Why isn't social media working for you?

By Greg Preite

Advisor Online Marketing


One of the biggest challenges is that social media has been oversold, over-represented and overemphasized as a marketing strategy for a few years now. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that there isn't value in a properly managed social media campaign, but it is not the panacea or for finding and securing new business. But guess what? It was never supposed to be. In fact, your Facebook ROI is probably close to zero. You didn't expect me to say that, did you?

Over the past year, I have had dozens of conversations with agents and advisors regarding the implementation of social media into their practice. Some love it, some hate it, some see it as a "necessary evil," and others just assign the task to an employee or freelancer and never give it another thought. Without fail, however, there are a few questions and concerns that always seem to pop up during the conversation.
  • What is the ROI?
  • It had never worked for me.
  • It's confusing and difficult to measure the results.
  • I'm not sure if it's worth it.
Have you ever found yourself saying (or thinking) any of these questions and statements? If so, let's try to put this social media can of worms into some perspective and set appropriate expectations of what it is and what it isn't.

One of the biggest challenges is that social media has been oversold, over-represented and overemphasized as a marketing strategy for a few years now. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that there isn't value in a properly managed social media campaign, but it is not the panacea or silver bullet for finding and securing new business. But guess what. It was never supposed to be. Unless you've got brand recognition like Coke and Nike, your Facebook page isn't going to attract 50,000 likes. By itself, it will rarely generate leads or earn you much money. In fact, your Facebook ROI is probably close to zero.

You didn't expect me to say that, did you?

So here's the perspective and approach you should have if you want social media to work for you.

1. Think of it as an extension of the education you already provide to your clients.

Every day you spend hours talking with clients about different concepts and strategies to grow and protect their assets. You rarely wonder about the ROI of such conversations. They are just part of doing business. Social media is similar in that it is simply a way for you to share more of this valuable information with more people. In the process, you build your credibility and online presence. From now on, when you hear the words "social media," I just want you to think "information sharing" instead.

2. Recognize the importance of blogging and email.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that "social media" means "Facebook." For most agents and advisors, the best social media strategy is consistently posting valuable information on your website's blog and then emailing that content out to your existing clients. New business comes when you've done this long enough and your clients begin to share the information with their friends, resulting in referrals.

3. Accept the fact that you can't measure ROI the same way as you do with advertising.

Most advisors are used to sending out invitations to seminars, filling a room, and then presenting information. When it's over, they can figure out the cost of the event versus the amount of new business it brought in. Unfortunately, social media does not work that way. You can measure things like Web traffic, page views, click-through rates and open rates to determine if you are reaching your intended audience, but it's highly unlikely that you'll ever get a phone call from someone wanting a million-dollar annuity because of a specific Facebook post or blog article.
So why even do it?

Great question. And a very fair one, I might add. Here's why (and by the way, the following is true whether you are selling annuities, cars, houses, or any other high-ticket item).

The buying habits and practices of the public have changed drastically in the last decade. Consumers have become much more informed, cautious, suspicious and demanding. They have a plethora of information at their fingertips via the Internet. They search, read, research and investigate for hours, days and months before making a firm decision. Guys like Bernie Madoff, Nevin Shapiro and John C. Jeffers have made everyone nervous around financial advisors. It's up to you to build the credibility and rapport necessary to secure relationships.

In today's world, that extends beyond face-to-face meetings and into cyberspace. People want to be able to find you and "check you out" online, and that means you need to have something valuable and worthwhile for them to find. A well-planned social media campaign provides the type of information to cement the relationship.

I like to say it this way: People will rarely make a decision to use you solely from your social media efforts, but they will often use social media to confirm or reject that decision.

We've all attended enough sales trainings to know that you need to keep yourself in front of your clients. We've also all used multiple methods of accomplishing this, ranging from mailings, newsletters, birthday cards, holiday calendars, postcards, all of which are really geared more towards client retention rather than client acquisition. A good social media campaign, however, can do both. By creating valuable content that your clients actually want to read and combining that with the proper platforms for distributing that content, not only do you create loyal readers and followers, but you've also created an easy mechanism for them to share the information with others. You may not be able to measure the exact ROI, but you have enough sales experience to know that loyal followers plus sharing equals referrals and conversions.

Don't let fear of the unknown stand in your way. Make 2014 the year where you adopt a sound social media strategy.

See also:

The complicated relationship between social media and sales

15 unexpected social media stats for financial advisors

Social media insights (based on real data!) for the financial professional, Pt. 1 | Pt. 2 | Pt. 3