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The Ben Franklin Strategy

Social Media

Benjamin Franklin will never know this, but he gave you and me the only social media strategy we need: “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” 

Said another way, produce content that will be interesting to other people. What Mr. Franklin didn’t know, back when he was printing newspapers, is that eventually we’d all have the ability to share whatever we’d like with the public, whenever we want. No longer are we limited by gatekeepers or those who might prevent us from being heard.

This is both good and bad, of course. Newspapers and magazines have editors, and TV shows and movies have producers. But social media has, well, nothing in the middle. Open a social media app on your phone, take a picture or type some words, tap the “post” button, and an irreversible process starts. 

That’s the problem for a lot of us, isn’t it? What if you say something wrong, or stupid, or offensive? Those sentiments will forever be memorialized in the cloud, ready for everyone and anyone to see it. Returning to Mr. Franklin’s tenet, let’s ensure that we do only the things worth reading (or watching). 

What are those things, you may ask? The good that’s happening around you.

As I write this, in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis, there’s never been a better time for a financial services professional to look for the good she or he can highlight within their communities, within their companies, or for individual people. 

Those in Mr. Franklin’s era had an arduous two-step job:

  1. Produce content worth reading. This is both difficult and time-consuming.
  2. Physically distribute the paper on which that content was written. This is also difficult and time-consuming.

Said another way, the distribution of the content (i.e., hoping people see what you wrote) was a harder process than writing the content itself. 

Here’s the great news for you and me in our current era: Now you can help ensure that your content is seen through purposeful promotion in a digital world for free, at the push of a button. Unlike the days of finite paper, finite distribution, and a fixed audience (based on proximity to you), our ability to reach a worldwide audience is unlimited.

Read more commentary by Spencer X Smith here

Here’s a three-step process you can use to help you stay in front of your target audience:

  1. Say what you’re going to do. This is as easy as a post on social media: “My team and I have an initiative to raise money for our local food bank. We’ll be hosting a virtual coffee session with the mayor, the President of the Chamber of Commerce, and the CEO of ABC Company here in town. Care to join us? Here’s the link to register.” This is your first touch with your target audience.
  2. Do that thing. Like in Mr. Franklin’s era, this is the difficult and time-consuming part. Create the content, or in this case, effectively document the content. In this example, you’ll be the one responsible for booking the guests, creating the agenda, and moderating the panel. 
  3. Show your audience what happened. As an epilogue to the event, share the results: X amount of attendees, Y amount of money raised, here are the notes from our panel discussion, etc. Again, very simple compared to step 2. Take excerpts of the transcript or vignettes of the video and share them on your social media accounts.

Here’s an important consideration: Content you create is something to which you grow acclimated very quickly. After the process of writing or recording a video is done, you know that content forwards and backwards because, hey, you originated it. 

Once you’re done, if you’re at all like me, the last thing you want to do is revisit that same material. You just want to move on to the next thing, don’t you? That’s the exact opposite of what needs to happen. This is when the real work starts: the promotion of the content. Promotion, however, is so much easier than the creation. It’s time-consuming work, yes, but simple.

Think about the Hollywood production process (or Netflix, or anyplace that makes movies or series): Do everything necessary to create and produce a show, “tease” that the show is coming, and then send the stars of the show on a press junket to promote the movie/series. This tried and true process is what we should use as well, but I see very few people or companies following this straightforward and proven approach. 

Say what you’re doing to do (simple), do something worth writing (difficult), and tell what happened (simple). By adopting this three-step strategy, you’ll garner more attention from your target audience—and just as importantly, remind them that you do what you say you’re going to do. Many of us have great intentions, but until they’re codified in a written sense and shared with the public, those intentions don’t materialize.

All of us, especially now, are jockeying for attention in a crowded digital and social environment. By sharing good news about others, you’re effectively shining the spotlight on them and away from yourself. This is not to your detriment, however. Since you have unlimited media available with which to propagate your message, you’ll be in the tiny minority of people who are highlighting others first.

Good news, good acts, and good people are prolific, despite our very challenging current environment. We’ve all heard of posts going “viral.” One way to help ensure that happens to your posts is by adding a layer of “virality,” if you will, to your posts. Focus on others with your posts and who will, in turn, share your posts with their audiences? The people you’re highlighting. In the aforementioned example of the virtual coffee session, the mayor, the Chamber president and the CEO from your panel will all share their involvement with your initiative, and you’ll have exposure to their audiences. 

Will you adopt this three-step formula in your social media strategy? 

Spencer X Smith is the founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies. He’s a former 401(k) wholesaler, and now teaches financial services professionals how to use social media for business development. This column originally appeared in the Summer issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.