

Did I leave anyone behind?

When I began part one of this series, I deliberately avoided any questions such as, “Should financial professionals hop on this newfangled social media thing?” because I assumed my readers were familiar with the evolving, large body of work putting this to rest.

Since then however, I’ve received enough replies to suggest some insurance producers are still quizzical. Rather than re-write what has already been written, allow me to point the way to some choice articles on the subject.

For those of you who still harbor any doubt as to whether as a financial professional you should complement your brick-and-mortar presence with a social media twin, let me assure you that the longer you wait, the further behind your competitors you'll fall, and the more out of touch with your customers you'll become. Proof from better writers can be found here, here, and here.

As before, I will continue to focus my remarks on Twitter. Not only is it the platform with which I am most familiar, but 800-lb Facebook continues to show signs of struggle. Its overpayment for Instagram predicts not commerce but photo-sharing, while its IPO fizzled like fireworks in the rain, rising just 23 cents on opening day (0.6 percent).

Facebook has just one way of earning revenue: advertisements. I myself was bullish on them —previously calling them the one sensible utility of the platform—until one of the industry’s leading voices (an ad buyer for some of Madison Avenue’s largest multimillion dollar accounts) positively excoriated Facebook ads as “a Ponzi scheme,” ads which “yield no real value, and thus no profits.”

Isn't social

Long before my Twitter handle gained 140,000 followers, I was asked during an interview whether having (at the time) so many followers defeated the purpose of two-way communication inherent in the “social” part of the medium. Whether Twitter in particular is primarily a tool of broadcast (called "billboarding") is a question often lobbied.

Setting aside for the moment the important distinction between followers and friends, here are just a few ways to keep Twitter “social” :
  • Direct messages (DMs): one of Twitter’s greatest strengths. Any two accounts who follow one another are automatically authorized to “direct message”, which turns Twitter into a private-channel walkie-talkie. DM’ing allows advisors to connect to a myriad of expert colleagues around the nation, and presents the opportunity for agents, prospects and policyholders to instantly and confidentially chat with them.

  • Twitter chats: The genius of the hashtag. With 340 million tweets sent per day, how does anyone filter just the ones they’re looking for? They use a hashtag: the # sign. By adding a hashtag to every tweet, advisors are able to host Twitter chats in the middle of a crowded world and only people listening for it will hear it.

  • Retweets and mentions: Retweeting someone’s content is like forwarding their email to everyone in your address book, while mentioning them is kind of like putting their name in the “cc” line of one of your email blasts (they get some good visibility). In both cases, you’re making a referral out of your friend or colleague, and Net etiquette suggests it will be reciprocated. These kinds of connections are easy to make, and can expand your reach prodigiously.

  • Drive readers between your properties: Twitter widgets are ubiquitous these days, and incredibly easy to use (you just drag and drop any widget into your blog). Companies can use Twitter to feed content to their blog, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. In this way, one social media platform can serve as the basis for many outlets. Widgets allow companies to comment on news or in forums and then tweet about these stories, which drives readers back to the articles where comments appear — in a tidy circle.
Before we move on, I can’t overemphasize the importance of retweeting. Consider this: If your follower count ranges between the 100s to the 1,000s, this is the total universe of individuals with whom you'll be conversing. Who are they? Existing customers, professional colleagues, or new friends? When the time comes to pepper your usual content with a sales-oriented call to action, you may find your opportunities limited by the size and nature of this very circle.

On the other hand, when your messages are retweeted by your friends to their followers, the reach is exponential. Now, it no longer matters that you have 100 followers if just one of these individuals RTs your post to his 15,000 followers. Hence the importance of making friends with those in the HHC industries, Alzheimer’s research, senior advocacy, durable equipment, care advisory services, you name it. If seniors will be there, you need to be.

What about ROI?

The number of tools at your fingertips for dissecting both your tweets and your audience is myriad. You can map the geographic location of all of your followers; you can measure how far your tweets have traveled; you can measure how many have been clicked and how many have been retweeted. You can even measure the optimal time when most of your tweets are read, taking into account the time zones of all your followers.

But after you’ve done all this coarse counting, it’s natural to ask whether it adds up to anything that affects your bottom line. Before answering that question, here’s a different question from a site with more than its share of fascinating studies: “What’s the ROI of taking meetings, chatting with customers, or answering the phone?” The point: Social media is simply another form of communication. Can you afford not to communicate with your customers?

Before setting-up your social media profile, ask yourself what your business goal will be. Do you want to provide customer service, raise brand awareness, find new business opportunities, build relationships, or something else entirely?

Allow me to share with you some of the metrics I follow. I find these not only tangible and measurable, but also good for business.

  • Follower count: I understand that one’s follower count is not the be all, end all yardstick. For one thing, your single follower count is utterly lacking in detail, and some consider it largely irrelevant when compared to the real number of active and engaged followers with whom you interact. Still, a large follower count attracts attention the way a bustling restaurant attracts window traffic.

  • Retweets: I mentioned before how critical RTs are, so it makes sense that being able to measure one’s efficiency in this regard is key. Using this tool, we’re able to monitor either hashtags or specific accounts.

  • Click-throughs: Because I embed a trackable link in nearly 100 percent of my tweets, I can keep a close watch on how many clicks I've received within the past 24 hours, seven days, two weeks or last month. I’m able to view which links were most popular, and adjust my content accordingly. Using a different service, I can even tell if a particular tweet cost me any followers. I know that Twitter is a marathon, and not a sprint. For those of you who deplore 1 percent direct mail response rates, you'd better be seated for this.

  • PeerIndex: Although many believe Klout is the gold standard in social media analytics, I’ve never found their algorithms (i.e. the tags and topics they append to you) to be accurate . I much prefer PeerIndex, a British site which has made great waves of late. I respect PeerIndex because it’s a relative measure of online authority. In its own words, it reflects the “extent to which you have built up social and reputational capital on the Web.” They pass over mere popularity in favor of the receptivity of your audience, and the share of their attention you have in the subject matter in which you are expert.

  • Awards and top 10 lists: One metric of success is effective social media contests. By their very publicity, such contests help catapult your company ahead of the competition merely by your participation in them.
Don't walk away from business

Twitter is no different than a phone call, and receiving a direct message no different than receiving a whisper in your ear at a cocktail party. Would you ever ignore a customer who walked up to you and introduced himself? Of course not! Yet it happens over and over again on Twitter.

In terms of best practices, this is one of the worst decisions you can make: going to all the lengths we’ve discussed in this series of two articles, only to ignore a customer when one finally shows up.

Armed with my advice, you're going to do better than that! You've realized by now you need to be where your customers expect to find you. If you haven't already, get in the game. You're already a born communicator -- why else are you in sales? So the rest should come easily.

Make it a practice to stay up on your numbers. Are you getting out of social media what you expected?

With this much wind at your sails, you, too, can be a social media rockstar!
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