While Hamacher's story may make it sound easy, it isn't always, whether you're a small firm doing it all yourself or working within a large company where things might move slowly or approvals are time consuming. Here are three steps to get you going:

1. Conduct Some Discovery – By “discovery,” I mean going on a factfinding mission. You can accomplish this even without a defined compliance policy. Consider Blane Warrene's advice at the start of this chapter. Begin a listening program across Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, or any other platform you're considering. Are your customers there? Do you see an audience that is important to you or your firm? Are your influencers, who help you shape the voice and visibility of your organization, also present there? See Figure 18.3.

Checklist for Social Media Platform Selection

FIGURE 18.3 Checklist for Social Media Platform Selection

Here are some additional tips when conducting discovery of networks:

Avoid Familiar Faces – One big mistake: going where your friends are. 'Obviously, what's most importantis to figure out where your clients or ideal audience is,” Warrene says. “But often we're drawn to go to where our own influences and friends are first because it's comfortable.”

Check Accessible Data, Insights – As part of the discovery process, look for data such as the number of users, profile insights, and trends. For example, people rave about LinkedIn because it offers information such as the job seniority of its members. Such data is accessible on LinkedIn, but it's more limited on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. On Facebook, says Warrene, a user might be able to see and access friends, but he or she may not be able to see their profiles – something you often can do at LinkedIn.

■ Beta Test Advertising – One way that institutions and enterprises can get access to data is by conducting an advertising campaign. If you execute beta advertising or other test on Facebook, for example, you will almost definitely get significant demographic information, and that's a good way to see if your audience is there.

Start Small – As a consultant, Warrene recommends that a small business spend $500 to $1,000 over one to three months to see what kind of results they get, even by taking an existing campaign and moving it into social media. Of course, the bigger the firm, often the more leverage you have: “If Vanguard says to Facebook that we want to test $25,000 on the network, they'll open their kimono,” Warrene says.

View Competitors – Also be sure to look at your competitors: What kind of traction, if any, do they have? Consider your direct competitors and those firms you bump up against the most; you'll get some insight into where your customers may be based.

2. Go Back to the Policy – You now know enough to say, “This is where we need to be, not only from a compliance but a governance perspective.” That's where the policy comes into play: Define the networks you want to use. It almost bleeds into the third step: Can we stay compliant using this network? Your organization may decide that its hub is its web site. You may find yourself asking, “If we distribute information on YouTube and on Twitter because we see engagement, can we archive it and supervise it?” If so, wrap that up into the policy.

3. Connecting the Dots – The final step is ensuring that the platform is flexible enough that you can connect the dots between compliance, marketing, and human capital.

You have a team that's going to be active on that social media platform. But there might be some questions you need to address to activate the team (or yourself):

Connecting to the Social World: Firewall? – Can employees even go to the social network identified or is it prevented? Will they see “your access has been blocked” after investing time in training and content development?

Connecting to Marketing: Connectivity? – Is there connectivity from the firm's marketing into the network? In other words, will the advisor or firm be able to talk to this network properly to publish content – whether we use Salesforce, Eloqua (a marketing automation software, like MailChimp for the enterprise), or other marketing and communication tools? If not, it may mean you opt for another initiative or undertake this as a new project. However, most marketing automation tools are indeed connected to the various social networks, including Mailchimp, ConstantContact, Salesforce, and Eloqua. As an example, if the firm selects YouTube, can you actually upload them by accessing YouTube directly or any other marketing tool or platform you might be using? Any firm or professional can do much of this themselves without outsourcing, but you'll need to consider the technical issues. Of course, if you choose YouTube, that's a platform generally contained to video. But other platforms such as Pinterest and Facebook support a variety of mediums: video, auditory, images, and so on.

Connecting to Your People: Compliance? – Clearly, you won't move forward on any platform you choose without the compliance education and then the protocol training on the selected network(s). That should include everyone from the most senior to the most junior. Generally, this group should include people ranging from those who will supervise social media to those on the road actually doing the publishing, engaging, and/or responding. Your organization's social media users need to have a clear vision for compliance as well as the etiquette and protocol. “Each network has its own science that one has to learn,” Warrene points out. One final reminder: Don't overlook your compliance leaders when it comes to training. Too often, they are ignored and end up lacking the ability to understand what they're looking at.

In short, choosing the right platform isn't as daunting as it sounds: It all starts with your audience. Many firms begin with a single effort on a single platform; that's a great way to get the ball rolling and learn. But, if you have the time or resources to conduct some discovery on the various networks, you can gather invaluable information for your longer-term planning and resource allocation.

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