London woman names daughter ‘Hashtag’

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When I read this I was speechless and frankly this headline taught me that you can never ever predict the strange things people will do.

There are always new ways to innovate, but was this a step too far? It was Bill Gates who said, “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow”.

In the ’90’s many businesses, and especially those in financial services, didn’t see why they needed a website, or indeed email or mobile phones. Just think, where would your business be now without any one of these?

Social media is exactly the same, not everyone gets why they need it, but eventually everyone will.  The sooner you and your business adapts, the sooner you’ll start to see the results. Social media will help your business flourish in so many ways today and will be an essential tool to the success you no doubt want in the future.

Social media goes from strength to strength. According to Incite’s recent Social Media Report, consumers continue to spend more time on social networks than on any other category of site, roughly 20 percent of their total time is online via PC and interestingly 30 percent of total time online via mobile devices.

Additionally, total time spent on social media in the USA across PCs and mobile devices increased 37 percent to 121 billion minutes in July 2012, compared to 88 billion in July 2011.

The recent proliferation of mobile devices and better, faster connectivity helped fuel the continued growth of social media and in the UK some 5% of UK households now own an Internet connected smart TV.

But social media is less about technology and more about relationship building; we are starting to see more women have a heavy influence, if not dominant role in the social media space. It’s no wonder that Facebook is being run in part by Sheryl Sandberg.

The range and diversity of social networks is also on the up, social media users are rarely tied exclusively to just one social network. Indeed, the interaction between different social sites is immense. Users dart between multiple networks in order to chat to their various groups of friends and associates.

But with financial services, the desire to embrace is countered by the urge to regulate it, and regulation and the Internet are not easy bedfellows. Indeed the Internet treats censorship or control as a ‘malfunction it does not compute’ and navigates around it.

Barrack Obama said recently, the Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet (a British invention) so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is that when we succeed, we succeed not only because of our individual initiatives, but also because we do things together”.

So why is financial services slower than most to engage?

Well, it could be an age thing, with so many within the adviser community being 60 or more, but I think it runs deeper than that. It is a simple fear of trying to understanding how, what, where, when and importantly the “is it compliant” impact upon the ease for them to engage.

Providers are very concerned that by engaging with social media it will open the floodgates for a tsunami of negative comments that they cannot control thus creating brand damage.

People and businesses care most about what their peers think and the technology is there for information, good and bad, true or false, to be quickly shared on products and services.

Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant on full flow.

But by engaging with that social media flow, influence can move both ways. Because you or your business do not have a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook does not mean anything bad or negative will be said about you. By being there at least you can put the record straight and to the same audience.

Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt said, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had”.

The FSA was not too keen on the use of social media or indeed anarchy and that is because it cannot control either. The guides that came from Canary Wharf about the consumer detriment 140 characters can cause is not grasping an understanding at all of the fact that increasingly, consumers don’t search for products and services, rather services come to their attention via social media, warts and all.

The FCA seems to be adopting a more considered position, Martin Wheatley, clarified the regulator’s intentions to make better use of Twitter in an interview with the Daily Mail in the days leading up to the transfer of power from the Financial Services Authority.

The Internet is now way beyond just making money. It is about brand awareness, reputation, creation, influence, opinion seeking or forming and much more.

But not definitely not control and certainly not by regulation.

To assist in creating a better understanding within our community, we just launched our Panacea Social Stream service.

It provides a great service that gets around all the problems so many advisers have about time constraints regarding how, what, where, when and importantly the “is it compliant” impact upon the ease to engage.

It will help you to develop your business in this field, engage with you clients and get the most from social media. This resource will grow richer each month, adding to the 70,000 plus site pages with new ideas and of course opportunities.

The power of social media is that it forces necessary change, any regulator, any adviser and any consumer, should see that as a very big and positive outcome.

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