As the financial services community continues to implement social media, advisors across the country are seeking turnkey solutions to help them manage their social media efforts. These advisors are both uncertain about how to use social media and hesitant about the time it takes to maintain an online presence. As a result, a plethora of social media solutions companies have cropped up, each offering products and services that promise to generate quality leads for your business. 

In some cases, these companies may in fact generate quality leads; however, far too often an advisor’s social media presence falls flat or achieves lackluster results. To be fair, some of these companies are effective at helping advisors get started. However, in my experience, advisors rarely understand what they are getting for their money, which results in unmet expectations. 

Before we continue, let’s clarify something: Social media is not “turnkey” — and it never will be. Social media is a communication and collaboration tool that facilitates interactions between people and companies. It is a long-term investment that requires discipline, effort and resources (time and money), as well as strategy. If you want to generate leads for your business through the use of social media, you are going to have to work for them.  Paying an outside company to “be you” online may increase website traffic, build brand awareness and increase your SEO ranking in Google, but it still might not generate leads. 

Why is this? Largely because there is a disconnect between the advisor, their social media company, and the advisor’s prospects and clients. Let me explain. Many of the social media solutions companies are great at helping advisors brand their social media channels and create a consistent stream of content by posting on the advisor’s behalf. This strategy is great for generating increased website traffic, but offers little as far as engagement online. In most cases, when someone interacts with the content (through comments, RTs, shares, likes or Pins), the advisor’s social media company is typically not qualified to respond or answer on his or her behalf because they lack the knowledge or expertise to do so. Therefore, if the advisor is not actively monitoring their presence and responding, the engagement and relationship building component that is crucial to social media success in non-existent. The result:  No new leads.

If you’re going to go down the road of paying for a service to manage your social media presence, here are some tips for how to make the relationship work in favor of your business, not just theirs.

1. Hiring a social media firm doesn’t mean you’re “off-the-hook.”

They may create a consistent content stream and build awareness, but you still have to engage prospects and clients to cultivate the relationships that will turn into leads. Additionally, it’s important to know what you want to accomplish through your social media efforts. If you don’t know your why, they can’t help you with the how.

2. Understand the services for which you are paying.

Having a clear understanding of the services you are paying for will help you better understand the roles assigned to both yourself and the third-party firm.

3. Remember: Not everyone is an expert.

Do your research and shop around before hiring a social media firm. Not everyone with a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account is an expert. When vetting social media companies, consider the following:

  • Check references
  • Shop around for offered services and price. Make sure you’re getting the best product for your money.
  • Request documentation of results they have generated for other clients that are similar to you. They may have helped Fortune 500 companies, but have they helped a small business owner without a nationally recognized brand and blockbuster marketing budget?
  • Set expectations upfront for what you require and expect of them. This way, you’ll maximize the potential to start the relationship with transparency and clear purpose in mind. 

By definition, social media is meant to be interactive. In order to obtain clients through social media, you’re going to have to work for it. Content alone won’t suffice. The key to success is finding a balance between scheduled content (via hiring a social media company or automating it yourself) and ongoing real-time interactions between you and your online audience. By doing these two things, you will maximize the value of your social media investment.

For more from Todd Greider, see:

How to host an online meeting (and widen your prospect base)

Why a uniform fiduciary standard isn’t the answer

6 ways to leverage your LinkedIn company page for lead generation