Eric Blewitt points to the benefits of social media for financial advisers and listening to the questions, not the answers.
They say you can find the answer to anything online, but what if you're looking for questions, not answers?
You can gain an insight into the latest fiscal dilemmas pondered by the marketplace through a number of increasingly reliable Q&A websites, such as Quora and Stack Exchange.
Browsing these websites to analyse consumer behaviour is known as social listening — a process of monitoring digital media channels to devise a strategy that will help you better inform your own customers.
Social listening is also a way to reap the benefits of online and social channels such as Facebook, even if you don't have a significant following or aren't particularly confident engaging online.
Social listening is not all-too-different from the much older term ‘media monitoring'. The difference is now you can not only monitor the media yourself, you can also do it live and even shape the discussion to your advantage.
Take Quora for example. Founded by two former Facebook employees, it's a website where questions are asked, answered (often by experts), edited and organised by a community of users within different sections, such as finance or financial advice.
Courtesy of a user voting system, the most interesting, clever or relevant questions rise to the top of each section.
Not only does this help a financial adviser keep their ear to the ground on trending consumer behaviours with minimal time and effort, but these insights highlight opportunities for advisers to expand their own service offering.
The voting system also highlights the best expert answers — providing financial advisers with the chance to showcase their own knowledge or get their name under the noses of potential clients.
Another benefit of websites such as Quora, Stack Exchange and LinkedIn forums is that you don't have to be constantly active on them to reap the rewards.
Time spent on social media can at times offer diminishing returns, but the voting algorithms used by Q&A websites mean you only have to check in every day or so to get a pretty good idea of what's been trending.
Some other ways to make the most of social listening are:
Generate leads by answering questions within your expertise: You'll want to get in early to maximise exposure and minimise the chance of your response being buried at the bottom. Trawl top questions page for new posts on sites like Quora.
Make it a habit: As an adviser you're probably time poor, but sparing just 15 minutes every day or two will be invaluable in helping you keep your ear to the ground.
Get the most out of other social media channels: Dashboard applications such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are excellent for improving the functionality of Twitter or Facebook, where clients are likely to mention a competitor, or even your own business.
Set up alerts: Both Google and Twitter have functions where you can receive message alerts if keywords, such as your business name, are mentioned online. A valuable time-saving tool.
Social listening is a great way to find out what your clients want to know before they even ask, so you can better meet their needs and stay up to date with the latest trends in the industry.
Eric Blewitt is the general manager at CommSec Adviser Services.