Last week, we had the opportunity to speak with Ryan George, PR specialist with U.S. Global Investors, one of the fund companies that we listed in our post about the all-stars in fund social media. The company is far ahead of many of its competitors within the fund industry in social media – successfully managing a Twitter feed, Facebook page, blog and YouTube page. The content highlights the company’s positioning as an off-the-beaten path investment management firm (based in San Antonio, TX), with a focus on off-the-beaten path investments (gold, natural resources, emerging markets and global infrastructure).
Ryan talked with us about how the firm’s social media strategy:
What was the genesis of your social media strategy? Did PR have to convince the firm leadership?
We were fortunate that everyone was on the same page from the get-go – there was agreement that social media was an enormous opportunity. The CEO, Frank Holms, has a real talent for identifying trends and is a regular early adopter of new technologies – and his support and involvement was the catalyst behind getting all the various departments on board and working together.
We launched the blog, “Frank Talk,” in April 2007, which was followed by our Twitter feed, Facebook page and YouTube page in September 2009. The blog (the primary source of content of the program), is written by Frank and other members of Research, who work with an internal Writing team. But the social media program is a culmination of efforts from Legal, Compliance, Research, Marketing and Public Relations – it’s a true firm-wide project.
How do you manage the program around FINRA’s guidelines?
We launched the program before FINRA issued their preliminary social media guidelines, so we treated the blog like a regular marketing piece and followed the appropriate rules. When the social media guidelines were issued in early 2010, we were already within the boundaries of their regulations so didn’t need to adjust our process – though we may need to as FINRA issues further rules. Our personal FINRA reviewers were great – they deserve a lot of credit for helping us navigate the process early.
Overall, every piece of content for social media is approved by our Compliance department, but we have developed an internal system so things are approved quickly. We also don’t allow comments on our blog, since currently we don’t have the manpower to monitor.
What were your initial goals of the program?
Initially, our goal was exploratory – we wanted to see how much time would it take and if we could get our message out without burdening our staff and slowing us down. On top of that, we wanted to find out more about the people that are interested in us – i.e. what type of materials and investments were they most interested in.
We see social media less as a prospecting tool and more of a further identification of our community. So our strategy was to take what was on our site and bring it to where that community might be.
So how are you defining success? Do you have specific metrics you are tracking?
2010 was our first full year with all of the channels, and already, Facebook was in the top 10 of referring sites to us, and Twitter was top 30. But overall, we have found that we have created a small but loyal following – for example, on Facebook, one-third of our audience views every single one of our postings. And, people that connect with us through social media show a higher level of engagement – we see that they stay longer on our website and view more pages, on average.
To reach Katherine: