What I’ve Learned Through my ESOP Social Media Efforts…And Some Tips for You!

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Guess’s marketing classes at Waukee High School (go Warriors!). Specifically, Mr. Guess wanted me to spend some time discussing how we are using social media to promote Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) and what we have learned from our early efforts.

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We have used a variety of tools and techniques and our ESOP social media efforts are clearly a work in progress. Over the past 18 months, we have been blogging, tweeting and posting videos on YouTube. We have launched a new website to provide a convenient hub to share information about ESOPs.

What have been some early impressions and feedback from our efforts?

  1. It is not about traditional vs. social. It is about traditional, plus social. In the 1950’s, the microwave was heralded as the kitchen appliance of the future.  Although most kitchens today have a microwave, it has not replaced the range/cooktop. Why? Because together they are better than either one is by itself. The same is true with traditional and social media. Using both allows us to reach more business owners and connect with them in their preferred way. 
  2. Stereotypes can get in the way of successful execution on your strategy. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been told that business owners looking to sell their companies (generally in the 50+ age bracket) are not interested in social media. The facts simply do not support this position. A 2013 Arbitron, Inc. and Edison Research Study found that the highest growth demographic on social media is the over 55-age group. Quite to the contrary of the accepted stereotype, social media is a great way to connect with business owners that might be interested in an ESOP.
  3. Writing blogs and tweets is not the hard part. Getting people to follow you is.  This should not be surprising as it is merely the sequel to the “webinar.” You probably all remember when businesses were fascinated with webinars. They were relatively cheap and easy to do. The hard part – getting people to participate. Social media is not necessarily a less expensive approach to sharing your message; you just spend your resources differently.
  4. Numbers matter, but they must be the right numbers. Justin Bieber has over 43 million twitter followers and Katy Perry is close behind with just over 41 million (I am not in either of those counts). I have all of 423 (but it is growing!). If I were running an airline this might be concerning as the passenger load factor (to greatly simplify – the percentage of seats being utilized) is a critical measure. But, I am not running an airline. I am helping business owners transition ownership of their company to their employees. Twenty of the right followers are worth an immeasurable amount more than 200,000 of the wrong (or indifferent) followers. You have to concentrate on the right followers—which allows you to direct a focused message.
  5. The message is the key to success. Your message needs to be clear, distinct, and consistent. Social media is merely one of the messengers you use to share that message (remember the saying “don’t shoot the messenger.”). Whether in a blog, a presentation deck, a brochure, or an opinion piece submitted to a local paper the message should promote the same message. Inconsistent, unclear or muddled messages confuse the audience and fail to advance your objectives.

What has worked for you?  I would love to hear from you.

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In addition to blogging here, I also tweet regularly about topics of interest to ESOPs. Click to follow me on Twitter –  @jlripperger.

Affiliation Disclosures

While this communication may be used to promote or market a transaction or an idea that is discussed in the publication, it is intended to provide general information about the subject matter covered and is provided with the understanding that none of the member companies of The Principal are rendering legal, accounting, or tax advice. It is not a marketed opinion and may not be used to avoid penalties under the Internal Revenue Code. You should consult with appropriate counsel or other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, or accounting obligations and requirements.

Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company a member of the Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®), Des Moines, IA 50392.

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