TORONTO – When Graeme Codrington’s three teenage daughters go shopping, they don’t just see something they like and buy it. They study it in real time, with the help social media like Facebook. In fact, said the expert in disruptive forces, they “know everything” about what they are looking at before they decide to buy.
“These people will be your clients,” he said in a kick-off workshop here at the annual meeting of Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT).
To illustrate, told how his daughters take a photo of the bar code of something they’d like to buy. From the bar code, they can gather recent retail prices, availability for delivery and other details.
Then they go to Facebook and Amazon.com to get reviews of the items from other people who bought the product, said the co-founder and international director of TomorrowToday, a global firm of futurists and business strategies based in Norwood, South Africa.
Then they upload a photo of the item into Facebook and ask their friends, “Do you think this is nice?” And, within a half minute, they get 20 responses from their friends, Codrington said.
The point being, when the teens shop, “there are no mysteries, and no hypothetical questions,” he told the insurance and financial advisors in the audience.
No more information arbitrage
For advisors, that means there is no information arbitrage anymore. “You need a business plan for a world where everybody knows everything,” he said.
There are several ways that advisors can make social media part of the business plan, he said. For instance, advisors should use social media to enhance and improve their own expertise; to personally connect with other people; and to build their brand, he said.
Advisors who are thinking that this is what they have been doing for their whole career are right, he said. “There is no magic formula in social media, no good tweet that will have people rushing into your business. There is no group on Facebook saying that, ‘all I want of Christmas is a financial advisor.”
However, he said, what social media can do for the advisor is to open up new channels and new communities of people who will see who the advisor is and what the advisor does.
Using social media won’t attract more clients tomorrow or next week, he cautioned. But it could help bring in more clients next year. “This is about next year’s prospecting.”
Go where the clients are
To be effective with social media, go where clients and customers actually are, he stressed repeatedly. That includes existing clients and potential new customers. “Know who your customers are and where they are digitally,” he suggested.
“If you build it, they won’t come. But if you go where they are (digitally), you can start speaking to them.”
Codrington made a strong case for advisors using blogs—websites that allow people to comment with text, flag likes or not-likes, and otherwise interact with discussion. Actually, he believes blogging is a key piece of social media strategy that advisors can use effectively.
His suggestions are to post short items on the blog, perhaps 300 words or so. It can be one thought or insight on something seen or read. Post regularly, about twice a month, and invite people to comment, he added.
Over time, the advisor’s blog becomes a place for other people to go, and it’s an effective way for advisors to establish their expertise and connection with others. “Drip feed information to your market,” he suggested, rather than offer long articles. And then use social media, like Facebook, to drive people to the blog or website.
Some things could go wrong, he allowed. For instance, a compliance officer or regulator could find fault with an advisor’s social media use, or a mistake appearing in social media posting could make the advisor “look stupid.”
To evaluate content before posting, he suggested that advisors to ask themselves how they would feel if a posting appeared on the front page of a newspaper, was said in a public group, or was seen by the advisor’s boss, clients, children or mother.
Some clients don’t look at social media, Codrington conceded. “But for the younger generation of digital natives, that’s where they are.”
Advisors who are looking for new clients will need to go there, he reiterated. Social media “is about community connection over time,” he said. “It’s relationships, not campaigns.”
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