To be, or not to be social? 

The debate over whether or not to use social media in marketing has been raised in many an investment management firm, especially over the last ten years. As an increasing number of investors spend more time online, it is certainly very tempting for investment marketers to use social channels to promote their brand.

While platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and networks such as LinkedIn, are undoubtedly very powerful for sharing messages, many investment managers have been more reluctant to engage with their audience through these channels. This is especially the case in businesses with very established cultures - often to the great frustration of marketing teams.

Err on the side of caution, or risk being left behind? 

This raises the dilemma in many investment companies of whether to err on the side of caution and not engage on social media - owing to the potential risks involved, or whether to invest in a social strategy, and evolve alongside your clients?

As ever, there is no clear-cut solution, and the answer very much depends on each business. While some firms run the risk of being left behind their competitors due to a refusal to have a social media strategy, the internet is equally littered with examples of businesses that have incurred significant reputational risk due to being ill prepared for the risks that a social media presence can bring.

In general, there are a few principles to bear in mind when considering social media as part of your marketing strategy.

  1. Don't run before you can walk: make sure your firm is adequately prepared for social media engagement in marketing before you embark on it. Consider the buy-in of strategic stakeholders before committing to a strategy out of fear of being left behind your competitors.
  2. Social is not for everyone: make sure social media is appropriate for your business' objectives. This also goes for ensuring you choose the most appropriate social channels for your brand. While certain financial services groups need to have a very clear presence on most consumer-facing social channels, others may only attract unnecessary attention and a client base they're not targeting.
  3. Know the risks: social media marketing may bring great rewards, but make sure your business is familiar with the potential risks as well. This can be mitigated by creating sound social media policies for staff, and ensuring that your compliance and HR teams understand the potential pitfalls.
  4. Budget appropriately: while social media may be free, ensure that your team has adequate budget behind the monitoring and resourcing of the social function. It is also prudent to allocate some money towards reputation management in the event of a crisis, which - if not handled swiftly and correctly - can quickly spiral out of control and risk your firm's brand value.
  5. Content is king: make sure your firm has something to say, that you have enough content to engage regularly (infrequent or irregular content is not best practice), that your content is engaging and succinct (nobody wants to read a 300-word LinkedIn post) and that you can back up your facts with evidence (as social media users can be quite interrogative!)

While it can be frustrating when firms simply refuse to modernise their communications strategy, it is best to try and understand the reason for the reluctance. Only when you start addressing these reasons and offering risk-mitigating plans, and evidence of successful social media use, can behaviour in firms start to change.