Building Trust Online: Using Social Media

building trust online social mediaBeing transparent is another important part of building trust. And social media offers a great forum for that. But what does it mean? Why is it a good thing?

Transparency means showing others who you are – by being yourself, open and honest. Your actions and communications give people a clue about your honesty and integrity. It helps them decide whether they want to do business with you.

Social media is a fantastic tool for showing people who you are.

A face-to-face (F2F) situation can only provide real-time information about someone. To get a grasp on a person’s character in a F2F situation requires watching people act and react over time. Furthermore, people can be on their best behavior for the length of a meeting.

Social media, on the flip side, has a long memory in its history of people’s actions. It’s hard to fake or be on your best behavior in your social media interactions over a long time, which means you can get a very good picture of someone pretty quickly.

Getting to know you

Others can get a bit of history by glancing at your social media profile and updates. Use that to give people insight into who you are, and make sure they see what you want to show them.

True — like in F2F — you can monitor yourself by controlling what you share online. However, the more you interact online, the more likely you’ll reveal your character traits. Staying all business all the time will have the opposite effect because there’s little personality and authenticity.

Think about a potential business that interests you. Check out the company and employees’ profiles on different social media networks to learn more about them. Then study their updates and actions for more insights. As you do this, note anything interesting so you can apply it to your own profile.

What social media updates say about you

Your social media posts allow you to show the following things about yourself and your company:

  • You’re competent in your area of expertise. You know who is worth listening to in your industry and you share high quality relevant content.
  • You’re connected. You are who you say you are, and your connections to clients, prospects, partners and influencers prove it.
  • You’re respected. Your connections interact with you and mention you to others.
  • You care about quality. You share posts about delivering great customer experiences. You also help clients and prospects by answering questions or solving a problem.
  • You show you care by giving back. You share posts about the charities and non-profits you support.
  • You’re successful. You share good news on a regular basis, without it sounding like bragging.
  • You’re proud of your business. Invite your customers to learn about your employees, processes and pricing, answer tough questions and admit difficult truths. And never, ever lie.
  • You have a personal side worth sharing. You share posts about your favorite sports team, authors, hobbies, city and local events. People buy when they feel a connection to others. Talking about things outside of business lets people get to know your personal side. Little by little, others will relate to what you share. And those connections grow.

Joining online conversations backs up your company’s claim that you’re open to feedback and criticism. Customers value this trait. Yet few companies do this. Companies don’t need to be afraid of getting caught making mistakes. Customers forgive mistakes when companies handle them quickly and aptly. Acknowledging a customer implies your company is listening, an important step in gaining trust.

When your actions show you have nothing to hide, you differentiate your company. Be open, communicate regularly and hold your company accountable. Do all this in a professional way with a touch of personality and trust will follow.

How Social Media Affects the Customer Decision Journey

Social media affects customer decision journeyMarketing’s main goal is to reach customers at the right time when they’re ready to receive the specific message. For years, they have relied on the traditional purchasing funnel that begins with the wide end of the funnel where customers search for brands that offer potential solutions.

The company does targeted marketing activities as customers move along in the funnel to shrink the number of prospects and then the funnel ends when the customer makes the purchase.

Because of the growing number of product choices and digital channels and more well-informed customers, the funnel approach doesn’t work today.

Moving from the Traditional Funnel to the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ)

This new environment requires a different approach, one that’s less linear. McKinsey calls it the Customer Decision Journey (CDJ), and assigns the following four phases. (Items in parentheses represent the comparable phase in traditional funnel.)

  • Initial consideration (awareness and familiarity)
  • Active evaluation (consideration)
  • Closure (purchase)
  • Postpurchase (none)

The CDJ works with multiple channels, multiple locations and across multiple access points, such as offline and online through smartphones, tablets and web-based. Also, communication has shifted from one-way to two-way conversation, and social media provides an effective forum for these conversations.

That said, word-of-mouth plays a bigger role – and more so as post-purchase loyalty makes up the last part of the CDJ. There are two types of loyalty: active and passive. Active loyalists advocate for a brand and recommend it to others, often through social media. Although passive loyalists simply keep using the product, they’re open to marketing messages that could convince them to change.

With its journey ending after the sale, the linear traditional sales funnel doesn’t cover communication and loyalty. The CDJ does as it loops through buy, use, buy again and tell others, or starts over.

Using Social Media with the CDJ

Social media gives marketers a way to influence prospects and clients in every phase of the journey. But that doesn’t mean they should treat all phases equally. McKinsey reports that some phases are more important than others depending on the brand, industry and type of business.

Initial consideration

Marketers targeting customers during the initial consideration phase need to build awareness and familiarity. Rather than tackling all the major social networks, marketers identify the ones their target market uses.

During this phase, customers typically review brands and offerings to figure out their needs and features. Companies support that by sharing information, educating customers, making offers, holding events and implementing other activities that help the customer to connect with the company and get to know the company better.

After connecting, the company takes steps to stay in touch on a regular basis because repetition breeds familiarity and comfort.

For example, a marketing automation company using Twitter could tweet links to resources to help customers learn more about marketing automation. This could be links to the company’s blog posts, webinars and other non-company resources on the topic. They also share short tips on what to consider when buying marketing automation. Employees can also search for questions they can answer and act as helpful experts.

In LinkedIn, the company details its products and services on its company page. It can also invite targeted connections to sign up for an email newsletter to put prospects on their mailing list for regular communication. Take care to provide useful information without over-promoting the company’s products.

Active evaluation

During this phase, customers have a list of potential brands they want to evaluate. They’ll be looking for reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations from colleagues. They also consider past experiences and their interactions with employees and representatives from the brands they’re considering. Social media excels here as it provides a forum for companies to interact with clients and prospects.

Traditional marketing still applies, but marketers have to work harder to influence the consumer-driven touch points of word-of-mouth and reviews. Another important activity is monitoring social media for mentions of the company and its competitors. Responding to these conversation starters – positive, neutral and negative – allows the company to engage with the public where prospects can learn from those interactions.

Closure

Social media doesn’t have a role in this phase especially for B2B and services-oriented companies as the conversations from the previous phases will lead to closure.

Post-purchase

For this phase, marketers expend energy in building loyalty and continuing efforts to expose the customer to the company. Loyalty is about engaging, creating great customer experiences and showing they matter to you – all while making it easy for customers to share.

One way to do that is create a LinkedIn group or customer service forum to build a community where customers can help each other with the product or service, share experiences and post enhancement suggestions.

Collecting reviews and testimonials is also a factor in this phase. LinkedIn company pages let people post testimonials by product or service. When the timing is right, the company can request testimonials from customers. For instance, after you’ve delivered your product or completed a service, send an email to clients asking about their experience with your product or service and what you can do to better serve them. Add a link to your LinkedIn products page where they can post it. Or use it as a quote in a blog post and other places online.

Putting the CDJ Approach to Work

Marketers need to evaluate their touch points to determine which requires more focus. No longer is the focus on the beginning and end of the funnel. Companies doing that will miss opportunities to connect with and influence clients especially in postpurchase phase.

Remember different phases have different levels of importance based on the company and industry. This along with their lead generation strategy, companies determine where they should spend more or fewer resources in supporting the customer’s journey to maximize social media and build trusted relationships. Marketers must map their process and messaging to each stage of the CDJ to ensure they reach the right customers, address pain points, and do it in the right phases to influence them to take the next step.

Buyers are more informed and have more control of the buying process. Social media connects you with those buyers allowing you to provide them with what they need in their journey.

Need help? There are so many more ways you can empower your CDJ with social media than we covered in this blog post. If you’d like more information on nurturing and generating leads with social media, schedule a 20-minute consult. No cost, no obligation and no pressure.

Social Media Tools for Financial Advisors

Many financial advisors remain understandably leery about using social media especially in the face of regulatory compliance. However, they may be losing out on opportunities. According to the Cogent’s research report, “Social Media’s Impact on Personal Finance and Investing,” one-third of affluent investors use social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Time to Change Opinion on Social Media?

Furthermore, the report states that nearly 70 percent of investors have reallocated investments, or started or change relationships with advisors based on content found through social media. And FINRA has issued several notices clarifying the rules for advisers using social media. Advisors will be hard-pressed to find reasons not to investigate social media. Don’t know where to start? Begin with Three social media guidelines for financial advisors.

One of the more important factors is the ability to archive all online conversations. Social media management firms, social CRM and message archiving technology from the following companies will help advisors satisfy the requirement. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but one to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Actiance

Actiance’s compliance management platform helps manage organization’s real-time communication, collaboration and social networking to ensure they meet regulatory requirements. Actiance includes audit trails, real-time content review and secure archiving for all communications channels.

RegEd

RegEd Arkovi Social Media Archiving platform archives email, social media communications and YouTube, including profiles, company pages, comments by everyone — not just the employees, likes and so on. RegEd supports Google Apps, Office 365 and offers on-demand audit reports and search exports. The company also has various compliance and risk management tools and training.

erado

Designed for FINRA and SEC compliance among others, Erado’s suite of products review content in real time and near time, and capture, archive, secure and encrypt electronic communications, such as email, social media activities and instant messaging. The company also helps with developing a corporate compliance policy and provides disaster recovery services.

hearsay

Hearsay Social Compliance Solution captures and archives all social communications across devices, locations and access points. The platform continuously monitors all content in real-time for instant remediation. Hearsay’s dashboard consists of pre-approval workflow, real-time alerts, supervision and approval trails and infraction resolution.

smarsh

Smarsh hosted email archiving and compliance platform captures and archives every email and internal message, and includes search, supervision and on-demand export features. Smarsh’s Virtual Compliance Officer for electronic message supervision activities is integrated with the company’s hosted message archiving platform. This tool searches all communications and takes action based on customized policies.

socialware

Socialware software and services helps organizations use social media securely and stay within compliance on the corporate network and mobile devices. Socialware Compliance lets organizations define and automate social media compliance policies and create workflows and processes.

Before You Invest in Social Media Tools …

Most of these companies state that technology also needs people, processes, policies and strategies. Organizations can’t rely on technology alone for complying with regulation requirements and benefiting from social media and other communications. Any company that says otherwise is probably one to avoid.

Social media has one advantage over other modes of communication: online technology. Because of this, everything said and done in social media is stored. This makes the data searchable, trackable and reportable. Again, technology doesn’t cover everything. Financial advisors need to be educated and incorporate social media strategy into the business strategy.

How to Nurture Leads Online Using Social Media

nurturing social mediaToday’s guest post comes from Nathaniel Mollen, a student of philosophy at Ursinus College. Marketing is only a little like metaphysics, but it’s made him somewhat of an expert in making dry topics both clear and interesting.

Lead nurturing is not really a new idea, but the term “lead nurturing,” and its codification as a strategy for using email to improve lead quality by relationship building only came into its own in the 2000s with Microsoft and the like paving the way. The fact that it took almost seven years after email became a widely used form of mass communication for marketing people to realize the potential of using it in this way may be a lesson for the industry. As the very premises of how people do business change at an incredibly rapid rate, it pays to be as on-the-ball as possible with new trends in how people communicate.

This is why online lead nurturing – lead nurturing that takes advantage of social media – is incredibly important. Current doctrine seems to dictate that all email-based lead nurturing campaigns include links to social networking sites like Facebook, but there’s very little in the way of advice on using the social networking sites themselves for nurturing, since getting a lead to follow you online through email is already a double opt-in – a high quality lead already.

But maybe that’s not enough anymore. Maybe doing the lead nurturing online entirely is the way of the future. Email is seeming less efficient by the day, and adapting existing lead nurturing doctrine to work with social networking seems like a very smart thing to do. Unfortunately, the groundwork for doing this easily – much less in a way optimized for the medium – just isn’t there yet. Because the most obvious features of social networking is its ability to share, most marketers consider the options it presents only for lead generation. But by ignoring the things it brings to the table in terms of accessibility and personalization – the more conversational nature inherent to the medium – you’d be remiss to not consider it. After all, a lead who has followed your page has already expressed an interest in knowing more (doubly so if inbound from a hub like LinkedIn).

So how do you adapt to this new way of communicating?

One begins by understanding that online lead nurturing has to play by the medium’s rules. Social networking posts are almost always necessarily shorter than would be otherwise ideal for an email update. In this not-quite-so-new-anymore age of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and Twitter, things are much more high-key, and information goes by a lot faster. It’s the compression and information density that so many sociologists love to critique, but love it or hate it, it’s your marketplace now, and it must be understood.

So the first thing you’re going to have to consider is the rate at which you update. Posts being shorter means that you’re either going to have to compress the amount of information you’re passing at any given time (and risk coming off as too stiff – the point of this is, after all, relationship building) or repackage it into smaller pieces. If you’re doing it in smaller pieces, then the rate at which you send those updates out must also be more rapid. More frequent updates also compensate for the high-key nature of social networking by helping ensure your leads maintain their interest. Naturally, this must be balanced so as to not annoy or buffalo your leads such that they are lost.

This effect is especially pronounced on sites like Twitter, which have set character limits. If you’re including links in your updates, that only compounds the problem. How do you communicate anything effectively to your leads? This is the persistent problem Twitter has in general with attracting new users: the perception that 140 characters can’t possibly hold anything of value.

The trick with Twitter is in not thinking of individual tweets as online lead nurturing updates. Tweets are best send out in bursts which together form a whole. If lead nurturing is fitting together pieces of a puzzle, then online lead nurturing with twitter is like building the puzzle pieces themselves out of Lego. It’s not such a hard thing to consider when you remember that the optimum length in characters for an email heading is about the average length of a tweet, so if you have experience with that, you likely already have the necessary skills for making it work.

The most important thing to consider, however, is the dynamic nature of social networking. Email campaigns are largely impersonal, because they have to be. Making an actual connection with each of your possibly hundreds of leads by email is generally too work intensive to be practical. To be practical, most email lead nurturing campaigns have to be largely automated and static.

On the other hand, the dynamics of social media mean that actively interacting with your leads – making them fans by outreach – is suddenly practical. Not only can you readily like and reply to their comments, you can also share or retweet your leads’ content in return. In other words, there are many more opportunities to make your online lead nurturing more about the lead and less about the pure mechanical automation of releasing product or service info. As lead nurturing – online or not – is absolutely reliant on establishing and maintaining this relationship, this makes social networking potentially invaluable. After all, who among you would remain friends with someone who’s always speaking and never listening?

Naturally, as comparatively new ground, this sort of online lead nurturing can run into unfamiliar difficulties – like the danger of making yourself too available – but it’s a potentially powerful and very much cost and time effective tool to have. And when you’re a startup business with no time or money to waste, it’s things like this which can mean the difference between breaking even and being forced to abandon years of work.

Good luck, and happy marketing!

3 Social Media Guidelines for Financial Advisors

Financial advisors in social mediaAlthough many financial advisors would like to get out there in social media, they’ve been cautious and with good reason. A July 2013 SEI poll of 200 advisors has found less than a third of respondents use social media.  They’re concerned about broker dealers, regulatory compliance, time and cost, archiving of social media activities and coming up with content.

Yet they know the value of social media for building relationships with clients and industry thought leaders, communicating with investors, reducing marketing costs and increasing sales. A lot has changed as regulatory organizations have issued guidelines to help financial advisors jump in the tricky waters of social media without going out of bounds.

Social Media Regulations for Financial Services

FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) has issued Regulatory Notice 10-06, Guidance on Blog and Social Networking Web Sites. It has also issued Regulatory Notice 11-39, Guidance on Social Networking Websites and Business Communications to cover the questions not addressed in 10-06. Those two FINRA notices and FINRA Rule 2210 especially 2210(c)(6), which addresses the spot-checking of social media communications help financial services firms ensure they comply with FINRA regulations.

SEC’s 2008 Guidance on the Use of Company Web Sites also applies to social media. What’s more is that the SEC embraces social media. The SEC states firms can use social media as long as they make their social media plans clear to investors and that they don’t share information that would give any investor an unfair advantage.

Just like firms must adhere to fair-disclosure rule in all communications, it also applies to social media. Still after reading these guidelines, financial advisors may be throwing up their arms in frustration not knowing where to begin.

Start with three simple steps: Create a social media policy, undergo training and archive all online activities.

1. Create a living social media policy.

Since social media continuously develops, this living document needs to evolve with it and adapt to regulation and technology changes. A social media policy identifies the financial service firm’s goals for using social media, policies and procedures for using social media, outlines who can represent the firm in social media and lists the social media platforms supported and how each is used.

Review and address all of the points in aforementioned guidelines in the social media policy. It’s important to keep revisiting the policy as you would a business plan. As a financial services firm gains experience in using social media, it can revise the policy based on best practices and lessons learned.

2. Receive social media training.

This isn’t a one-time deal. Just like doctors and teachers undergo specialized training to keep up their knowledge and skills, financial advisors need to undergo social media training that covers the latest regulations, what content they can and can’t share online, the firm’s policy and social media best practices.

3. Archive all social media content and activities.

Archiving is a FINRA requirement and the firm needs to create a process for archiving all online content before communicating online. Archives include social media URLs, posts and updates. It also helps to have time-stamped entries for easier archive searches.

With the available social media guidelines and resources, financial services firms need not be afraid to connect with the big world of social media where many clients, investors and prospects await.

Related resources

FINRA Rule 2210: http://finra.complinet.com/en/display/display_main.html?rbid=2403&element_id=10648

FINRA Targeted Examination Letters – Re: Spot-Check of Social Media Communications: http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Guidance/TargetedExaminationLetters/P282569

National Examination Risk Alert: Investment Adviser Use of Social Media: http://www.sec.gov/about/offices/ocie/riskalert-socialmedia.pdf [PDF]

SEC Says Social Media OK for Company Announcements if Investors Are Alerted: http://www.sec.gov/News/PressRelease/Detail/PressRelease/1365171513574#.UhTmY6zhJgc

SEC Issues Guidance Update on Social Media Filings by Investment Companies: http://www.sec.gov/News/PressRelease/Detail/PressRelease/1365171513280#.UhTmZazhJgc

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    I have been running a marketing and PR firm since 1994. I love marketing and I love helping people grow their businesses. This blog lets me share what I've learned about marketing to help you generate more leads and sales for your company.
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