Who's Talking To Your Clients?

by , Jan 25, 2012, 8:00 AM
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With 2011 in the rear view mirror, it's time to take stock and look ahead. If your company has been sitting on the sidelines unconvinced of the need for a social media strategy, then 2012 brings you the gift of clarity. You need a social media strategy -- your customers, your sales force and even you investors demand it. And if that doesn’t convince you, just watch your competition. So for everyone waiting on the sidelines, let's talk about getting social. 

Perhaps you have been a bit hesitant about diving into what appears to be an uncontrollable, unpredictable world. But this is no longer an early-adopter situation. The fat part of the bell curve is here, and if you’re not in, you’re out in the cold. But other than just jumping on another bandwagon, what are the compelling business reasons to get on board? 

Forrester Research recently neatly summed it all up. What they discovered is that across all of social media, there are relatively few voices shaping the discussion. Typically it's about 20 percent of the audience who start discussions. Then once the topic is set, another 20 percent get engaged. But the bulk of the online population stays in the shadows, happy to soak it all in behind the anonymity of their monitor.

That's in general. But when you look at many industries, such as financial services, the power to influence opinions is concentrated in even fewer hands. According to Forrester, when it comes to discussions about financial topics, the initial content is created by only 15 percent of the audience.  And it gets worse. Those who jump in and discuss those topics  are only 10 percent of the audience. That's less than half of other industries. (By comparison, it seems everyone is an expert on marketing topics).

So if you’re in the financial services business, or another slow-to-move industry, it’s high time you made sure your voice is heard. You can talk about FINRA regulatory issues being a challenge, but they are no longer a barrier, and the complexity of your business is no excuse either. 

Social media is really just a large, busy coffee shop where you need something relevant and different to get attention in the hubbub. That something is content. The coffee clutch doesn't like being interrupted by your marketing messages, but they love content -- especially if it brings them knowledge. The right content -- and it comes in many forms, feeds the conversation, and before you know it they are talking about you. 

So here's your moment of clarity to start the New Year. Who knows more about your business -- you or the emboldened faceless few? Isn’t it time you were part of the conversation, so you can influence the perceptions of your customers, your sales force and your investors? If knowledge and thought leadership is a key competitive differentiator in your industry -- and it is in most industries with complex value propositions -- your company needs its point of view to be heard where the conversations are taking place. 

Right now, it’s not too late for industries like financial services that have waited on the sidelines. Yes -- the audience is ahead of you, but the trail has been well-blazed and you can leverage considerable experience to craft an intelligent, informed entry into the social media world.

But before you jump in, it’s important to remember that social media is not a strategy in and of itself. It is rather a communications channel -- an opportunity to be heard. Of course, what you say and how you say it -- the content of the conversation -- is always the secret sauce, but more on that next time.

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