The first part of this two-part blog, on using social media for businesses, can be found here.
Social media is becoming a key and unavoidable aspect of business, with 77% of the top 100 companies and 70% of small businesses on Twitter.
Research has indicated that social media users follow companies mainly to keep up to date with news and to receive information related to their personal interests.
As a result, the ever-growing importance of social media cannot be underemphasised, and especially for financial services given its lag behind other industries.
It is unlikely that Instagram and Pinterest will be a main channel of communication for the professional and financial services industries because of the inherent lack of visual content that goes hand in hand with these sectors.
The same is applicable to Facebook, where shareable content is king: the site’s 500 million users surpassed 8 billion daily video views in November 2015, and it is now the first-choice video viewing site (with its 12.3 billion annual views first exceeding YouTube’s 11.3 billion in June 2014).
Although LinkedIn is growing in popularity – with two new members signing up every second – the focus here is arguably on the quality of content, which is longer and more in-depth than Twitter. LinkedIn also serves to build communities of likeminded people who help one another, rather than locating and contributing to a specific conversation and interacting with cherry-picked influencers.
It therefore falls to Twitter as, in my opinion, the most significant social medium for the professional and financial services industry.
This platform affords businesses direct access to potential clients and customers, gives them the chance to forge their own tone and brand identity, and allows them into industry conversations, an opportunity that is second to none.
As an agency, we more often than not set up and manage clients’ social media accounts.
This means tailored strategies and approaches for each client based on their individual expertise, content and target audiences. This comes into play right from the word go – each client will need its own analysis and baseline to work from as well as unique and personalised management of the accounts once they’ve been set up.
First things first
The first step into the corporate Twitter world, perhaps even before setting up a company account, is to analyse the surrounding environment. Every company needs to know where it currently stands (if it already has an online presence), how its competitors are making use of social media, and the existing conversations it needs to involve itself in.
A competitor analysis will show you a staggering range of statistics:
If your closest competitor is only tweeting once weekly, is not engaging with other users, and is achieving little engagement, you might decide to tweet three times a week and keep an eye on what others are saying about you, giving you the chance to respond and build relationships with the people who are actively interested in your business.
Conversely, if you see a competitor tweeting every day but still not experiencing any engagement, you can learn from this and consider where they may be going wrong – be it a total lack of interaction, underuse of hashtags, or simply pushing out uninteresting content.
Don’t let it go
Once you’ve decided how to approach your use of social media, it’s important to find the topical conversations in your industry.
There are many ways to find out what people are talking about within a particular hashtag and a quick, frequent scan of your most important topics will ensure you take part in the conversations as they’re happening and not piggybacking on them once they’ve passed.
It cannot be said enough that it’s more valuable to have ten followers who you engage with – and who engage with you in return – than 1,000 silent ones who are in reality just a number on a screen.
It would also be useful to locate the influencers in your industry. Finding the people who get into in-depth conversations, and those whom other users see as the main voices on a topic, is key. Build relationships with them; discuss industry news and developments; offer insights and opinions on their commentary.
Even more specifically, it’s actually possible to find out the best time to tweet as well as the particular words that will (hopefully) result in the most engagement.
It might be the case that your Twitter followers are most active in the morning and you’re tweeting in the middle of the afternoon – in this case there will be a vast amount of untapped engagement potential requiring only a simple alteration to your strategy to unlock a leap in results.
It might also be that you are using too much jargon and the people talking about your industry are just not coming across what you’re saying, so all you need to do is reposition your conversation.
If this sounds like a mammoth task, particularly when managing multiple Twitter accounts, a useful approach would be to schedule tweets and set aside time to re-evaluate conversations, keywords, and influencers.
Online platforms allow for pre-planning of tweets for multiple users, to coincide with the peak times identified in the initial analysis (although it goes without saying that this needs to be checked every so often as audiences will change, as will their activity).
Tweets can be planned for the week ahead, leaving the account’s manager to focus on engagement and dialogues.
A daily (or however frequently it was decided the company would post) scan of the trending conversations will mean you are best placed to post relevant content and to talk to other users. Finally, a review every two to three months of the best keywords to use, which can be done together with an assessment of best times to post, will ensure that you do not fall behind the curve.
Simpler than it sounds
Managing clients’ social media accounts can seem a daunting task.
Each has their own individual environment that needs to be exploited for the best possible follower engagement.
However, there are a huge number of online platforms and programmes that can scan users, posts, and discussions so that you do not get left behind and can be at the spearhead of conversations, working towards becoming an influencer yourself.
It is important, now more than ever, for companies to use Twitter to their advantage. There are over 550 million active Twitter users and more than 400 million tweets per day, presenting an incredible opportunity for your company to integrate itself into the online communities discussing your industry. Crucially, social media is fundamentally about having conversations and engaging with users.
Remember this when drawing up your business’ strategy and don’t just shout into the void.