When I became the social media manager for the SEI Advisor Network social media was something I had only mastered personally (obligatory weekly pictures of my kids to assure my friends and family that they are still alive), not professionally. There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to managing multiple social media platforms, accounts, contributors and behind-the-scenes resources (like compliance). My researching skills and love of learning became the biggest tools in my toolbox, and I’ve learned a lot—most importantly, that it’s never too late to jump into social professionally. But there are some baby steps you can take to make that jump a little less scary.
First and foremost, find a mentor. Whether it’s someone in your office, a colleague in the industry, one of your clients, or even your teenager, find someone you trust—someone who can show you the ropes and not judge you for the endless questions you will inevitably have. Social media doesn’t have to be scary—but it can be overwhelmingly vast. Sure, you can read and learn about all the different platforms, but if you can find a friend or acquaintance with some knowledge of the platforms you aren’t familiar with, that’s half the battle.
The toughest thing about social media is that it’s a constantly changing medium. Even the big players (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) have updates that get pushed out to users with little to no advance notification. While this keeps the platform fresh, it also means that learning all you can about the platform isn’t as easy as a Google search. There’s a lot of outdated information floating around in cyberspace.
For a self-learner like me, this was a bit of an obstacle. I like to research and go to training and classes, and even watch the occasional YouTube tutorial. It took me a hot minute to learn that this tried-and-true tactic was futile in “social-land.” It wasn’t until I found a mentor who also works in our highly regulated industry that I really felt like I was getting the education and pointers I needed. I speak to my mentor regularly—we discuss what each of us is doing, our goals for the year, things we’ve tested, etc. We learn from each other’s successes and missteps, and I’m happy to report I’ve taught her a thing or two, as well.
Speaking of Testing…
I think the most fear-provoking element of social is “doing it wrong.” I’m here to tell you—you will do something wrong and you will make mistakes. But you will also learn from them.
While it’s true that online content potentially lives forever, there is always a delete button. The chance of you making a mistake that will have dire or long-lasting consequences for you and your business is pretty low. More likely, you will make some typos, schedule some posts for the middle of the night, or upload the wrong media file.
You have to be okay taking a chance to try things like video posts, writing your own blog or sharing an opinion piece that isn’t so mainstream. You will learn quickly what resonates with your connections and what doesn’t. Testing is a very important tool in social.
The best part of social media is the interaction. Not all interactions have to be positive, some of the best social interactions are discussions of differing viewpoints. You may even learn something.
And if the test fails? Learn something from it and move on.
Stay in Your Comfort Zone…For Now
Chances are you don’t need to be well versed in all platforms (are you really going to be utilizing Snapchat for your advisory business?), so just focus on one.
If you are comfortable with Facebook, start there. According to The 2016 Putnam Social Advisor Survey, Facebook is showing continued growth as a preferred adviser platform. The reason? Facebook is where your clients are, and it’s perfect for casual contact due to the ongoing personal interaction it offers.
Facebook is a great forum to engage with your clients on key life events such as marriages, births, travel, retirement and more. It’s the platform that offers the most potential for client engagement and communication—especially between your regularly scheduled client review meetings.
Get Started Already!
Here are some things you can do to get started:
- Ask your clients about their social media use. What platforms do they use, how do they use them? How do their answers align with your social media plan? Are you where your clients are?
- Share relevant content. See an article on the best locations to retire? Share it! The content doesn’t have to be YOUR content. SEI creates a weekly Market Minute videos and weekly commentaries that are ripe for the picking. You may also be interested in partnering with a service like AdvisorStream or Vestorly, which curate content that you can share socially.
- Be consistent. Have a schedule and stick to it. Consistent posting will help your clients get into the habit of checking for new material and information from you. Above all else, commit to your plan. Services like Hootsuite and Buffer can be invaluable tools for scheduling posts for when your audience is most likely online. The worst thing you can do is build an audience and then leave them hanging.
- Listen and monitor. Don’t just throw content out there and walk away. If people comment, comment back. Reply to all comments, both positive and negative. Check to see if your content has been shared (a potential lead). Be social!
As you gain confidence (and hopefully followers) on Facebook (or the platform of your choosing), consider branching out to other social platforms. The great thing about social is the ability to cross-leverage content. Or maybe one platform is enough for you—it’s your call.
Fake It Until You Make It
I feel like this is my life motto. I’ve taken big risks in my life and tried my hand at many jobs that maybe I wasn’t 100 percent ready to take on. But I’ve never regretted any of them. Be confident in your decision to try something new. There comes a time when you can make all the plans in the world, but if you aren’t out there, you aren’t being social.
Heather Wilson is the social media manager in the SEI Advisor Network. She also oversees the development and execution of the Advisor Network’s large-scale national and regional client conferences. She is a regular contributor for SEI’s practice management blog, Practically Speaking.