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3 key steps to jump-start your business using social media

thinkadvisor-logoAt a family reunion last year, I caught up with my cousin who has been a financial advisor for the past 15 years. The topic of social business came up, given his work and mine as a manager of customer success at Hearsay Social. An avid proponent of social media for business, he was excited to share some of his recent success stories with me.
First, he said that his favorite thing about social business is the fact that “it works while he sleeps.” In fact, his two single largest accounts originated simply because he managed an up-to-date and compelling social presence. After finding him through an advisor-search tool on his company’s website, these clients researched him on social media before proactively contacting him.
Second, my cousin explained that he actually spends very little time on social media. Like most other successful financial advisors, he aims to spend most of his time with clients. But he does set aside a small amount of time to keep his profile up to date, grow his network, listen for key buying signals from his prospects and clients, and share relevant content.
Not everyone has mastered social business in the way my cousin has. In fact, my team at Hearsay Social is specifically dedicated to coaching advisors on how to optimize their social media usage for measurable business results. What we’ve learned over the past few years is that there are three key actions that you can take today to jump-start your social business.
Continue reading this article over at ThinkAdvisor.

The future of marketing: Moving at the speed of social

When the lights went out in the Superdome during yesterday’s Super Bowl, nobody would have guessed that marketers would benefit the most from the blackout.
In the 30 or so minutes that the game shut down, Oreo’s marketing team, poised and ready in a social media command center, launched into action, quickly designing an image that they could promote across social networks (Twitter and Facebook). In doing so, they proved to their fans and followers, and marketers around the world, that they can always connect with customers, no matter the situation.

Advertising during high-profile events will never be the same. In fact, this extremely timely, relevant, and funny content may have been more impactful than Oreo’s Super Bowl ad which had to compete with many other multimillion dollar commercials.
Oreo’s approach was beautiful in its simplicity. They took advantage of something extraordinary happening in the moment, quickly crafted a marketing message, and made the most out of an otherwise awkward moment.
How can relationship sellers take advantage of this new point-in-time marketing tactic?

  1. Be prepared: Always have the right people in the room to approve messaging so you can quickly push marketing messages.
  2. Move fast: When opportunity strikes, it’s important to take action quickly for the best results.
  3. Listen carefully: Take note of how the general population is responding to the event and make sure your messaging will resonate or break through the noise.
  4. Respond appropriately: Know which channels will work best to promote the message.
  5. Follow up: Respond, retweet, and actively promote the message once it’s been syndicated.

Writing A+ Social Media Content

The following is an excerpt from Clara Shih’s best-selling book, The Facebook Era. This section is from Chapter 11 – How to: Engage Customers with Facebook Pages and Twitter. She outlines how to write compelling social media content that leads to higher engagement and response from your fans.
A good rule of thumb is you can talk about yourself or your product once in every five posts (or less). Facebook Pages are all about the soft sell. Overly self-promotional pages are a major turn-off. People should be able to figure out from your Page name, info tab, and blurb box what products and services you sell.
The best way to engage your fans is to offer something valuable on a consistent basis. Value can take different forms, including entertainment value, information, or financial value from special deals and coupons. Here are eight kinds of posts that generate high engagement and response while contributing positively to your brand:

Be Helpful

Provide news and information people will appreciate. What you post should be relevant to your business but most importantly relevant to your fans. Rather than going for the hard sell, Chicago-based Newman Realty posted about the federal tax credit for first-time home buyers. By being helpful, Newman Realty is building credibility, authority, and trust so that when people are in the market to buy, they will know who to call.
Newman Realty
The Page for Newman Realty focuses on providing valuable information and advice for first-time home buyers rather than going for the hard sell.

Be Funny and Entertaining

Share jokes, stories, or musings that reflect your personality and people will thank you for brightening their day. For example, Saint Louis real estate agent John Jackson has built quite a loyal following with his sense of humor. Each day, he posts a “Horrible MLS Photo of the Day.”
Realtor John Jackson
Realtor John Jackson makes his fans laugh by posing a “Horrible MLS Photo of the Day” on his Facebook Page.

Love Your Fans

Periodically recognize your fans. If someone just bought a car or house, thank and congratulate them. Encourage your fans to post content like pictures, videos, links, and musings. Your Facebook Page should be all about your fans!
Dunkin' Donuts
Dunkin’ Donuts runs an ongoing “Fan of the Week” contest where fans submit photos of themselves with the brand, and each week the winning photo is used as the Facebook Page profile picture for all one million fans to see.

Invite Fans to Your Events

To create an event, click “Edit Page” on the top right of your Facebook Page. On the left side of the screen, click the “Apps” tab. Find the “Events” application and click “Go to App.” Provide the specifics of the event and invite your fans!

Announce New Products

Share new product announcements. Ideally you can link to a page on your website with more info and a picture. For instance, Ford drummed up excitement for its new 2011 Ford Fiesta by posting videos from the Los Angeles Auto Show featuring the new model.
Ford Fiesta
Ford got fans excited about the 2011 Ford Fiesta by letting them preview photos and videos from the LA Auto Show.

Announce New Locations

Celebrate new offices, franchises, and locations by sharing with fans using geography targeting. For example, Chipotle has unveiled new locations such as one in Buffalo, New York, with Wall posts and special grand opening events.

Provide Special Offers

Give your fans early or exclusive access to deals, offers, discounts, special events, free gift with purchase, or free gift for referrals to thank them.
Safeway Grocery Store
Safeway Grocery Store gave away a free five-pound box of Clementine oranges to Facebook fans and grew its Facebook Page by tens of thousands of fans.

Ask fans to weigh in

Engage your fans and let them know you value their opinion by periodically asking questions, either via a poll or survey application, or simply posting a question on your Page Wall.

Get Personal

Let your personality and office culture shine through. Share tidbits of personal information that help build trust and let people know you are really someone who cares. Businesses can establish a genuine connection with customers by letting the personalities of their staff shine through on Facebook Pages through photos, holiday greetings, and other forms of authentic sharing.

5 steps to Facebook Business Page success

Facebook Business Page SuccessWith 750 million active users, Facebook is the world’s largest global social networking site in terms of both the number of users and time spent on the site. Once you have your Facebook Business Page established, it’s time to build your fan base and start interacting with the community.
1. Publish Content Regularly
Establish a regular schedule to post content to your Facebook Business Page. Post regularly (at least 3x per week), but not so much that people are annoyed (no more than twice per day).
A recent study of more than 200 million Facebook fans showed that posts have a shelf life of 22 hours. While almost half of the “likes” occur within the first hour and 20 minutes, 95% of “likes” occur within the first 22 hours. Schedule posts to go out regularly and give each post time to gain traction.
2. Choose Compelling Content to Publish
When you’re just getting started, it’s important to test what kind of content your audience likes to consume and interact with. To create posts that generate high engagement and response while contributing positively to your brand, remember these tips:

  • Be helpful. Provide news and information people will appreciate.
  • Love your fans. Periodically recognize your fans by thanking or congratulating them.
  • Announce new products. Share new product announcements and link to a page on your website with more information.
  • Provide special offers. Give your fans early or exclusive access to deals, offers, discounts, special events, free gift with purchase, or free gift for referrals to thank them.
  • Ask fans to weigh in. Engage your fans and ask for their opinion and feedback.
  • Invite fans to your events. When you have an event, share it on Facebook. Fans will be able to RSVP and share with their friends.
  • Get personal. Let your personality and office culture shine through by sharing tidbits of personal information, stories, or musings to help build trust and let fans know you care.

3. Promote your Page
Now that you’ve seeded your page with some initial activity, promote it and grow your fan base.

  • Promote via your personal Facebook profile by encouraging friends and family to “like” your page.
  • Email friends, family, and customers.
  • Once you’ve reached 25 fans, set up your personalized Facebook URL (learn more about Facebook usernames).
  • Put your Facebook URL on all marketing materials including business cards, flyers, billboards, t-shirts, and even your car.
  • Update your website, email signature, and local business listings.

4. Address Negative Posts and Comments Swiftly
The occasional fan complaint or negative comment is inevitable. Sign up to get email updates when new comments are posted. Responding promptly (within a few hours) to a negative comment is just as crucial as how you respond. If you don’t address the comment in a timely manner, your fans may think you’re not really listening and others could join in to give the issue more attention than it deserved in the first place.
5. Analyze How Your Page is Performing
Log in each week and check out how your page is performing. Key metrics to measure include:

  • Total number of fans
  • New fans per week and over time
  • Number of brand mentions (positive and negative)
  • Number of fan posts, likes, and comments
  • Shared link click-through rates

Remember to keep employees and customers involved and ask for their feedback early and often. The goal is to integrate your Facebook Business Page, and other social media marketing efforts, into the day-to-day experience of interacting with your business, staff, products, and services.

Webinar: "5 Steps to Hitting a Home Run on Facebook"

Last week, I had the honor of leading a webinar, “5 Steps to Hitting a Home Run on Facebook,” taped live from Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. I’m told this is the first time a non-Facebook employee had been invited to do so, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
This webinar highlights the most recent features, trends, and use cases by businesses on Facebook to attract and retain customers. During the first half, I walk through the 5 steps for business success. In the second half, I moderate a Q&A panel featuring James Peregrino (Farmers Insurance Agency Owner) and Amit Shah (Director of Online Marketing, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM). They provide a nice diversity of perspectives on the business value of Facebook for organizations large and small.
The recorded webinar is available here as well as on the Facebook Live channel.

Watch live streaming video from facebookeducation at

How advisors can be successful with social media: Ten tips for financial professionals

As seen in Financial Advisor on April 4, 2011.

Two in three financial professionals say they are reluctant to use social networks due to compliance concerns. Perhaps you are among this group. Yet with more than 500 million people logging onto Facebook, 200 million on Twitter, and 100 million on LinkedIn, how can you afford not to be where your clients and prospects are?
Regulatory rules from the SEC, NYSE, and FINRA (formerly NASD) have prevented financial professionals from fully harnessing the power of LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media for connecting with prospects, building client relationships, and growing business. Part of the solution is technology. A recent partnership between LinkedIn and Hearsay addresses the regulatory requirements (namely, data archiving and secure storage, e-discovery, and monitoring).
The other part of the solution is training and best practices. In researching and writing my book, The Facebook Era, and in my subsequent work with thousands of financial professionals, I’ve developed my favorite set of tips to help make you successful on social media:
1) Get compliant
You need to ensure that you and your firm are protected from regulatory breaches which could result in severe fines or having your privileges revoked. For this reason, many financial institutions prohibit access from the workplace to social media sites. But financial professionals are also liable for social media communication that takes place from home or a mobile device.

Check if your company has a compliance software solution. If it does not, suggest that they adopt one so you and your colleagues can get started and do so with peace of mind.
2) Choose the right social network(s)
If you are new to social media or have limited time, choose one network to focus on. Ask your clients which social network they prefer, or search for their names on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see which one is favored by the majority of your clients. You will probably find that few use Twitter, most are on Facebook and many on LinkedIn. The next step is to consider where and how your client demographic would appreciate communicating with you. In my experience, although clients are on Facebook, most prefer to engage with financial professionals on LinkedIn.
In addition, LinkedIn represents an unusually wealthy user population; the average user has a household income of a $109K. So, consider focusing on LinkedIn, but don’t forget to also reserve usernames on Twitter and Facebook in case you expand your efforts down the road.
3) Create a high-quality personal brand
Your social media profile is a public representation of your personal brand. Invest in a professional but friendly photo. Read over and spell-check all updates and postings to ensure they are high quality, well-written, and error-free. Present a consistent image by using the same photo and bio in every Web profile you have, and you will create a trustworthy and memorable impression.
4) Keep your profile up-to-date and interesting
Set aside time on a regular basis to share timely and relevant content (this is how you establish expertise on financial matters), and to interact with others on social media. But don’t get carried away – the top reason people typically “unlike” or “unfollow” a business is over-posting. The second reason is irrelevant or stale content. A good rule of thumb is to post at least once per week but not more than once per day.
5) Optimize profile keywords
One of the best ways to brand yourself and to be found is to optimize the keywords and headline which appear on your profile. The keywords you choose affect not only LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter searches, but also results on Google, Yahoo!, and other search engines. What keywords and phrases are prospects likely to search on? Perhaps “how to manage inheritance” over “private wealth management” or other self-ascribed descriptors commonly used by financial professionals. Insert these terms – in a natural way, of course – in as many places as possible on your profile. These opportunities include your headline, current and past work experience, and summary of your capabilities and specialties. As you repeat the terms or “keywords,” you boost your chances of appearing high on the list when people search for professionals in your category.

6) Position yourself as a trusted authority on financial matters
Consider what makes you special when you work with clients in person and replicate those practices online. Remember that building relationships requires time and investment, not a constant sales pitch. The rule of thumb is that you can talk about yourself no more than one in five posts. The rest of the time, posts need to focus on delivering value for clients and prospects, such as news or market commentary.
LinkedIn Groups offer an excellent opportunity to build your credibility. Financial professionals can win followers and build trust over time by providing quality answers to posted questions or initiating interesting dialogues of your own where you may present a unique angle.
7) Join the conversation to build rapport
Connect with customers, prospects, and others by liking, sharing, and commenting on their posts and updates. Log in often to keep tabs on important life events in your clients’ lives including weddings, newborns, birthdays, and job changes. Often, it makes sense to acknowledge and congratulate these milestones using offline means such as a phone call or a handwritten note. The power of LinkedIn or Facebook is to help you efficiently gather all of this news, but it’s up to you and depends on the demographic of your audience how you wish to follow up.

8) Identify opportunities to grow your business
Take advantage of real-time updates from social networking sites to continually prioritize your prospecting and relationship-building activities. Job changes, joining a board, moving to a new city, growing a family or being involved in a merger or IPO often presents opportunities to sell or up-sell. A significant life change can signal that an individual may be ready for additional financial services or require a new financial plan.
9) Use social media to do your homework
Social media can give you a vital competitive edge when prospecting. Not only can you research peoples’ work history, interests, and background, you can also find the ways in which you intersect. For example you can use LinkedIn to see whom you might know in common with a prospect, in order to ask for a warm introduction from your mutual friend. You can also research your prospect’s company so you can understand what issues might be top of mind in his/her professional life.
10) Build buzz for your events
When you host events, savvy use of social media is an ideal way to research attendees, drive attendance, and even get attendees to network with each other online. Publicize your event – whether it be an IPO party or a presentation of your capabilities – by using the Event feature on Facebook. If it is a public event, your attendees can expand your reach by inviting their friends. You can also provide value by bringing groups of like-minded individuals together. Create a LinkedIn group for your clients to network with each other before and after the event.

Like the Internet last decade, social media interactions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter offer a wealth of opportunity and time savings for financial professionals. But of course, social networking sites are not a replacement for tried-and-true traditional methods like a face-to-face meeting, phone call, or handwritten note.

The best social media strategy is one used in conjunction with offline techniques. Indeed, with a little effort on the compliance front and a willingness to do your homework to keep up with what is happening in your clients’ lives, you can become that much more effective the next time you pick up the phone, send that handwritten note, or attend a charity function.