5 New Year's resolutions for financial professionals in the emerging age of social media

By Amy McIlwain

Financial Social Media Marketing

Social media is no longer an option. If you want to be competitive in your industry, it’s a must.

Remember the first years of the Internet Age? Those pesky dial up connections; AOL’s “you’ve got mail” tag line; the slew of what we now consider primitive websites?

As of 2012, we are amidst the baby stages of a similar social media age — parallel to the initial birth of the Internet, we are experiencing a revolutionary shift in how we communicate with, seek and obtain clients in the business world.

Social media is no longer an option. If you want to be competitive in your industry, it’s a must. In 2011, platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+ yielded immense growth. To create a clear illustration, if Facebook were a country, its nearly one billion users would make it the third largest on the planet. In the upcoming years it will be the largest country on the planet.

Given the monumental impact of social media, here are some tools to keep you on the cutting-edge of social media in 2012:

1. Don’t let compliance and regulatory issues stop you from jumping on the social media bandwagon:

According to many studies and surveys, compliance issues are the primary chains holding back the use of social media in the financial industry. Almost three-fourths of financial advisors say their firms have a written policy about using social media. Of those, 82 percent say the policy limits or prohibits use.

While strict regulations are admittedly suffocating, don’t let them shield the vast reservoir of growth lying before your business. There are myriad social media compliance products for business professionals.

It is crucial that you and your organization are familiar with FINRA’s regulations in regard to social media, but rather than dismissing the use of social media as a passing fad, strategize how to implement safe, effective processes within the regulatory parameters.

2. Stop correlating social media with immediate profit:

Social media platforms are not meant to directly increase the monetary bottom line. Instead, they are meant to establish your business as a leader in the field, generate referrals, improve SEO, and nurture relationships with existing and prospective clients.

Remember: people don’t buy from social media platforms — they buy from people they trust. Use social media as an effective, inexpensive way to build trust by consistently generating conversation, listening, answering questions, solving problems, and producing timely, original content for your highly-valued clients and prospects.
3. Become familiar with the proper tools you want to leverage for your financial institution’s social media strategy:

What are the best tools for your business to leverage? For example, blogs, RSS feeds, videos, or customer review pages.

Develop solid strategies and agendas for one to three key tools. Ask yourself, how can you establish your business as a leader in the field? How can you build stronger relationships with existing clients? What does your audience want to hear about? Where does your audience hang out on the Web? What are the successful businesses in the industry already doing with social media?

4. Learn the metrics of the future:

We are in the Jetson’s age of business metrics. Terms such as liquidity, efficiency, profitability and safety are used much less in the world of social media. Learn the lingo and establish new, relevant metrics for your social media platforms.

Why? It will help you measure the effectiveness and growth of your social media strategies, discover what works and learn what your audience likes to read/hear about. Remember, developing a social media strategy is a process of repeated trial and error. Here are some examples of metrics for Facebook:
  • Conversion rate: number of audience comments (or replies) per post

  • Amplification: number of shares per post

  • Applause rate: number of likes per post

  • Economic value: sum of short and long term revenue and cost savings
5. Remain open and prepared for change:

Social media is not and will never be static — rather it’s in a constant state of flux. If your budget permits, hire interns, firms or employees to manage your business’ social media presence. No matter what, stay up-to-date with the changes of your business’ social media platforms.

You are the pioneers of the social media era. Don’t be afraid to branch out and explore fresh, innovative ideas in your social media department.