In a professional setting, growth can depend on referrals and testimonials from trusted colleagues and known, reliable sources. That same logic applies online, and affirms the value of social media engagement for financial services.
When people in your professional network (think LinkedIn connections) share, like and comment on your news and other content, they are extending a personal referral. Except on social media, that recommendation is to a mass audience, not just one person. According to LinkedIn Sales Solutions’ report, 78% of ‘social sellers’ outperform peers who don’t use social media.
But herein lies the rub. The stereotype, too often accepted by those in the financial sphere, is that social media amounts to something of a frill: an afterthought or add-on to a conventional sales and marketing strategy. Yet if smart business leaders hope to reach a captive audience of consumers and prospective customers where they spend a majority of their time, it’s not possible to ignore the vast audiences social media sites attract.
The statistics back this up. Social media is where growing numbers of people spend increasing amounts of time:
According to 2016 research done by Pew Research Center, 62 percent of adults get their news via social media, with sites Facebook, Twitter and Reddit serving as prime sources for B2B news.
The research also shows that users of sites such as LinkedIn more actively seek out news as opposed to simply happening upon it; 51 percent of LinkedIn’s reported 450 million users actively follow news on the platform.
Meanwhile, Facebook audience continues to explode. It reached an astounding 1.55 billion monthly active users on average for September 2015. Today, it’s safe to say Facebook surpassed the 1.71 billion monthly active users reached in June 2016.
Don’t fret if you feel like you’ve fallen behind the curve; the phenomenon of “social selling” is young, dating to just 2010. But you’ll want to get involved now, or up your ante, if you want to get a jump on your competitors. Here are six crucial advantages to consider while moving into the social selling arena and leveraging social media in growing your business.
It helps you reach prospects in ways conventional approaches can’t
Already legendary for its ability to network—some users have third-degree connections numbering in the millions—LinkedIn now allows for sales-specific efforts to take advantage of those numbers. Business Standard predicts LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator “will dominate social selling space … its easy-to-use interface requires no training and mobile app enabling provides on-the-go access to key contacts and opportunities.” With countless on-the-go consumers moving into mobile, what could be better? Even Facebook, with its enormous user base, doesn’t yet boast the sales-centric advantages of LinkedIn. It enjoys the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate, running almost three times higher than Twitter and Facebook.
It promotes positive employee engagement
Social sharing and social selling programs accomplish two major goals. First, firms have a major platform to raise brand awareness. But they also ensure that your team stays up to date on real-time on company news, information, content and directives. Employees working in various locations—whether telecommuting, on the road or at the home office—stay in step with each other and your company’s message.
It streamlines compliance issues connected to employee communication
The key here is to have a system in place where compliance comes at the beginning of the equation as you create content for your team members. Once you have assembled the best blogs, informative articles, videos and infographics you can produce, your employees can then play the key role in broadcasting that message, using their social media channels and connections to get the word out.
It allows you to access the untapped influence of your staff
The stats tell the story: Your employees’ word on social media carries weight that rivals (and even surpasses) conventional advertising. According to the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Trust in employees as credible spokespeople for companies is on the rise. In 2016, 52 percent agree that employees are a credible source of information.” That’s four percentage points greater than a year ago. To that end, consider that your employees don’t just fill a position—they carry the weight of influencers among their peers and cohorts (especially if they have social media followings of their won). Collective Bias, a company specializing in influencing campaigns for brands and retailers, performed a recent study that underscored the value of influencer content. Results showed that consumers view content from influencers seven times longer than a digital display ad—two minutes, eight seconds versus 19.2 seconds.
It helps you reach millennial talent and consumers
Visibility and engagement on social media serve as tools for recruiting and hiring top millennial talent and reaching potential millennial clients. Consider that for millennials, it’s a very short hop from a Facebook app to a financial app. Two out of three banking consumers aged 18 to 29 did some type of mobile banking in the prior year, according to the Federal Reserve’s most recent annual survey of mobile use in financial services.
It broadcasts your in-house content to a wider audience
A vast number of financial companies post blogs and valuable consumer content on their websites. But social media and social selling allow you to go a powerful step further. Half the battle is harvesting rich content that focuses on topics such as investor education, strategies for saving on college tuition or navigating new tax laws. But once you’ve established credibility and show you have your finger on the pulse of market, it’s time to go the social media route. Posting via LinkedIn or Facebook, or highlighting your content via Twitter, gives you an opportunity to establish your team members as thought leaders and consumer partners in front of a much larger audience—especially when a timely or witty post goes viral.
The choice is yours. Embrace social media today or get left behind tomorrow.
Mostafa Razzak is CEO & Principal of JMRConnect, a public relations and influencer communications firm; and Mid-Atlantic Chairman of the Internet Marketing Association.