Social Media – it’s not just for kids

We know you have tried (and, we are sure, succeeded) at cold calling, direct mailing, seminar selling and working referral sources. You have talked to lawyers, accountants and financial advisors. What’s next? How do you reach the lucrative baby boomer market and the up-and-coming millennial market? Is there one approach that may work for both? Are social media and related tools the answer?

In 2000, 40% of boomers used the Internet, less than 5% had broadband and only 34% had a cell phone. By 2010, 74% of boomers were using the Internet, 63% had broadband and 81% owned cell phones.1 And guess what? You would be wrong to think boomers are far behind millennials (ages 18 to 32) in their use of the Internet and social media. Boomers and millennials track very closely in their use of email and search engines. And, surprisingly, they’re not very far apart in their use of the Internet for e-commerce either.

And when we get to social media, the boomers once again are gaining ground on the millennials.

Getting started
How do you begin connecting with these lucrative audiences using social media? Do you just jump on Facebook and start posting pictures? Do you rush to LinkedIn? Do you tweet? And what the heck is tweeting anyway?

Well, as with most ventures, the best place to start is the beginning, which means creating some over-arching goals.

To define your strategic goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my business goals?
  • What do I expect to get from my firm’s use of social media?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • How will I measure success?

For example, you may decide that your goals include more visibility to potential clients. Or maybe you want to strengthen your relationships with your referral sources, such as lawyers and accountants. Or maybe you want to connect with second-tier contacts that can grow your network.

Check out your competition. Are they using Facebook? Do they have a presence on LinkedIn? What do their profiles look like? Can you do better? Of course you can.

Have measurable goals. That is, when you wade into the social media swimming pool, how will you measure your success? More clients and more revenue? Can you elevate yourself as a thought leader in your industry? Can you measure that achievement by more referrals?

We will tell you that, as a minimum, you should have a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn. Industry chatter seems to indicate that Facebook may one day replace Web sites as the go-to source for information about businesses for consumers. You don’t want to get left behind. Next, develop overall social media marketing tactics.These would include:

  • Defining the overall tone for all your social media messaging. Think about how to integrate your culture and brand into all of your social media activities.
  • Send out new Facebook and LinkedIn profiles to your mailing list.
  • Take a look at social media properties for companies you admire — remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Set up listening tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention to see what is being said about you, your firm and your competitors.

Finally, set next steps for yourself:

  • Create a Facebook business page.
  • Create LinkedIn profiles for all the professionals in your firm.
  • Sync the profiles together with a consistent tone.
  • Choose the tactics you will implement in the next 30, 60 and 90 days.
  • Execute. Execute. Execute.
  • Review, revise and monitor results.

Fitting it in
Now you might be thinking: these are good ideas, but I don’t have the time or energy for this. Don’t give up; there are a few options. One, hire an intern. College students, for the most part, are very social media savvy and, given the opportunity, they have one speed — fast — when it comes to the art of using social media.

Two, you can affiliate with a brokerage general agency that can help you out. At AgencyONE, we are invested in social media. We do social media makeovers for our agents, and we have our very own summer college social media intern, Lizzie.

Third, you can hire a consultant. Make sure you get a referral for a consultant from a trusted source. At AgencyONE, we hired our own consultant, and we refer her to our agents. What else? Are there other tools that can be integrated with your social media marketing plan?

One of the best tools out there for the mass affluent space is WealthEngine, which can not only help you find out more about the folks who visit you on Facebook and LinkedIn, but also help you prospect.

You can increase your ROI on business development efforts by:

  • Profiling the wealth characteristics of your current clients (a great opportunity to cross-sell and create additional advanced planning opportunities),
  • Finding and leveraging your clients and referral sources through their circle of friends,
  • Identifying money in motion from insider stock holdings,
  • Generating more qualified prospects,
  • Providing access points to LinkedIn and Facebook sites for each profile and organization.

And the information gathered can grow exponentially. WealthEngine’s charitable donation statistics, which include gathered donation records as well as federal and state political contributions, have increased substantially in just the last few months.

Using a tool like this can help you find targeted prospects by wealth, lifestyle, cause and location. All of this will result in more referrals, qualified prospects and better information for your social media marketing campaigns.

No, Dorothy, we aren’t in Kansas anymore. There is more information available out there than anyone can imagine. The trick is to find it, make sense of it and use it creatively and proactively. Whether you are marketing to boomers, millennials or the folks in between, social media is here to stay and a powerful resource to add to your marketing toolbox. Dip a toe in the water, be consistent, use it carefully (two words — Charlie Sheen — need we say more?) and plant the seeds for a more vibrant 2011!

Jon C. Biegel is vice president of insurance and financial service sales at WealthEngine.

Liz Weber, J.D., is chief marketing officer for AgencyONE.

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