By Loa Fridfinnson

Social media isn’t just for teens and young adults anymore, its gone mainstream.  Boomer investors have become increasingly comfortable with online communications.  82% of adults between the ages of 55 to 64 are online reading and sharing information with their networks, as reported by research firm Experian Simmons.

This poses a sizable opportunity for public companies initiating social media campaigns in a proactive and well organized manner.

When advising online strategy for our clients, I make it clear that there are different types of social media channels to reach investors. Originally it all started with the “chat room” – not unlike the old style “boiler room” (eg. message boards) where many self-interested parties promoted their own stocks. This is not a place I suggest companies interact with investors.  Instead, look to investor focused social media sites such as WikiInvest, StockTwits or SeekingAlpha that have collaborative people sharing information on investments, ideas and economic viewpoints.  And last but certainly not least, corporation-specific social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare and LinkedIn offer companies a platform to engage followers and develop relationships in real time.

Public company representatives should monitor conversations happening about their brand on all websites and gravitate to channels where the IR rep can be transparent about his or her identity.   Focus on how your company can demonstrate its expertise, enhance its reputation, show its brand personality and encourage sharing of compelling information.  Online word of mouth is the best credibility builder and compliment a company can hope to receive.

Financial Advisors Share Too!

Research firm Socialware conducted a survey on social media use by financial advisors across North America with more than 84% (up from 60% in 2010) of the 2011 respondents using social networks for business purposes.    65% of respondents said they use social media every day, spending between 5-60 minutes daily on social networking.

Although late adopters for regulatory reasons, financial advisors are making social media an important part of their business activity, using it for research and networking purposes.   Public companies utilizing new technology recognize that targeting the ‘financial eco-system’ online of fund managers, analysts, brokers, investors and media is where they need to be to gain a competitive edge and the visibility associated with a strong brand.

Going Social

It’s important to match your corporate objectives with your outreach strategy and purpose for being online.  Just because “everyone” is doing it, doesn’t necessarily mean your business should.  Can you realistically commit resources to a social media campaign?  A half baked approach of slapping up a Facebook page and littering it with news releases is not going to help your outreach efforts.

Once you have decided it’s definitely a medium you are ready to add to your marketing mix, there are a few simple rules:

  1. Gain all the knowledge and resources needed to succeed online by having a plan based on thorough research and listen to your audience! – or hire someone that knows what they are doing.
  2. Gather all informative, interesting, engaging information on your business and industry to make sure you have enough content to populate your channels.  All documents should be professionally written and any video or images high quality files.
  3. Build out your website properties, populate them with exciting content and invite people to follow and interact with you.  Give them a good reason as to why they’d want to join your social page or feed and make it a two-way conversation, not simple a LOOK AT ME promotional message.   Egomaniacs online are similar to a man asking a woman out on a date and talking about himself the whole time.   Women don’t give guys like this a second chance and neither will people in social media channels pay attention to a one-way conversation by a company or individual.  Be human and personable, type in a professional and friendly tone and watch the response you receive.
  4. Ensure your social media policy is in place so that internal and external audiences know how your company will operate in social channels according to securities laws and regulation.   A good rule of thumb to remember is stay away from posting misleading information or anything material that hasn’t been released through mandatory disclosure channels.

In Summary

Social media offers a wonderful opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with your audience, build a following of like-minded people who could become loyal customers and investors, and spread your company’s message relatively quickly.   This is the power of online word of mouth.

Social media certainly has become a vital part of the marketing mix, a compliment to the other methods used to reach out to existing buyers and prospects.

Remember that you are building an emotional connection to your company’s brand so find out who your audience members are as people, what matters most to them, and provide thought-provoking, relevant content along with personalized messages to show your company’s “human side.”

Follow these steps and brand ambassadors will soon be yours.

Loa Fridfinnson, formally a registered investment advisor, is the Chief Creative Strategist at Activ8 Corporate Relations, an integrated marketing agency empowering its clients with digitally enhanced engagement programs.  Contact her at 604-687-2004, loa@activ8inc.com , www.activ8inc.com, www.twitter.com/activ8inc and www.facebook.com/activ8inc