Transitioning your social media strategy from online to offline is one of the major challenges we hear from the financial advisors we coach.  They build a network of clients, prospects, and centers-of-influence online, but have trouble turning this into real-world business.  The solution to this common difficulty takes finesse and involves thoughtful offline conversations. It involves speaking openly with clients and centers-of-influence about your (and their) social media usage.  You must to be able to explain your social media value.

Why These Conversations Are Important

The offline conversation between you and the client (or COI) about social media needs to be a comfortable one. If the first time you speak with a client about social media, you ask for something (such as an introduction to a prospect), you can come across self-centered.  Conversely, if your first conversation with clients is a genuine one about how each of you are using social media - the dynamic turns a one-eighty.

Most clients and COIs fall into one of two camps.  Those you are not connected to on social networks and those you are connected to.  The initial conversations you have with them are entirely different, but both involve explaining yoursocial media value proposition – the reason you are using social media and why it’s of value to them.  Let’s start with the latter group of clients.

Involve Existing Connections in Improving Your Value

With this group, you’re connected on social networks but you haven’t taken the social network conversation offline. First, segue into the conversations and ask them about their usage. For example:

  • I know we are connected on LinkedIn.  How do you use it for business purposes?

Next, explain your value proposition and then and ask them how you can tailor your content to them.

“Part of our 2013 client communication strategy is to provide more value to clients we are connected with on social networking websites like LinkedIn (Twitter/Facebook).  I wanted to get your insight on what we post and how we can tailor it to you.  What are some of your main concerns regarding finances and investments so that we might be able to find helpful resources on those topics?”

This subtle conversation involves tailoring your value to the client and getting them involved in your social media strategy.  Once they become involved in your process, future conversations and requests will become much easier.  The next step may be keeping the dialog open and asking for specific introductions to their connections.

(Early Adopter Tip: Once you identify a concern and post an applicable resource on a social network, send the client or COI a personal email letting them know your post was for them and thanking them for the idea.  You never know, they might share the content or forward it along to a friend!)

Customize the Value to Potential Connections

This is a very different conversation.  These clients are either not connected to you or don’t have social media profiles altogether. Some people do not understand the value of social media and you can help clarify why it would make sense for them to get involved. The first step is to explain to the client why you are using social networks.  Next, the client needs to clearly see the value for themselves.  Answer the following questions…

  • Question 1: Why are we using social media?
  • Question 2: How could social networking benefit this specific client or COI.

Take your responses to these questions and use them to craft your value proposition to clients and COIs with whom you are not connected.  The following is an example from one of our social media clients.

“Part of our 2013 client communication strategy is being more involved with social media.  We’ve found LinkedIn to be helpful because we can stay more connected to clients and post useful information.  It also serves as the modern day business card and helps us keep their contact information updated. I’m surprised you aren’t using it.  I know you are involved with local charities and I bet it would be a great source to find donors.”

Through this simple process you are demonstrating your reason for using social media and specifically how they might benefit.  By helping them with the process you will also build our new connections.

If you are ready to drive real business benefit from social media usage with clients, it’s time to start speaking with them about it.  But first, develop and practice your social media value proposition.

Kevin Nichols is a thought-leader with The Oechsli Institute, a firm that specializes in research and training for the financial services industry.  Follow him on twitter @KevinANichols   www.Oechsil.com