#Advisors: 5 tips to help you break into social media in 2014

Have you ever been to some of the very large “big lot” stores?

For me, there’s nothing more painful than shopping at these stores. Why? There’s so much stuff! My brain goes on information overload – their furniture, photo frames, window treatments, kitchen accessories, rugs and more are all priced and displayed in one big hodge-podge – like a real-life game of I Spy! Moreover, once I find an item I want to buy, it’s rarely near the display.

These stores are overwhelming. I don’t understand how and why their products are organized, displayed or placed for purchase, so I avoid them.

I know many advisors avoid social media for the same reason – you’re overwhelmed. You don’t know where to start or what to do first, right?

You naturally push it off or worse, you partially complete a LinkedIn profile and check the “I’m on social media” box.  arrow going up physically breaking social media barrierI’m sorry, but that won’t cut it. Today, nearly three out of four people research social media networks before making a purchase decision, which is why you need to be there. Here are five simple steps to help you get started and make this your social media break-through year:

#1: Research social platforms

It may sound simple, but my advice is to educate yourself on the common social platforms. YouTube is a great resource for ‘how to’ videos about Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. You not only want to know how they work, but more importantly, who uses each platform and why. This will help you determine what social media platform may present the best opportunity for you.

For example, Pinterest is a very visual site (lots of pictures) and tends to focus on more consumer goods, so it may not be a platform ideal for selling retirement plans or insurance products. However, LinkedIn is considered a networking site for professionals, so it is more conducive to reaching business owners.

#2 Determine your goals

Ask yourself: what do you want social media to do for you? Gaining new business, positioning yourself as a thought leader or strengthening existing client relationships are all very different goals, which require different approaches. Know what you want to do on social media.

#3 Draft a social media strategy

Once you know what you want to accomplish, you’re ready to draft your social media strategy. Yes, it’s important to write down your goals, as well as the audiences you’re trying to reach, social platform you’ll be using, tactics and more. By doing so, you’re more likely to follow through on your plan.

#4 Play around a little – just listen!

Now, I know you’re anxious to join the conversation since you have a strategy, but I’d discourage you from doing that. You’ll be better served taking some time to listen to what your clients or your peers are saying. This will give you some insight on where you can add value, what you should be saying (or not saying) and appropriate use of language. And it’s easy to do. Just join a LinkedIn discussion group or follow your competitors, peers or clients on Twitter.

#5 Measure your results and refine your approach

Finally, measure your results. Are you gaining followers? Are you getting mentioned by others? Is your blog getting picked up by local newspapers? I would recommend measuring quarterly or, at least twice a year. By doing so, you can tweak your efforts along the way based on what’s getting results.

Here are some additional things to consider:

  • Start where you’re most comfortable – if you are already on LinkedIn and it’s where your audience is, don’t create a Facebook business page. Each platform offers a lot of functionality, so look at other things you can do to build your business within your current platform.
  • Don’t feel like you have to do it all – start small, don’t feel like you’ve got to create multiple social media profiles and manage them all. Start with one and build on that as you have success.
  • Social media is an extension of your marketing efforts – don’t think of social media as another thing you have to do. Social media should be part of your marketing plan, so look at your overall marketing initiatives and determine where social media fits in. It might even replace something you’re already doing.
  • Social media doesn’t have to take a lot of time – again, start off by dedicating a certain amount of time to social media weekly (i.e. 1-2 hours).  You’ll be surprised at how much you can accomplish — listening, sharing content, joining conversations, etc. Moreover, there are tools to help you be very efficient.

Make a plan and avoid being overwhelmed

If I’m forced to go into a Big Lot store with my wife, I go in with a plan. I take a short list and try not to get caught up in all the displays. You can do the same with social media. Take a planful approach by walking through the steps above and you should be well on your way to leveraging social media.

Is this the year you finally join the social media revolution? What’s been holding you back from using social media? What social media platforms do you want to utilize more this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter.

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For more information, check me out on Twitter, where I regularly share social media tips, advice, trends and more, including how to build your business with social. Follow me at @jonferchen.

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

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  • http://gravatar.com/pequinn Phil Quinn

    Excellent post thank you. In my case I have been nervous about posting at Linkedin because there are so many really sharp people there that I almost feel like it’s competition which it is not.
    I want to talk to my peers through linkedin because its good input for all of us, we should all be sharing not out doing. I love my career albeit new it’s the culmination of my career as an agent.
    Today, I offer health insurance (Formerly my life) because I have clients who are against Obama (don’t) care and are looking for an alternative which I am fortunate to have.
    My move to financial services is rewarding because I watched my set aside retirement plan disolve over night, from $1.5 mil to not enough to support my family for 12 months. This event gave me the motivation to show others how to protect their precious nest egg, and it’s fun as well.
    So thanks Jon for getting me off my butt and into sharing with everone, which seems to me, that’s what linkedin.

  • anand keskar

    Thank u very much for given important tips about social media it is very educational for new users

  • http://www.professionalchoiceinsurance.com Sonny Peach

    Great read, thank you! I too get hesitant to post on Linkedin, due to the vast pools of knowledge already being shared. Social Media has been very beneficial for our insurance company!

  • http://gravatar.com/jdferch jdferch

    Thank you for your comments and, more importantly, taking an important step to better leveraging social media. I’m confident that once you get a feel for it, you’ll want to do it more. And, it will be easier each time. Good luck!