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Has your practice entered the world of social media?

01 October 2011 Esm? Davies, Celestis

During 2011, Facebook topped 750 million members worldwide – LinkedIn boasted 100 million users – and Twitter exceeded 200 million tweets a day. It is not surprising that more and more financial services companies are ready to exploit the benefits of soci

Social media is simply defined as “social interaction by means of technology.” It includes social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, blogs where people share and distribute regular online articles and opinions, discussion forums, micro-blogs or status updates like Twitter and the sharing of online videos, pictures and music via the Youtube website.

An emerging market craze

If you think that my opening paragraph refers to developed countries such as the US, UK and Nordic countries, consider these statistics:

• At the end of 2010, South Africa had around 6.8 million internet users (closer to 7.5 million by the middle of 2011).
• There are approximately 4.4 million Facebook users in South Africa at present, with 60% of Internet users opening an account.
• As at April 2011, LinkedIn had 1.1 million users in South Africa. At least a quarter of these users are CEOs, directors and managers of locally based companies.
• A recent report by Sysomos, a Canadian research company, confirms that South Africa has become the 10th largest Twitter user in the world.
• Lastly, if you still think that your business is the exception because your target market is retired or retiring, think again. This is the segment of the market showing the fastest growth, with media such as Facebook particularly popular among parents and grandparents who want to stay in touch with children and grandchildren.

Virtual-world presence

The use of social media is increasing year on year and you could be missing out on opportunities by not having a presence in your clients’ virtual world. Social media is the new fashion in marketing – and you need to be able to connect and communicate with your clients where they are spending their time.

Social media provides you with alternative modes to make contact with current and potential clients and enables you to connect with more people, more often. LinkedIn, in particular, is perfect for networking and building business relationships with potential centres of influence.

Blogging is a great way to share information and articles of interest, while status updates in Facebook or Twitter can be used to inform your clients about upcoming events, recent media articles and industry awards, to name a few.

It’s about building relationships

One’s main objective, when socialising in the virtual world, should be to build relationships. Selling one’s services comes much later, once you have established a dedicated fan base or community. If you do it the other way round and your interactions are continuously self serving and sales orientated, you may find yourself losing fans faster than Australia did after losing to Ireland in their recent RWC game.

You should be cognisant of possible downside risks. If your marketing strategy is not carefully planned and structured (outlining exactly who in your team may update, post, blog or tweet what and when) it may become chaotic.

Planning required

Your social media plan should be completed in advance, allowing for an integrated message across the various channels, with selected employees able to post pre-approved material. Make sure that your message does not contravene any compliance or other legislation.

If you want to build social networks you should start with Facebook, LinkedIn and possibly Twitter. We’ll share more ideas on the “how and why” of social media in next month’s edition of FAnews.

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