You may have missed it, but there’s been a bit of a “hub-bub” brewing on social media…about the impact of, and perhaps even the utility of, social media. Here’s some thoughts—and some tips.
JD Carlson of Retireholics “fame” kicked things off with a post intriguingly titled “Forget About Social Media Content and Run Your 401(k) Business.” Oh, there were words[i] that followed, but you really didn’t have to read more than that to see where he was going.
Well, about a nanosecond after that post appeared on…social media… Sheri Fitts who, as you may know, spends a fair amount of her time and energy helping advisors (and other retirement professionals) be more effective on…social media… pushed back on JD’s basic premise. A bit.
Her argument was basically that while social media was important (we’ll come back to that), doing so without a clear focus or strategy was a mistake—but that ignoring the marketing impact of social media was perhaps a larger one. And then, Faith Teope (who I’ve bantered with previously) took to LinkedIn to offer yet a third perspective—which seemed to be basically a message of “if it feels right for you, do it.”
Now, all of these folks have arguably made, or at least enhanced, a name/brand for themselves on social media. They have followings, post regularly, and I think it’s fair to say—at least in the retirement space—are what would be considered “influencers.”
I’ve been on Twitter since 2008—LinkedIn even longer. Facebook (yes, I AM a Boomer, after all) since my kids got on it. I’ve read books on the subject of social media, attended conferences and training sessions (live and online) about how to use/leverage these tools—and spent a lot of time over the past couple of decades waiting for the day when the actual response to a LinkedIn (or Twitter) post…mattered. I don’t mean the “likes” that Twitter shares, or the “impressions” or number of “followers” these platforms attribute to one’s account. They’re valuable metrics, of course—widely shared (and sometimes trumpeted).
But as much as I enjoy social media—and relish the relationships that I have found and fostered there, in my experience it's still a bit of an echo chamber—one frequented by people who are already “on” social media. Indeed, it seems for the very most part the people who are “there” are there to promote the use and value of social media to those not yet in that “club.” Not that you won’t find valuable content there—but plan sponsor clients? Participants?
Don’t get me wrong—I am one of those folks “on” social media. I have tons of “followers” on LinkedIn, and spend some time each week cultivating and expanding that reach. People read and comment on what I post there, and I’m grateful and appreciative of that engagement. Having said that, I continue to do what I do there not because I see much current value in doing so—but rather because I feel that one day there MIGHT be—but don’t sense that that day is here yet.[ii]
What to Do (and Not)
So, at the risk of being non-controversial, I’m going to concur (I think) with most of what has already appeared in this discussion thread—and offer some unsolicited social media “guidance”:
First things first. Doing social media, and certainly doing social media “right” takes time and energy, and my sense is that the ROI payoff for most is modest at best. It will take more time than you think, and likely return less than you hoped—and that’s time away from the business of running your business. If you’re not focusing on the business end of your business, no amount of two-minute TikTok videos (however captivating) is going to help that. Let me repeat—first things first. Unless, of course, you plan to get into the business of teaching folks how to do social media.
If you’re going to do it, do it right. That means having something interesting to say, something worth sharing. Share it regularly—and professionally. This is about building a brand (you). But remember you’re marketing you and your expertise—not a product. You know how you fast forward past the commercials on a DVR? People will scroll past sales pitches even faster (though LinkedIn may still count that as a “view”).
Set reasonable, modest goals. I have had the benefit (inherited, for the most part) of a large and widespread email audience for more than two decades now (though I hope I’ve since earned and expanded on that). My expectations for social media engagement were (and remain) high, likely too high, compared to email clicks and opens. Know that going into it you probably won’t get much, if any, in the way of “return.”
Nurture the engagement you do get. Like, share, forward—but by all means COMMENT as you do on the content you see as valuable. It will be good for your visibility, likely expand your network—and it will keep you engaged with topic(s) you care about. It’s also good for your “shelf life.”
Remember that you don’t need to do it. Honestly, my sense is that most of the folks you ostensibly want to reach (clients and prospects) aren’t (yet) spending a lot of time on LinkedIn (or Facebook, or Twitter, or even TikTok—at least not intentionally). Doing it before you’re ready will be counter-productive at best, and if your clients—prospective or current—aren’t “there,” do you really need to be? If you’re not yet ready—don’t.
After all, there are plenty of advisors enjoying a great deal of success today…without relying on social media.
[i] For those of you who like more words, “What’s more effective, a post on LinkedIn with 11 likes and one comment from your co-worker or good old-fashioned marketing concepts like strategic partnerships, custom emails, networking, webinars, mailings, events, email blasts, client referrals programs, etc.? For most of you, the latter will crush 100% of the time when talking about actual ROI.”
[ii] And if you’re unaware of the “hub-bub” about which I started this piece, you are proving my point.