Will the City of London break its social media gagging order?

As is so often the case in social media, we can only predict what will happen in the UK by glancing at our adventurous cousins in the US. There, the financial services sector has just bravely dipped another toe into the choppy and unsure waters of social media in the face of draconian regulation. Until now, many of the big investment firms have imposed a blanket ban on their advisers and brokers using social networks for work, so unsettled are they by the threats of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (Finra). A brave few, including Merill Lynch and Wells Fargo, allow their advisers to create social media profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter for private communications, including invitations, introductions and private messages related to work. This means they can talk with social media-savvy clients in a way that suits those consumers – but privately. However, in a rather intriguing development last week, Morgan Stanley told its 18,000 advisers they’d now be allowed to start sending out public messages relating to market updates, economic and investment insights and wealth management topics. That’s right, they’re now allowed to start tweeting about work and what they do. But there are strings attached: the messages all have to have gone through prior compliance approval. Yep, that means they’ll be prepared for general use by no-one in particular for no-one in particular to serve up to no-one in particular, a bit like a loaf of bread in a supermarket. I realise all of this sounds faintly ludicrous in a space that demands authenticity and spontaneity – but hear me out; it’s a positive step. The...

Why social media is even more useful for B2B businesses

I’m often asked what the use of social media is if you’re not selling directly to consumers – what if you’re B2B? The thinking goes like this: if social is all about people and relationships – and Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are populated mostly by real individual people – then what use are they when your customers are other businesses. A classic example would be an investment platform provider whose customers are Independent Financial Advisers, not the consumers making the investments. Here’s the thing. Businesses are full of people and business people – just like consumers – are on the social web. You only have to look at the examples of IFAs to realise that. Maybe they’re not there explicitly to represent a brand – but they are there nonetheless. And when they’re at their workplaces they are often making spending decisions that are influenced by their experiences the evening before on the social web. But even more important is that social media excels over all other forms of media in its ability to facilitate human relationships. And this is why social media works for B2B even more than B2C. Human relationships play a greater role in B2B than B2C.  Take, for example the classic B2C sales of a can of Coke or pair of jeans – these are quick-hit interactions based on emotion and impulse. They often have little to do with human relationships – not deep ones, anyway – but are more based on consumers’ feelings towards a brand. In fact, most B2C companies find it harder to have personal, human relationships with their customers by sheer...

Five social media IFAs

When George Emsden was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2007, his instinct was to keep it to himself. Four years later he is one of Twitter’s best-known Independent Financial Advisers and his online identity “CancerIFA” could barely be more stark. Time for a celebratory cup of tea. The story of how George defied his inhibitions to find catharsis in speaking about his illness is an inspiration in itself – but another absorbing aspect of this tale is untold. You see, George is a case in point about how the Internet has changed the way the world does business. Social networks have allowed people all over the planet with niche – but common – interests to connect as never before. For businesses with a specialism, this is a golden opportunity. Imagine, if you will, a Runcorn-based record shop specialising in 1930s Romanian folk. Ten years ago, with a potential customer-base of probably somewhere around none in that town, there would not have been any business. Now it’s possible to connect to the few thousand dotted around the world’s seven continents who love pre-war Romanian folk – and to build a business by selling regularly to, say, a tenth of them every year. We live in a global economy of niches – marketing wonks call it The Long Tail – and for financial services, this means being able to target specific markets in ways that never previously existed. This is exactly what George is doing. He is one of the few people in the country with the personal experience and the professional expertise to help people take care of their money issues after a life-shattering...

Client communications heading online, say IFAs

The trend for IFAs to communicate electronically with clients is set to surge according to a poll of IFA firms by independent wrap platform Nucleus.     The findings, which are based on the views of 30 IFA firms representing 171 individual advisers, reveal that half of those questioned believe that the greatest shift in IFA/client communication over the next 12 months will be towards increased online contact.   The poll, which was carried out as part of a wider-reaching survey of advisers, also shows that although less than 6% of advisers currently consider their website to be a serious communication tool, over a quarter (27%) believe this will change with greater emphasis and effort being put into making it more efficient and effective for communicating with customers.   Whilst the results demonstrate that IFAs are increasingly looking for new ways to communicate effectively with their clients, it also highlights the importance advisers place in face to face communication, with over 40% of those surveyed feeling it remained the most important means of establishing and maintaining relationships with their clients.   Mike Deverell, Investment Manager of Equilibrium Asset Management and Nucleus member, commented on the results: “The days of a client being happy with the odd meeting and a letter or two over a 12 month period are well and truly over.  Clients want, expect and indeed deserve more regular and relevant contact and content from their financial adviser, and the most effective and efficient way for us to deliver information outside of our regular face to face meetings is...

How to build an (IFA) brand

[slideshare id=2557865&doc=howtobuildanifabrand-091122065736-phpapp01] I was privileged enough to be invited to deliver a presentation to a group of independent financial advice (IFA) business leaders last week at an event near Birmingham. The issue I was asked to address was ‘How to build an IFA brand’. These visuals are my way of addressing the issue. Given the changing nature of the communications landscape – which we’ve already covered in our recent post here – it struck me that businesses of any size are now in a much stronger position to build sustainable brands. The visuals suggests what to concentrate on to build a brand – any brand – in such a dynamic consumer...