Note to advisers: Embrace social media

Feb 12, 2012 @ 12:01 am

Advisers need to get with the program and embrace social media. That was the message delivered by a savvy panel about the new tools at the recent TD Ameritrade conference in Orlando, Fla.

Panelist Cathy Curtis, a financial adviser who owns Curtis Financial Planning, detailed how she uses LinkedIn to reach out to prospects, expand her book of business and solidify relationships with clients.

Ms. Curtis, who also blogs, runs an independent fee-only advisory firm that specializes in the finances of women and families. Her goal is to form confidential fiduciary relationships bound by trust, and she thinks that social media has allowed her to accomplish that.

Ms. Curtis and the other panelists said that once advisers are up to speed, social networking can serve as a powerful way to prospect and build stronger client relationships.

Watch an INTV interview with Ms. Curtis and other advisers offering their social media strategies:

As she and the other panelists expressed their enthusiasm and told success stories, several advisers sitting near me in the audience grumbled.

One, sitting by himself, said to no one in particular that social media has been overhyped.

“It's a waste of time,” he said.

Another, sitting a few rows behind me, questioned its benefits for advisers.

While they were busy carping, Ms. Curtis was explaining how her LinkedIn connections had led to landing several new clients, increasing her assets under management by more than $1 million.

I may not be an expert in high finance, but isn't adding $1 million in assets under management a good thing?

Another adviser, who seemed sour before he opened his mouth, challenged the panel not with a question but with a convoluted statement concerning the possibility of client litigation resulting from using social media.

The session moderator, Bill Winterberg, a principal at FPPad.com, did a wonderful job at crafting a response to an “issue” that seemed to be much ado about nothing. After he finished, an adviser in the crowd said: “Next question,” drawing some laughter.

Clearly, some of the criticism of social media is warranted. I, for one, don't see much value in sharing my lunch choices with 350 of my closest friends.

But I think a blanket Luddite response to using the new tools is equally ridiculous.

We live in a world of flat-screen TVs, iPads and smart phones, which is a roundabout way of saying that advisers must make a serious effort to embrace social media as a marketing tool. It is time to challenge long-standing habits and adopt new ideas.

If advisers are afraid of social media, they should hire some smart young people to show them the ropes. (I could go more into the need to attract Generation Xers to the advisory business, but that is fodder for a future column.)

For now, advisers must first acknowledge that social media isn't a fad. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest and blogging — plus who knows what else — are all here to stay.

And the great thing, as resourceful advisers such as Ms. Curtis demonstrate, is that these new tools can be used in ways that are limited only by your own creativity.

Client intelligence? Prospecting? Education? Networking? Forging ties with your clients' kids? You name it — social media can help.

Feel funny about asking clients for referrals? Well, how about merely mentioning that they should feel free to pass along your timely content to the friends and associates in their social-media networks?

As you can see, the possibilities are almost limitless. And if the positives don't move you, consider this: Gen X and Gen Y prospects won't do business with anyone they can't look up and check out online.

Without a social-media presence, you pretty much won't exist to the next wave of clients. You can also bet that first contact won't be a face-to-face meeting and you won't be shaking anyone's hand.

So welcome to the social-media revolution. Are you part of the old regime or the new?

Jim Pavia is the editor of InvestmentNews.

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