Social Media is about engaging your audience through conversation and conversion.  By offering great content, your followers are likely to download, share, or contact you to learn more.  However, to get the most out of your social media outlets it’s important that your message is directed at the appropriate audience.  Twitter offers you the ability to create and edit lists, but not an easy way of maintaining them.  Below, I discuss ways to segment and maintain your Twitter lists for better ROI.

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Since the private equity business is dependent on relationships with a finite number of LPs, executives and entrepreneurs, you need to be sure you can identify every potential opportunity to engage with your target audience.  With 3 out of 4 Americans using social media, various platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have become an extremely cost-effective way for a firm to broaden its reach and strengthen its corporate relationships.  Surprisingly, however, when BackBay Communications surveyed the private equity market for its Private Equity Brand Equity II report, published last fall, only 7 percent of responding professionals said their firms were using social media regularly.

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Judy Gern, Senior Client Partner with Revenue Architects, recently posted an article on the Vocus blog that deserves some further sharing. The key message is that by using symbols creatively in emails, open rates can see dramatic results.

Click on the image below to visit the original post on the Vocus Blog.


Vocus Blog Post

Social media is not just for reconnecting with former classmates and sharing photos from this year’s family reunion; websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook and now Google+ can be valuable professional tools when you develop your social media presence with certain relationship building goals in mind. Taking advantage of the possible connections that social media provides and working to develop relationships with potential clients, peers, and competitors can benefit your business in ways that were not possible prior to the age of social media.

Rather than using social media for direct marketing, which is more likely to turn people away, it is most effective to indirectly promote your firm by developing your own individual online presence. Regularly publishing, posting and tweeting on related issues shows that you are active and engaged within the business community, which will in turn reflects positively on your firm.  The two dimensions for measuring social media impact are reach and influence. With regular, if not frequent, substantive updates and a large network of followers will help drive the velocity of your practice and give you the benefit of positive name recognition.

One of the most effective ways that you can take advantage of social media’s networking opportunities is to collaborate with both peers and competitors in order to learn from their business practices. Join an industry group on LinkedIn and start a discussion to share tips on anything from best investment practices to which software to use. Collaborating with peers online also allows you to gain a better understanding of what they deal with, which will help you to be better prepared to work with them offline.

You can also use social media to your advantage by developing closer personal relationships with clients. Friend clients on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You will develop a better understanding of your client as a person, which will allow you to plan better for them and therefore increase their overall satisfaction. In browsing their profile you might discover a mutual interest that could influence investment plans, and responding to their posts will show that you are engaged and attentive. Conversely, your clients will get to know you better by following your updates, allowing for a more personal and natural relationship. Advisory firms that want to draw in younger clients and investors will need to tap into social media. Of course, you must weigh your own public persona and determine how visible and transparent you want to be. Each channel has unique characteristics which may make it more suitable for personal use rather than business use. Compliance considerations are always there – but increasingly managable with a combination of tools and policies.

There are certain limitations to keep in mind when diving into the social media world. Posts are typically best kept brief – mandatory on Twitter – and nuance is easily lost, so tread carefully. There are also certain rules that regulate advisers’ public communications in order to protect investors. The SEC has not yet established any rules or guidelines specific to social media, which has allowed advisers working at small firms more room to move when working with social media. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), however, has issued rules for the use of social media, requiring broker-dealers to be more formal and deliberate in their social media communications.

Provided that these rules and limitations are managed, social media networks can be a highly effective tool to benefit your business through relationship building. Be active and engaged in the online community and your growing online network will benefit your business offline, too.

I am writing this post from the Acela train heading back to Boston after an interactive session with about 40 clients of Schwab Advisor Services in New York. One discussion at the event was with Adam Sheer from the Roosevelt Investment Group which was particularly interesting and I think offers some guidance when thinking about strategies for using Twitter and what content to share across social nets.

The Roosevelt Investment Group prides itself on always adding value in their interactions with clients. These interactions, today, use email or other 1:1 communication. So, when considering using a platform like Twitter, what should their approach be? What content should they tweet and share? An example I shared in my presentation was about ReTweeting a “good news” post from a client relationship as a way to help build the relationship. However, since the Tweet may have no direct relevance to investment management, would it be of any interest to the followers of the firm? The answer depends on the strategy employed and the role of your Twitter ID. What do you want to be known for on Twitter? Are you building a network of people and tweeting on multiple topics or only on business topics? After all, we know that Twitter is not just a business network…and the choice is yours.

So what is the lesson?

Yes, you can mix personal and business tweets – but begin by thinking about the role of your Twitter channel. Do you want a range of personal communications or a feed of posts about specific content themes? Perhaps you should consider multiple Twitter IDs – personal and business. Is your Twitter feed going to be about multiple topics, or focused on a specific audience?

Successful tweeting is about focus. Numerous companies small and large have shown that diligently writing a few tweets with content their customers want to read can greatly increase connection that a person has to the company. Even more common are twitter feeds that are rarely read and pretty much irrelevant. The difference is focus. Treating a feed like it is business will go unnoticed. Treating a feed like a friendly conversation will get noticed. Think of it as telling a friend “I liked this article and you probably will to.”

By doing something as simple as tweeting news articles or retweeting other’s valuable tweets that your firm’s clients want to read makes your twitter feed worth reading. The simple truth is that most people don’t want to spend their time finding news that directly pertains to them in the vastness of digital information.

The number of news outlets has risen exponentially in the past decade. Just as books became significantly cheaper and more available after the Gutenberg press, the internet has again dropped the cost of publishing to a new level. One of the numerous side effects is that the amount being published has risen and, because content is king, newspapers have been publishing more because their main reason for not publishing has all but disappeared: Cost.

The cost of publishing, as Clay Shirky has told us, was the main deterrent for publishing articles that consumers wouldn’t read. Publishing too many unread articles would lead to decreases in readership then subscriptions and eventually profits. The cost lowering effect of internet media has removed that physical barrier on printed page real estate. It is this cost reduction that has lead to a decrease in the inherent filtering that newspapers perform and hence an increase in total articles published. This has lead to the popular notion of “Information Overload.”

This impression isn’t exactly accurate because since shortly after the Gutenberg press was invented there were more books than a human could physically read in a lifetime. The difference between printed and e-newspapers eras is a question of filtering. Trusted newspapers became trusted because filtered for to find the best of “all the news that’s fit to print” and printed quality, vetted news that their readership wanted to read. By becoming the filter for your audience you become the source. Using the retweet function can increase your Social Capitol because you are the filter. As any retailer will tell you, being the source is good for business.

Retweet – and be the filter – so that you are the source.

You recognize how the explosive growth of social networking – with tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube – is fundamentally changing the way your clients learn, evaluate, and ultimately make their decisions. You recognize that these web 2.0 tools are an increasingly important influence in the client engagement process. Prospects seek evidence online to validate decisions and get instant feedback from others by listening and participating in online conversations.

We work with leading wealth managers and financial advisors who recognize that their clients are using social media and the web to help them evaluate an advisor. The content and professional credentials visible online are an increasingly important part of their decision process.  Successful advisors use their online presence to drive new business. They use blogs, Facebook Groups / Fan Pages, and Twitter to engage in online conversation, increasing referrals and attracting new clients.

However, new media marketing is not a panacea. Your online presence and activity won’t replace your existing relationship-building activities and the quality work you perform with clients. Your approach to new media marketing should be authentic—engaging in meaningful activities that enhance the quality of your work and personal relationships. Tackled the right way, a new media marketing approach will further accelerate your growth.

But where do you begin? Which networks should you join? How do you build an online presence? How do you avoid introducing risk with your current brand? What is involved in using social media and inbound marketing techniques day-to-day?  To help you get started, we developed the following checklist. This ten-step plan will guide you in taking positive steps forward in your new media marketing plan. With a thoughtful approach and a committed strategy, you will be rewarded with a professional online presence and accelerated growth.

10 Steps to Get Started with New Media and Social Media Marketing

  1. Define your purpose.  Determine in advance why you are engaging in new media.  Is it for educational purposes or to market your business?  If you don’t have clear intentions, how can you expect to have clear results?
  2. Find your target market. Join the social networking sites that are comprised of your target niche market.  Remember that the most popular social networking sites might not be the sites where your ideal clients visit.  Go to where your potential clients are, and don’t just spend time with your peers.
  3. Craft your message. Your audience will only hear bits of pieces of your message at a time, so it is critical that you consistently and frequently broadcast a clear message about who you serve and what you offer. Don’t make your audience guess what you do, make it clear to them.
  4. Gather and create content. Content is king in new media marketing.  Demonstrate your expertise by educating your audience through blogs, articles, videos, or podcasts.  Gather or create useful content to aid you in your new media marketing efforts.
  5. Build your web presence & social media profiles. As you build out your profiles, you will be building a web presence that will give you a footprint beyond your website. This presence will increase your exposure to potential new clients. As you decide to participate in LinkedIn, Facebook, or other networking sites, it is important that you complete your profiles.  A person is likely to only visit your profile once, so make a lasting first impression.
  6. Build your network. The more people you connect with on social networking sites, the more people will see your message.  Make a conscious effort to continually build your connections on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter and other networks you are targeting.
  7. Promote your profiles and cross-connect. Let people know you are on the various social networking sites by promoting links on your website and email signature.  This will help you organically grow your network. The more sites where you connect with someone, the stronger your relationship will become.  Where it makes sense, find and connect with contacts across multiple social media sites.
  8. Build an inbound strategy. Craft a strategy for your website and email/newsletter marketing programs. It is important that when potential new relationships click back to your website, they experience your brand in the right way. Ensure your website is professional and visually branded for your target audience and includes interactive web features like RSS and social bookmarking. Search engine optimization (SEO), landing page lead capture, and lead nurturing should be part of your website strategy.
  9. Communicate Persuasively. Ensure your messages are sharp and clear. Are you delivering a persuasive message? Is your logic clear and concise? Are you listening and empathetic to client needs?
  10. Actively engage. Use social networking sites and your website to promote your content to your targeted market. This helps educate your audience and keeps your name top-of-mind. Social media is the same as any networking or marketing strategy—the more consistent you are, the better the results. Actively participate in the various social networking sites on a weekly basis to achieve the greatest results.