How to use social media to showcase your expertise

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the appetite for reliable information and guidance, often delivered via social media.

Commentary published in the Lancet suggests people are turning to trusted sources on social media for news, direction and advice, given the rapidly-changing nature of the crisis.

“Users increasingly see trusted individuals within their peer networks who support production and exchange of valued information as authoritative sources of information,” the authors from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote.

However, not all content and communication is equal. As the public health experts warn, there is also a flood of misinformation on social media that serves to undermine the legitimacy of the medium.

Given the current stressors and demand for quality information, it’s more important than ever for planners to position themselves as a source of authority and trustworthy general information through their media strategy.

What people want from social

The first step to developing a strategy targeted to the unusual times we find ourselves in is understanding how social media is currently being used – and what people are engaging with.

A large coronavirus survey from market research company GlobalWebIndex shows most social media users (85 per cent) are looking for practical tips from companies when they log on to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

“From a list of 11 possible actions that brands could be taking at the moment, running ‘normal’ advertising which is unrelated to coronavirus scores the lowest approval rating,” says Jason Mander, GlobalWebIndex’s chief research officer.

The findings suggest planners would be well placed to suspend pre-existing campaigns and use their financial expertise to offer practical information about matters like market or super changes and Centrelink entitlements, while leaving tailored advice to one-on-one sessions.

For some planners, this social offering is taking the form of infographics, short articles and Q&As targeting common client queries and market insights.

However, increased time on social media combined with lack of general face-to-face interaction is also driving demand for more interactive events, like Facebook and Instagram live forums.

Creating live events

You may have noticed that more businesses are hosting free, streamed events via Facebook, Instagram or Zoom to give their clients and customers the opportunity to ask questions and hear insights about their area of expertise.

Hosts say they have dual benefits in both keeping the company front of mind and reframing the way the business is perceived by clients and potential clients.

Author Tony Park, who is about to launch his new book, says he is attracting almost 40 times the number of participants to streamed events than face-to-face events.

“I should have been doing this ages ago, and I'm actually benefitting from having a captive audience, hungry for connection and distraction,” he says.

Meanwhile, online art gallery Bluethumb spokesman Freddy Grant says he has seen success hosting live events and classes, which has boosted interest in his offering and increased brand recognition.

Businesses who have hosted successful live events – which have led to subsequent service uptake – have offered a few tips.

  1. Approach livestreamed events as you would a regular event: with planning, an agenda and a well-advertised date to increase attendance.
  2. Allow interactivity via chat or live questions to engage more participants, but moderate it to ensure you have control of which questions you answer (this will allow you to monitor questions that are difficult to answer due to regulatory requirements).
  3. Give participants an activity, such as a quiz, a workbook or homework to keep them actively engaged.
  4. Add value where you can, but not where you can’t – for example, offering health advice could undermine your perception among clients when you are trusted to provide general financial tips.

When less is more

It can be tempting when there’s a captive social audience to post frequent insights, but research shows that won’t necessarily increase engagement.

A study from Italy found a higher number of followers did not correlate to more engagement, even after COVID-19, when more people are using social media.

Instead, infrequent, but targeted posts may offer better engagement, which could translate to the acquisition or retention of clients.

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