Tom Bradley heads up a mutual fund investment firm called Steadyhand that is quietly showing other financial services firms how to leverage social media to build their reputation and profile.
One look at the Steadyhand website tells it all – clean and crisp in look and feel, as well as messaging. Tom is a gifted communicator who knows how to simplify complexity without seeming to talk down to the investor.
Tom is thinking about his reputation long-term and building for the future. You can tell this just by looking at his website and blog and the type of content he produces.
Here’s how you can tell:
1. The website – www.steadyhand.com – It’s clean, uncluttered and works very well. The design is friendly, yet professional. The fund information is easy to read and not buried in PDF files. There are some nice interactive tools and calculators that add value to the site. There is even some personality and a touch of humour, so you get a sense of who these folks really are.
2. The blog – www.steadyhand.com/blog – Tom writes regularly for the Globe and Mail and repurposes these pieces for his blog. Tom has been blogging for four years already and, as you can see, he has become quite good at it. He and his colleagues at Steadyhand consistently produce high-quality investment information and analysis that helps make them stand out in the online world.
3. The videos – www.steadyhand.com/podcasts - Tom has started producing short video pieces in which he has a conversation with one of his fund managers. These pieces are not slick, over-produced ads – they are simple conversations in which investors get to see Tom and the fund managers talking about their approach and some specific holdings. This video interview of Steadyhand’s small cap equity fund manager creates a sense of transparency allowing the investor to get behind the numbers and see the personality of the fund manager and, therefore, the fund itself. It’s not riveting video – unless you are considering investing in the fund.
4. The social media - twitter.com/Steadyhandfunds – Steadyhand has a Twitter account and uses it to alert followers to new content postings or special events. Not all users want to receive their information the same way: some like being on email lists, other don’t; some like subscribing to blogs with a feed reader, others have no idea what that is; and some like using Twitter as a personalized data stream into which they can jump for a few minutes between engagements. Using a variety of social media channels allows the consumer of your information to choose – and consumers always love choice.
So, Steadyhand, keep up the good work. Your social media and content creation efforts are leading the way into the future of communications for investment firms.
A lot of individuals and businesses are thinking about social media these days. This is a good thing. But many just have no idea where to start. And this uncertainty can create indecision.
Don’t waste time being undecided about what to do in social media. Start by listening and paying more attention to the social media sphere at the same time as you consider how you can become more engaged. After 60 or 90 days of doing the following stuff, you’ll be much smarter and in a better position to have an informed discussion and make decisions about what social media opportunities are available to you and your firm.
Here’s what to do:
1. Start monitoring and tracking key sites – What are competitors doing/saying online? Is your company being mentioned in social media discussions? What blogs are the most interesting and influential for you to be following? Another way to think of this is – what sites are your clients and target markets going to on a regular basis? (There can be different answers for each of these groups.) All I’m suggesting you do is read, listen, follow and track – no interactive engagement. This may mean learning how to use Twitter and feed readers, subscribing to blogs, setting up Google Alerts, etc.
2. Standardize social networking profiles – Review your profile(s) on LinkedIn and other social networking sites and make sure they are consistent, professional and well-representative of your brand. You may also want to consider securing personal handles (eg., twitter.com/yourname and youtube.com/yourfirm) on main social media sites so someone else doesn’t take them. There are other John Smiths and Jane Does out there in the world, as well as malicious actors who poach names. This is not too terribly expensive to do and is strongly recommended.
3. Social media policy – Start reviewing and considering an appropriate social media policy for your company that takes into consideration how personal social media intersects with business activities and how you will respond to social media engagement. This is also a good context in which to discuss compliance or HR issues that may arise. (Check out this database of social media policies.)
4. Personal social media skills development – You would do well to explore social media tools personally before engaging professionally. This allows you to build up skills and knowledge that is directly applicable in the professional context.
5. Talks – Lunchtime talks are a good way to introduce social media into your firm and discuss a number of key issues. Serve lunch, bring in a speaker and discuss issues such as compliance, push versus pull marketing, social media etiquette, key blogs and online influencers, etc. Frankly, you don’t even need a speaker. There are lots of good quality videos out there by social media veterans that you could watch on a big screen and then discuss. Books are also a good way to do this. Read Trust Agents by Brogan and Smith or Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel – then discuss over lunch.
6. Coaching – Busy professionals always ask the same question: How do I find time for this? The answer is: you have to choose your tools well and make time for them. Social media skills take time to develop and there may be some “overtime” required at first. Eventually, one needs to look at time spent in face-to-face meetings, on the phone, on the web, using email and social media and decide the best balance. Having a resource on-hand that can answer questions and keep you to on track can help busy people make time.
All of these things can start happening now. All it takes is willingness to listen and engage – this IS the most important first step.
Out of this engagement, your social media strategy will come more naturally.
Faxing is one of those transitional technologies that still seems to hold a place in 2010. From their heyday in the 1980s as the epitome of forward technologies, faxes have declined to their current state of archaic artifact.
Yet, faxes can still play an important role in day-to-day business. Faxes are important for signing legal documents – ever try buying real estate without using a fax machine? In the end, the utility of a fax machine comes from the fact that it is in essence a “hands-free scanner”. Someone emails you a document to sign – what do you do? Print it, sign it and stick it in the fax machine. Done.
Myfax.com is a virtual fax service with a number of benefits. For one thing, you don’t need a fax machine or a dedicated phone line. You login and send your fax via a simple web interface. You can attach a document that you’ve pre-written. You can create a cover sheet. You can preview the whole thing before sending it. Alternatively, you can send your fax via a special email address, so you don’t need to leave your application of choice for communicating that memo.
But receiving faxes via an online service like Myfax.com is where the rubber meets the road, in my opinion. For regular faxes, you can have myfax.com email you the fax as a PDF attachment. Now, you can get the fax sent to your office while you are on the road (or working from home). But if security is a factor and you don’t want a PDF sent to you, you can get a simple email notification that your fax has been received and login to your account and retrieve it.
The only drawback here is the main reason why faxes haven’t disappeared entirely – the whole “hands-free scanner” thing. If you have a hardcopy document that you signed and need to fax back, well you are going to have to scan it. Once scanned, in many cases, you can just email the signed document back. (If you are clever, you can just scan your signature once, then copy and paste it into a PDF of the document you need to sign and send it back. No mess, no fuss. But that’s for another post.)
So, to sum up, here are some reasons why you wouldn’t throw out your fax machine: