By Simon Ryan.

Since I first became involved with social media professionally in 2009, there has been a phenomenal growth in its use as a business development tool. And while still behind most industries, the adoption of social media by financial services has grown exponentially.

I’m not going to bore you with statistics, but I can tell you most of my financial services clients are not at all techie and certainly not early adopters. Yet they all use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email marketing, smartphones and have a website.

Although they have made the leap with these new communication platforms, I know they still struggle to move away from broadcasting rather than conversing. So here is my online conversation secrets revealed.

The Online Conversation Ground Rules

Firstly, let’s all agree on one thing. Making a conversation is an art and not a science. And that means you need to work on your own approach, one that you’re are comfortable with and consistently generates results appropriate to you.

Secondly, a hero of mine, Dale Carnegie, said that the best conversationalists and most interesting people in the world are the listeners. So please start your conversations by listening. Look out for what the other person (people) want to talk about and go with that flow.

How to Make Conversation Online

Now once your conversation is up and running, repeat the second ground rule.

I know this may seem simple, but it is a fundamental concept that is extremely important. Conversations have two sides, and conversations in social media are no different. Social media isn’t just about collecting friends.

It is equally important, to listen, ask questions, and invite opinions. Of course, that means responding to every comment your receive, but also starting conversations with people that have taken the time to share.

LinkedIn Groups are a great place to do this. Look for the news of firms in your area and take some time to congratulate or help as appropriate.

How to Invite Opinions Online

While we’re on the topic of LinkedIn groups.

By asking for personal opinions, people feel more relaxed and are willing to respond both to the original question and to the opinions of other fans. One of the best online conversations I have seen from one of our advisers was about business broadband.

Now he doesn’t sell broadband services, but in common with all the other firms in his area, he has challenges with it. So he started a conversation in a local LinkedIn group.

It was a great way for him to get noticed for all the right reasons that led to new contacts and leads.

Share Personal Yet Universal Topics

This is the most powerful secret of social media. The more social you are, the more people will really identify with you. And the more they will want to do business with you.

Whether you play golf, support a lower league or Premiership football team, help run your church, are a parent, a runner, like to cook, like to shop. Oh blimey, I could go on. We all belong to multiple communities. Our work, family, clubs, commute are the tip of the iceberg.

The lesson is be sure to include conversations–or better yet some text, videos, and photos–about things that are related to your topic area, personal to you and universal in nature. Topics like that are appealing, genuine and likely to generate conversation.

Best of all, they don’t need compliance approval.

Get More Online Interaction By Posting Videos or Photos

Text is good, but great images and videos are really effective. Particularly on Facebook and YouTube.

One of the most commented on videos we use cost us just £100 to produce. We worked with our local further education college. It’s our script, but features and was produced by their students. Some of our clients think they work for us, which is Ok, as they are all young and groovy.

But the reality is, it was great for them, it was great for me and our clients love it. You can see it on our Facebook timeline right now. By the way, if you haven’t already become a fan of our “Facebook Fan Page” do it right now.

Reward Commitment to Your Brand

Another obvious way to generate interaction is to give away stuff. More specifically, it’s important to reward commitment to your firm by providing free downloads or tickets to your events via these social media interactions. After all, that’s why most people initially join the conversation to begin with–because they are interested in additional related content and possible freebies from you.

For example, here is a recent video I produced called “Why Every Website Should Have A Blog

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