7 ways social media can make you smarter

By Amy McIlwain

Financial Social Media Marketing


Several years ago, I explored the land of Twitter for the first time in my life. Like many skeptical financial advisors, I didn’t see the point. Twitter (among an exhaustive list of other social media platforms) seemed like another technological creation to add to the clutter. Regardless of my first impressions, I tossed my inhibitions out the window and gave it a shot.

At first, I felt like a traveler in a completely foreign country. I wasn’t sure how to navigate the territory and how to begin social conversations (which seemed like a foreign language). For a few weeks, I simply observed before I mustered up the audacity to delve in. Fast forward to a few years later and I can genuinely say that Twitter (along with Facebook) is one of my top news sources. I not only use them to stay up to date on what’s going on, but also to acquire business/industry insights and educate myself about things I’m interested in.

Who says social media can’t make you a smarter, more informed professional? Here are some ways that social media can sharpen you up.

1. Better awareness of news and trends

Every group needs a trend forecaster, whether it’s the guy who first had a suitcase with wheels or the woman who always has the best music playing. You might not be the forecaster of the group, but you still want to participate in the brunch debate on whether or not Beyonce lip-synced the national anthem at the inauguration, right? Fear not. Politely excuse yourself from the table, whip out your smart phone, quickly troll Twitter and return to the table with your more educated and up-to-date self.

Social media gives individuals a keen awareness of cultural buzz, and it’s also a great avenue for knowing what is going on with your industry and prospects. For instance, in December I frequently searched #fiscalcliff on Twitter to see what types of conversations, concerns, attitudes and questions surrounded the issue. This is just one example of how you can use social media to a business advantage.

2. Insight into your target demographic and competitors

Think of yourself as the James Bond of the Internet, minus the Aston Martin. Social media provides a spy-like experience without putting your life in danger. It also gives individuals the opportunity to search topics like retirement and investing to see what people have been saying, and get the general feeling on issues without the dirty work. Use social media to check out what conversations, trends and topics are abuzz for your target market. Also, use it to see what your competitors are doing. These are only a few of social media’s indispensable benefits.
3. Lead intelligence

For those not lucky enough to work in the line of sales during their lifetime, cold calling is a lot like asking a girl to your first homecoming dance. You have a script; your voice will most likely crack at some point; countless people have told you “the worse they can say is no." But you are still paralyzed. What if you had something in common with them?

“Hi Jenny. I saw you wearing a Camp Hero t-shirt the other day. Did you go last summer?”

“I did, Johnny. I was in bunk room green!”

“Awesome. Do you want to go to the dance with me?”

“Yes!”

Social media is a lot like Camp Hero. Common experiences, interests and goals can spark conversation between two parties that may have had little to no exposure with each other. Social media allows you to unveil these similarities without the other party even knowing about it. This can lead to new connections and opportunities for you and your business.

4. Ability to engage in dialogue about your trade/industry

Industry buzzwords routinely act as validation codes within conversation. People expect you to understand what they are talking about and they rarely stop to explain. If you don’t know what they're talking about, then you probably aren’t as invested in the field as they are. Logic suggests following on social media allows one to follow conversation. Also, when questions within your profession arise, there are friends/followers that can help you answer them. Say you were at a charity event the previous night and overheard some folks talking about the new IRA rules for 2013. Not well versed or have some lingering questions? Take it to social media and watch the answers pour in.

5. Luxury of creating alerts and feeds

The Internet is vaster than the ocean. How can you possibly keep an eye on everything going on? Use social media to weed out the junk and keep what’s important to you. You can do this by setting up RSS feeds of your favorite blogs and news sources and by setting up Google Alerts.

6. Build your network, and see who influences the influencers

Although you may never rival Wells Fargo or AT&T, you can still build a substantial network. Social media, either on a personal or professional level, gets people invested and involved with content you are pushing out. Through this network, you are able to follow the influencers of the social media world, learn what attracts attention and apply it to your own feeds.

7. Develop a better understanding of what good content and thought leadership looks like

Sifting through the endless stream of baby pictures, moody messages, nights out and people’s food gets really boring after five seconds. No one wants to see it. People with a lot of followers maintain and grow their audience because they keep their content fresh and entertaining. Find people who aren’t recycling thoughts, jokes or other content and model your online personality after theirs. Their success should give you plenty of insight about what works.

If used wisely, social media is a gold mine for gaining tons of insight about your leads, prospects, industry and competitors. Don’t be shy; use it to improve your business and marketing ventures!