Editor’s Note: It is important to remember that being digital is not all or nothing. In fact – most of us remember the pre-social media years in business. David Fisher illustrates that one can bridge the analog to digital world quite easily – specifically using LinkedIn. That is good news for most of us as if there is one social network that comes quite naturally to us in financial services, it is LinkedIn. Even more welcoming is the five tactics David outlines are quite familiar – as we use these steps to stay active in our offline network and meetings today. This simply gives us a very clear path to using social media effectively to bring the digital business model into our everyday activities.
When I talk to financial service professionals about social media, I often get a litany of complaints (especially veterans in the industry):
“It’s a waste of time!”
“All I see is kids on their cell phones all the time – I don’t have room in my schedule for that!”
“The next generation is going to have a hard time talking to people because they’re so used to just texting everything or Facebooking their life!”
Even though each of these has some measure of truth, I also hear a little bit of jealousy as well. Those born after 1980 are considered digital natives because they’ve grown up with technology integrated into their lives. It’s easy for them to incorporate mobile technology and social media into their communication, because that’s the only way they’ve ever known.
Social Media for Non-Digital Natives
For those of us who aren’t digital natives, we lack that level of fluency. In many ways we are like a person who learns a new language as an adult. It can be hard to jump between the two languages. For older professionals, using technology isn’t the “default” setting and it’s challenging to incorporate social media into our business life. It can be a lot easier to just complain, instead of developing your confidence.
But don’t give up! Even if you aren’t a digital native, technology offers many useful advantages. Even if it’s not natural for you yet, social media is an especially powerful way to engage with your prospects, customers, and partners.
The best way to build your confidence is through practice. Since it can be hard to invest time and attention in an area that isn’t natural, I recommend finding ways to integrate social media into your offline relationship-building. Since you already have confidence and experience with communicating in the “real-world”, you can add social media in small increments and build your confidence. By pushing through the initial discomfort, you’ll realize many of the benefits and it gets easier.
Using social media isn’t an either/or proposition. You don’t need to silo off-line and online communication into separate parts of your business. Done right, you can use all of the tools at your disposal to share your message. Social media platforms like LinkedIn give you another tool that you can add to a communication mix that already includes pieces such as face-to-face meetings, phone calls, letters, etc.
5 Easy Ways to Get Started
Strategy is great, but maybe you aren’t sure of where to start. Maybe you are still afraid to “speak” in the new language of social media. I’ve found that the most comfortable platform for professionals to start with is LinkedIn, because it is the preeminent “business” social media platform. Here are five ways that you can easily and seamlessly use LinkedIn to support your already existing off-line relationships. Give a few of them a try, and you will see your comfort and your confidence increase.
1. Customize your LinkedIn profile URL and share it.
The default URL for your LinkedIn profile includes a long string of gobbledygook numbers and letters. You can’t do much with that. It is possible to customize the URL (usually with your name) and make it much more shareable. Then you can add it to your business card and email signature, or just mention it in conversation to drive visitors to your profile (Make sure you’ve optimized your profile first!).
2. Use the birthday and job anniversary reminders to touch base.
The LinkedIn system will remind you about the job anniversaries and birthdays of your first level connections. Sure, you can just send them a quick message on LinkedIn. But why not give you them a phone call? Or jot down a quick handwritten note. It will make them feel great. This is especially useful for staying in front of your long-term clients.
3. Research your meetings beforehand.
Whether you are meeting a potential client, a new center of influence, or getting lunch with someone from your network, take a few moments to do some due diligence. There’s a wealth of information contained on others’ LinkedIn profiles, but it can only help if you read it. Your meetings will be much more productive because you don’t have to cast about for connections and similarities. Instead, you will have a strong foundation for your conversation and know possible topics of interest and similarity.
4. Find possible referrals before you meet.
Most financial professionals (in fact, most service providers) prefer to work by referral and are always looking for new sources of opportunity. Instead of asking for referrals “blindly” from your clients and referral partners, look at their LinkedIn connections before meeting for 2-3 good referral possibilities. Then, instead of just asking for referrals generally, you can ask for an introduction to those specific individuals.
5. Share pictures of business events.
Cell phone technology means that we all have high quality cameras in our pockets and purses. Social media is quickly becoming a visual platform, because people love to look at photos. You don’t have to snap pictures every other minute, but why not take a photo of the people you are with during the course of your day? For example, if you attend networking events or conferences, you have a great opportunity to take photos with the fellow attendees. Post those pictures (with the permission of the others in the photo) and you will go a long way to humanizing yourself online.
These are just a few places for you to start developing your comfort and confidence with social media. It can seem daunting, but if you look for little ways to incorporate social media into your existing offline activities, you will be up and running in no time.