Editor’s Note: When you consider those individuals and organizations considered successful using social media, a closer look shows it is more than just viral videos, big media efforts and buzz. Bottom line, one of the keys to success is run of the mill. Having a plan. Perhaps ironically, for those of us in financial services, there is a parallel to something we know well. The financial plan. Blane explores the elements of a strategy in a business-focused social media initiative and highlights those similarities to the planning process. Take note that this piece also relates to one of the more popular articles ever published on The DigitalFA – advice on having a consistent plan for content by Kristen Luke.
Like most efforts in life, but especially in business, nothing gets accomplished well without some semblance of a plan. While improvisation certainly helps richen our lives and business too and can provide some rewards, planning makes for a well-oiled machine. Planning effectively is what allows us to manage our clients’ financial lives and assets. We can also use that familiar template to think meaningfully about our digital marketing initiatives – especially social media.
Four Steps to Strategy
This is set for your entire firm, be it a practice of one or one hundred. Your vision will inform how you and your team perceive social media, respond to engagement, and think creatively for ongoing communications and initiatives. Consider it the extension of the culture of your business – the reason why you come to work and why clients stay with you.
Having conceptualized and defined how you want to use social media, your plan should identify the platforms you will claim (i.e. blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al.). This stage is also when you determine who will form your social media team internally (and externally, if using resources beyond your staff). These early decisions will reduce much of the “unknown” risk concerns – as you will have selected specific platforms and resources to carry out your social media efforts.
The natural progression follows to consider who you want to be online. This is not a decision to elect for a persona that is not representative of you and your firm, but rather, choosing a starting point that again allows you to reduce the risk concerns over the “unknown.” As firms consider how to engage, have conversations, and publish content, a sensitivity to compliance can dampen these efforts. Hence, you should consider how you’d like to engage:
- Do you want to use social media as a customer service channel?
- Can you take the educational tips often delivered in client letters, conference calls, and meetings and package them as tips?
- Or would you prefer to leverage the business development nature of social, for example, focusing on developing new connections on LinkedIn to nurture new relationships?
- Perhaps you are seeking to be a content source – through articles, videos and podcasts – with the goal of carving out credibility as a thought leader in your area of expertise?
Certainly, it would sound natural to respond with, “I’d imagine we’d do all of those things at some point.” That is a safe assumption; however, in getting started, opting for a focused starting point helps you shape that voice and cultivate a rhythm to your use of social media.
By the time you are ready to set goals, your social media vision has taken on a clear shape for you and your team. Like that financial plan, you can now start to envision mile markers and longer term goals you would like to achieve. Don’t neglect to consider how you could measure your progress to these goals – insuring you factor analytics into your strategy.
Four Matching Outcomes
Those exercises insure you have, at minimum, a detailed outline for your social media strategy. In most cases, as you’ve thought through Vision, Planning, Voice, and Goals – you’ll have more than bullets – and that narrative will power declaring the outcomes you’d like to see occur in your social initiative. Remember, this is not just a policy to file in the handbook. The effort you’ve invested in building this strategy means it should remain a document you and your team use every day.
You can see the waterfall approach occurring here and how the details can unfold for you. The level of concentration in defining your strategy will open up numerous ideas for content you can create, commission, curate, and more. Content is not always your own, but it is essential that at the hub of your efforts lies original versus generic content or from other sources. Consider this as a starting point for content types and ideas:
- Original Content: material you create internally, which can come in many formats, such as from presentations, audio, video, illustrations & traditional articles
- Commissioned Content: content you purchase from creators such as writers, speakers, artists (and more) that is created specifically for your firm
- Curated Content: content you discover across the social networks you use from those you follow – and consider valuable to your audience
Your commitment and the discipline to follow your strategy and the vision laid out at the beginning of your initiative will, over time, allow your online identity to reflect your business clearly to those who engage with you. This means not only clients and influencers who know you – but also the new relationships you cultivate over time through consistent activity. Take note, I’m leaving the frequency and quantity to you, as only you know the rhythm that makes sense for your business.
Last, though not least, build the steps into your initiative for analytics and the ability to measure the results of your efforts. This can be everything from the most simple gauges, such as:
- Have our followers grown?
- Do we see retreats, likes, and reshares?
Just like those financial plans – after so much work to build out the scope, steps, and targets – once completed, it is an ongoing exercise of monitoring, measuring, and making adjustments as you progress.