Social media now drives many organisations’ marketing and communication strategies. And no wonder – just look around you. Everyone has their nose in a smartphone or tablet at virtually every opportunity. Many in the broking sector – being part of the wider, more conservative finance world – have not been as fast at adopting social media as those in other sectors.
There are exceptions, of course – and if you’re one of them, congratulations: you probably understand the benefits of creating a social media strategy. If you’re not, or if you’re not achieving what you set out to achieve, the following tips could provide a path to a meaningful social media presence and strategy.*
Know the platforms
Social media is basically all digital-based communication. It includes your website, though websites are becoming increasingly less appropriate for creating relationships with customers and potential customers. Far more dynamic are platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, BlogSpot and hundreds of others. That’s right, hundreds of them. The first step is to familiarise yourself with the main social media platforms – see how they work, how people communicate, how organisations attract attention, and which platforms are best-suited for B2B or B2C interaction.
Know your audience
This ties in to point number one. Different people use different social media platforms. You could organise the best campaign in the world but if it’s not on the platforms that your target audience are using then you’re wasting your time and money. The best way to determine which platforms they are using is to ask them – devise a questionnaire for your current customers or dip your toes into the water with the most popular platforms and see which ones elicit the best response. Don’t invest too much in any particular platform until you know for sure which ones are likely to produce the best outcomes.
Engaging with customers – current and prospective – on social media is not something you can do sporadically, or when you feel you have something to say or offer. You need to post regularly, which means taking the time to map out a content list and strategy. Create a schedule for posts – with a date and topic for each one. Make sure you have the posts ready in time (and ready means edited). People have so many options with their social media consumption that they only remember and return to the consistently visible.
Communicate and cultivate
Social media invites dialogue with customers and potential customers – but it’s not static, one-way communication. While you want people to like, share and comment, that’s only the first step. The organisations using social media to maximum effect are those who use social media to collate email addresses so that they can then target potential customers directly. Direct marketing – by way of offering something, such as a regular newsletter – is more effective than social media marketing alone.
Become an influencer
Many people use social media to get information and advice. By leveraging social media to provide relevant information on broking practices, lending offers, advice and tops for borrowers, people will keep coming back to your platforms to find out more. Those who do this are known as influencers – and being an influencer provides a great strategic marketing advantage.
Don’t rely on gut feeling and anecdotes for determining whether or not you are succeeding with your strategies and choice of platforms. All platforms offer users access to statistics on performance. Take note of which posts attract the most attention. Are they about particular subjects? Are they posted at particular times or on particular days? Are they written by particular people? Statistics matter!
Pay to play
A great deal of what you do on social media is free (other than the cost of your time, of course). But all platforms offer extra services and strategies for which you pay. The cost is not exorbitant and it can really pay off. Try a couple of the cost options and measure how effective they are. Stick with the one that provides the greatest return on investment.
Whenever you are writing material to post on social media, make sure you include words and terms that you believe (or better still, know) your target audience are likely to use when searching for information and advice. Online search engines give greater weight to those entries that have more of the keywords entered by the person searching. This particularly relates to websites and blogs, but is also applicable to other platforms.
Have guidelines and appoint a gatekeeper
If you want to encourage several – or all – of your staff to contribute text and images to your organisation’s social media platforms, you need to ensure they do not have the freedom to post unapproved messages. Once something is posted, the whole world can see it. Create official guidelines and make sure everyone understands them. Better still, put a system in place so that someone reviews drafts of posts before they go live. This applies equally, if not more so, to platforms that encourage comments from your target audience.
Use visual content
Don’t rely solely on text to get your message across. Use still images and video content to support your words. In fact, some platforms require the image to be the centrepiece of the post. When using images, select the most dynamic ones – those that will attract the most attention.