More than two-thirds of people in the UK now use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, making them one of the best ways for financial service businesses to communicate with their clients. If you havet done so already we look at what you need to know to get online.
Social networking sites are an essential way to establish your brand online and get in front of people you want to communicate with, from your clients and suppliers to potential partners, employees and even the media.
People tend to over-complicate social media, but put simply, sites like Twitter and Facebook facilitate conversations and relationships like any other method of real-life networking – except that they are online and the reach is much wider.
To really get the most out of social media, you need to know exactly who your clients are, how to find them and what you want to say to them.
You’ve got to think through your objectives. Are you looking to raise general brand awareness or achieve something specific like educating clients about your services, or inviting client feedback on a new launch.
Or, you might be thinking about how to reduce the number of client service phone calls you receive. By setting up a facility on Twitter, for instance, you could invite customers to send in queries that way.
Crucially, it’s not about going in with a pushy sales agenda, sites typically work by building up relationships between you and your audience so it’s more about establishing yourself as a credible brand, or an expert in your field.
To do this, pick a site to write an informed blog about your industry sector or to add regular comments on industry news. If people find it useful, they’ll recommend you, and you therefore build up your profile. You can then add value for your audience through special promotions, previews and offers.
So how can you get started? First, building a successful online presence is no different to any other marketing activity, so it’s important to plan your approach and work out your objectives before diving in.
Finding the right site
Equally, you need to identify which social networking site is right for your market. Sites like LinkedIn, Ecademy and Plaxo are more business focused than Facebook or MySpace while Google-operated site Orkut attracts a US audience. According to a survey carried out last October, 73 per cent of businesses used Facebook to connect with customers, while a third used Twitter.
Searching for specific key words and phrases linked to your business will also help you decide where your business should be most visible. If you find lots of groups talking about your sector on Facebook, for instance, it’s worthwhile signing up. Tools like Tweetdeck, which is free, will monitor references on Twitter and Facebook for you or if your audience is very wide, you could employ a social media agency to do the job.
Keep things updated
While you don’t have to be on every site, it’s still advisable to monitor your brand regularly. Once you’ve signed up to the social networking community, the golden rule is to be proactive. Update your status regularly, keep your blog fresh and make sure you’re getting involved. Otherwise, you won’t be able to influence what people are saying about you. You can’t necessarily control the content, but you can manage it effectively.