Building Relationships Through Social Media

Billions of people around the world use social media, and it’s more than likely your current and potential clients fit into this group. However, it’s not just consumers pushing the social media trend.

According to data from McKinsey Global Institute cited in a report published by Ivey Business Journal, 70 percent of companies use some form of social media.

In a report titled “The Art of Business Relationships Through Social Media,” author Harold Schroeder highlighted two valuable developments social media has wrought.

Social network's like LinkedIn make gaining client trust that much easier.“First, the proliferation of social networking sites means that it has become much easier to develop weak ties, which can be tapped to provide information or assistance, or to collaborate,” Schroeder stated. “Work-related networks of (mainly) weak ties might include, for example, an individual’s or organization’s list of LinkedIn contacts, or the members of an online forum established by a professional group to share information and discuss issues of interest.”

And while face-to-face meetings and telephone calls used to be considered “strong” ties, the digital age has put social media at the forefront of consumer engagement.

“One of the main impacts of these developments has been the requirement for firms to develop new relationship-based associations with their customers and other social media participants, especially to build and maintain brand loyalty and to manage or at least influence what is being said about them online,” Schroeder continued.

In short, the days of traditional marketing efforts for wealth planning professionals are over. Now is the time to build business relationships through social media.

Selling through social

The problem for many financial professionals is that the old rule book doesn’t apply to social selling. Engaging with clients over platforms like LinkedIn is much different from traditional sales channels, and it’s vital to understand how to approach them.

The following are three key factors to keep in mind:

1. Authenticity matters: Building relationships over social media is about being “real.” Your ultimate goal may be to provide your clients with a product or service, but coming off as a salesperson is not an option. Social media is all about communication, so use it to talk to clients and exchange ideas. This will provide you with a subtle and organic way to gain feedback, find out what’s important to them and build a relationship.

2. Engagement is better than censorship: Citing data from Zavišić & Zavišić, Schroeder stated that a global consumer survey found 78 percent of respondents said they place greater trust in other people’s recommendations for products and services than in other sources. Social media is a big part of this, as opinions and reviews on different networking sites can go viral in a flash. However, if a client has less than positive things to say about you on your own social networking profile, the last thing you want to do is delete them. Social media provides the ideal context in which to engage with an unhappy client to fix a problem. In this way, you can salvage a soured working relationship while showing other potential clients your willingness to make things better. Welcome feedback and implement changes accordingly – censoring negativity can backfire spectacularly on social media.

3. Presence should be maintained: Simply creating a profile on LinkedIn is not enough. In order to effectively build relationships through social media, you need to have a steady presence. Consumers should feel like you would respond promptly if they engage you. Posting content and interacting with other social media users on a routine basis is essential to accomplishing this. Forgoing a social media presence may be poor strategy in today’s world, but having a social media presence that doesn’t register with clients is just as bad. It may take time, but plug away at your social media presence. After all, in order to build a relationship, you need to be seen.

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