A guide to Foursquare for IFAs and Financial Planners – and why they need to ‘check in’ NOW
The value of Social Media still splits many in the financial advice community. For every sceptic, there are equal numbers of IFA evangelists and early adopters who are actively using sites such as LinkedIn, Ecademy, Facebook, IFA Life, YouTube, Quora, Slideshare and others.
And there are many others who either haven’t heard of Social Media or who have yet to form an opinion because no one has explained how it could help them.
I am increasingly asked by IFA firms and Providers to speak at their conferences and events on the value of Social Media in Financial Services. Yet, just a couple of years ago it would have been unthinkable for an IFA firm to let someone loose on their advisers encouraging them to use social networking sites. Only yesterday I spoke to over 600 financial advisers at their annual conference in London – and whilst the event concentrated mainly on how the firm would help advisers survive and thrive after RDR, the company was open minded enough to recognise that the Internet and Social media will have an increasingly important role in how consumers access professional financial advice.
By way of example, IFA Life now has over 1,000 IFAs who have listed their Twitter account on their IFA Life profile. We know that the figure is even higher, because not everyone on IFA Life fills out their profile page.
In the great scheme of things, 1,000 is not a huge number - but it is growing fast every day as IFAs discover that Twitter is not just about marketing. It’s great for networking, listening, sharing ideas and links, thought leadership, getting news, asking for and giving help, finding jobs – and much more. In fact, many IFAs report that Twitter is now an invaluable tool in their business.
Like many new online tools, the benefits of Twitter were not immediately apparent to the financial advice community – but sooner or later we figure out how they can be of benefit.
So what’s next for IFAs on the Social Media conveyer belt?
Is it just another piece of trivial fluff dreamt up by a spotty teenager in his bedroom - or a tool which, given thought can be of real value to both consumers and IFAs?
Firstly, let’s consider how people currently find an IFA and how IFAs find clients:
- Accountants, solicitors, estate agents etc
- Traditional advertising and marketing
- Articles and Blogs
- Networking events
- Yellow pages and other paper directories
- The Internet
The simple fact is that the Internet is now the first place that most people go when looking for financial information or advice. Some people find what they are looking for online and never contact an IFA, whilst others specifically look for an IFA.
The problem with this, is that very few IFAs’ websites appear on the first page of search results in their own right (although this is improving) – with most IFAs only becoming visible when someone finds their listing on sites like unbiased.co.uk, MyLocalAdviser, findanadviser.org, IFA Life and others.
And then having found an IFA’s website or listing, it soon becomes apparent that from a consumer’s perspective, there would often appear to be little to differentiate one IFA from another.
This, amongst other things suggests three things:
- IFAs need to spend more time working on their search engine positioning
- IFAs need to work harder at showing their differentiation on their websites
- The traditional ‘lists of IFAs’ approach to finding an IFA needs updating
And that’s where Social Media comes in, and in particular Geolocation social networking services such as Foursquare.
‘Location-based social networking’ is still in its early days (well, it is in Financial Services), but there are already clear benefits emerging. Put simply, if IFAs want to take advantage of a fantastic new way for people to find, assess, review and refer IFAs, then you better take notice of this one.
Having set the context, here are a few ideas on why IFAs should sign up to Foursquare and how they can make the most of it.
Foursquare is a social networking tool which focuses on local businesses. It’s a service which:
- Helps people to find businesses
- Helps people to recommend businesses
- helps people to assess businesses and service providers
- Can reward people for visiting/using businesses.
Business owners (e.g. IFAs and financial planners) benefit by:
- Being visible to people who are using their mobile or Smartphone to search for services and business
- Being visible to people visiting towns and locations
- Differentiating themselves to Internet-savvy consumers
- People leaving tips and recommendations about your business.
How does it work?
People sign up to and access Foursquare mainly from their mobile phone or handheld Smartphone device by visiting Foursquare’s mobile site or via an App such as that available for the iPhone. Though you can sign up and manage your account at their main website at http://www.foursquare.com
After having accessed Foursquare via your mobile device, you will be presented with a range of businesses or locations that are nearby. It will even show you how far away they are in meters. So, for example, if you are standing in the middle of Guildford High Street, the App will list out businesses that are around you. You’ll see WH Smith, Gap, local Solicitors, Accountants, coffee shops, IFAs and many others.
That in itself is a benefit to IFAs – in that people are checking in to Foursquare on their mobile devices around the UK every minute of every day – and even if at that precise moment in time they are not looking for an IFA, they will still see IFA businesses listed that are nearby.
So let’s imagine that you are a consumer and on your way to visit Smith and Co Financial Planning. Once you arrive or are in the vicinity, you can find the listing for Smith and Co and ‘check in’ via the App. There’s even a Google map, address and contact details to show you exactly where they are – plus you can get both walking and driving directions. In the unlikely event that the company isn’t listed on Foursquare already, you can add it manually.
All IFAs should sign up to Foursquare and check that their business is indeed listed. If it’s not, then add it yourself. It’s really easy to do because clear instructions are provided and it only takes a couple of seconds to do.
Most businesses and venues will already be listed on the Foursquare App, and so it’s a good idea for the real owner or manager to claim it as their venue. You can do this by following the link at the bottom of the page.
So if for no other reason than to check the listing and claim the venue/business, IFAs should be joining Foursquare just to do that.
So we have arrived in Guildford, and to check in to Smith and Co, simply click on the listing shown on the App, add any comment that you would like to make (like you would a tweet on Twitter or a status update on LinkedIn or Facebook), decide who you would like to see your check in (you can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts or just leave it for your Foursquare followers to see) and then submit. You can also add a photo if you feel so inclined.
Fourquare then messages your followers that you have arrived at and checked in to Smith and Co. In the process of you checking in to Smith and Co, you have advised your followers that you are there (and yes, they really are interested or they would not have followed you in the first place) and you have given Smith and Co some free marketing.
The App will then tell you if anyone else you know is also at Smith and Co. For smaller businesses that will be unlikely, but at larger events and venues you will often be pleasantly surprised at who else you will find and inevitably you look out for each other and maybe even meet up. Thus Foursquare connects people to businesses online AND connects people to people in the ‘real world’.
After you have left Smith and Co, you can then leave a tip about the business for the benefit of others who might also be considering using their financial advice services. Again, you can leave your tip (200 characters maximum) via the Foursquare App or on Smith and Co’s listing on the main Foursquare website.
For example, you might say something like:
"Ask for John – it’s great to find a financial adviser who can explain pensions in plain English – highly recommended."
This short tip will be of value to both local people who are wondering whether Smith and Co is the right IFA firm for them – and you can bet that Mr Smith himself will be grateful for the testimonial.
More people now access the Internet via their mobile phone than via a fixed desktop computer, and so location based social networking services provide IFA businesses with the opportunity to:
- Be visible to anyone using the Internet to find financial advisers in your town/location
- Be visible to people across the wider Internet as people's check ins are often broadcast to their Twitter and LinkedIn followers
- Have tips and testimonials about your business visible to people searching for financial advisers
- Reward clients for checking in or leaving tips about them
- Track sentiment - i.e. be aware of what people are saying about your business and to respond accordingly
- Build Community around your Brand
- Measure the visibility of your page through a range of stats that Foursquare is rolling out
One additional service of benefit to businesses and users of Foursquare is Snacksquare. Snacksquare is a location-based advertising provider that facilitates local businesses automatically delivering SMS text messages to potential customers that check in near a venue. Still very early days for this service within Financial Services, but in due course...
At IFA Life, we’re conscious that Geo-Location services like Foursquare are still very new, but in this one example we can see how powerful they will become – much more so than local IFA listings you might find on an Internet search.
But what if no one you know has left any tips or suggestions about your IFA business on Foursquare? How can you stand out from other local IFAs?
The first thing to do, is to tell all your clients that they can now interact and communicate with you through a range of social networking sites – of which Foursquare is one. Clearly not all your clients will be interested, but more and more will be interested because social networking sites have appeal for people of all ages – and increasingly so.
You could then ask clients if they would kindly leave a tip or testimonial on your Foursquare page (or any other social networking site that you are on for that matter).
But IFA Life can also help because we are the first Financial Services brand in the world to partner with Foursquare. In February 2011, we launched our branded page on their website at http://www.foursquare.com/IFALife
In short, for subscribing IFA Life members, IFA Life will add a tip about your business on our Foursquare page. It will also appear on your business’ page on Foursquare. We won’t leave a testimonial because we haven’t used your services, but we will leave a practical tip that you provide.
Tips should reveal a different side to your financial advice business; simply saying that you help with pensions is of limited value. People want to see what’s different about you and something of your personality.
Tips should be:
- Actionable (go here, do this, see this, ask about etc)
- Relevant to a specific location/address
- Valuable and useful, giving ‘insider information’
- Interesting, short, clever, worthwhile, occasionally entertaining and as though from a trusted friend
- Under 200 characters
- Tips could also promote seminars, events, local sponsorship initiatives, networking opportunities, IFA job vacancies and niche markets catered for
Here's one we prepared earlier:
For details on how we can add a tip on to your Foursquare page, take a look here.
How else can Foursquare be used?
When you attend any event, venue or large gathering and check in via the Foursquare App, you will be able to see who else has checked in there. When you discover that a good friend is there, the chances are you will want to send them a message to suggest meeting up. I have done this several times and, apart from the social aspects, we all know that some of the best networking is done at impromptu meetings.
Recommendations and reviews
It’s not just financial advisers that people can leave tips about – you’ll soon discover tips about restaurants, hotels and every kind of service business – all of which could be helpful to you as a consumer.
There is nothing quite like the sense of community when you attend an event, whether it is a concert, a conference or a seminar. The virtual layer that location-based networking adds on top creates an exciting extra dimension. If your IFA firm is hosting a seminar, you can encourage attendees to check in and perhaps leave a comment.
The most popular way that location-based networking is being used by many businesses is by offering rewards to people for checking in to their store or location. For example, business owners often offer discounts or other incentives to people who have checked in to their venue or office regularly.
There is an additional element to Foursquare which we have not yet covered, in that people can receive badges from Foursquare for achieving various milestones in usage. They have no practical use within the use of Foursquare to find IFA businesses, but they do add an extra fun element for people using the Foursquare App. More details on this on the Foursquare website.
Foursquare do allow partners (such as IFA Life) to offer their own badges which reward followers for doing a variety of things, and in due course it is likely that Foursquare will allow individual businesses to offer special badges for their followers.
What to do now
Financial Services has much to gain from Foursquare and other Apps that will inevitably include a geolocation element - not least of which as a new way to make the industry more appealing, more attractive, more visible and more relevant to internet-savvy consumers. Within this industry, we are only limited by our imagination and lack of strategy as to how we use it and benefit from it.
- Visit http://www.foursquare.com and sign up.
- Hook up your Twitter account (assuming you have one)
- Download the iPhone, Symbian, Android, webOS, Windows Phone 7 or BlackBerry App for your mobile device.
- Log on and check that your business or venue is featured. If not, add it yourself. If it is featured, you may wish to claim it as yours by following these instructions
- Do your first check in.
- Check in to other places and venues as you travel about.
- Follow IFA Life at http://www.foursquare.com/IFALife
- Tell your clients and important contacts that you are now on Foursquare (and other social networking sites) – and maybe explain to them why they should be using Foursquare too.
- Ask clients to leave a tip about your services when they check in to your business.
- Consider what tip you would like to leave on your Foursquare page and IFA Life’s through our new service here.
Finally, this is not an exhaustive guide to Foursquare, but I hope it highlights the key ways that IFAs can benefit from it – as both a service provider and consumer.
Keep an open mind and enjoy Foursquare and all the opportunities it presents. Re-examine your marketing and communication strategy - and if appropriate integrate geolocation networking into it. It might feel a bit new and strange right now, but within twelve months it will be an essential part of how people will find you online.
UPDATE added 8th March 2011
Take a look at one IFA's experience of this new service and the impact it had on her here...
Philip Calvert Founder of IFA Life and Social Media Speaker
Founder of IFA Life and Social Media Speaker
+44 (0)7773 359619
+44 (0)7773 359619
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Author: Philip Calvert
Posted: Friday, March 04, 2011 | 11:16:53 AM