Don't be a social media peeping tom
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Strategic Issues

Don't be a social media peeping tom

March 7, 2012

by Tony Vidler.

For quite a while I have been talking to financial advisers about how the marketing world has changed in recent years – and how their own marketing methods have not (generally speaking). 

In short, I have been beating the drum for the advisers to consider social media and digital marketing platforms as a core part of their communications with consumers and customers alike.

Driving this belief that advisers are missing the most fantastic and low-cost marketing strategy available today is the fundamental concept of “that is where the customers are”. 

 Basically it makes good sense to use the platforms and methods of engagement that the consumers themselves use. It’s not rocket science is it? Go where the customers are if you want to find more customers.

Recently I saw a wonderful article titled “Social Media – an advisers double-edged sword“. It was fabulous, and just what the doctor ordered. You see, what I really needed was a jolly good laugh….and I got it courtesy of this excellently idiotic article.

The essence of the joke was the (I presume) serious suggestion that financial advisers can benefit most from using social media as a listening outpost only. They are urged not to comment or participate, but merely tag along as a listener to what everyone else is doing – particularly their competitors (other advisers). The advice therefore was listen, but don’t talk. That is clearly advice from someone who doesn’t understand a thing about social networking.

The 2 primary purposes of social networking are:
1. be social
2. network

Forgive me for stating the bleeding obvious, but it obviously wasn’t bleeding obvious to everyone commenting on the subject.

How does one be social (in any sense) by not conversing or engaging with others? You’d be the total life and soul of the party and dozens of folk would want to invite you into their lives if you spent your entire time eavesdropping on conversations and not contributing anything. That’s just the sort of person I’d like to do business with. Yeah, right.

How do you network, or engage with other people for mutual benefit, if you are intending that it be a one way street? That is someone to trust with your wallet isn’t it?

It was the most ludicrous piece of marketing advice I have seen for some time – and there have been some seriously bad contenders. This was a doozy though.

The point has been fairly made for some time in a number of jurisdictions that there is risk for any business when using social media as part of their marketing – and perhaps moreso for financial advisers. Clearly there are compliance issues that every adviser must be mindful of – with ANY of their marketing. There are standards expected of an adviser to be truthful and honest in ANY of their advertising. Should an adviser provide personalised advice to any consumer with a megaphone in a public place, they are a goose (at the very least). Advisers are smart enough to know that by the way, and probably don’t need to be told that any further.

The rules that apply to advisers in terms of their duty of care to clients, or restrictions upon providing personalised advice without engaging in the appropriate process, or respecting privacy issues apply to anything they do. Naturally that includes social media activity.

One of the (slightly) amusing things about this particular concern of the moment is that the doom & gloom brigade are suggesting there is an issue with advisers use of social media. It is “alarming” no less according to the article – the authors of which by the way are able to provide an audit and compliance sign-off for any alarmed advisers and then provide guidance on how to go about getting it right.

I’m no expert on these things, but I am an active user of social media myself. Not necessarily fantastic user, but with nearly 1,300 LinkedIn connections, 1,700 Twitter followers, 400 Facebookers and about 1,500 regular e-zine readers and another couple of thousand on the blog together with the dribs and drabs on Youtube, Pinterest and so on. I feel like I have got a little bit of an idea now about what works in this space. I do tend to see enough of what people are using social media for to have an idea about whether there is an alarming problem or not in this industry.

The author of the “alarming” article by the way has virtually no social media presence of any consequence.

There isn’t an alarming problem at all. It’s a load of cobblers (as far as NZ is concerned anyway).

I cannot recall a single example on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or in email newsletters where advisers are being misleading, deceptive or providing personalised advice to consumers. I do not read too many of other people’s blogs, so perhaps there IS an alarming problem there. However the few blogs I do read present no issues that I can see, so I am willing to wager that there is not a blogging problem of epic proportions either.

As far as I can tell, the few advisers who do use social media actively are quite mindful of their role and use the networks as a means of providing useful content and interesting information of a general nature. That is excellent content marketing, and they are to be congratulated.

One of the most critical things that advisers need to do is engage with consumers, and be a reliable source of excellent and useful content. 

A study here revealed that only 19% of New Zealanders’ cite the financial adviser as their primary source of financial information. We have a long way to go – and providing quality content is the key – before we are even close to being seen as a credible information source to the majority of the market. Content marketing via social media is in my view one of the areas where the financial advisory community can easily and affordably add to the financial literacy of the nation – which is an excellent outcome.

For any advisers considering using social media as part of their marketing strategy, here are simple rules (and they are provided free!):
1. Be honest – as you would be in any other marketing
2. Be mindful of privacy issues – as you would be in any other marketing
3. Personal advice should be given to people personally, not broadcast via satellite. But you knew that.
4. Engage with people. Social networking is about being social, and conversing – that’s a two-way thing. But you knew that.
5. Don’t be a social media peeping tom. It’s despicable and nobody likes them. But you knew that too.

And one final rule for business in general:

Don’t listen to self-interested and inane advice. Your clients won’t, and nor should you.


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Comments (1)

  • True Tony, I've had the friend request immediately followed by invitation to business launch… as you say, you've got to be having a conversation or engaging properly. Best wishes,Russell Hutchinson

    Russell Hutchinson
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