Financial professionals should be pushing the compliance envelope with social media, because by the time regulators ultimately establish how advisers and brokers should be operating, it will be too late for those unfamiliar with the platforms, an entrepreneur and marketing expert said today.
"We need to figure this out fast because the consumer doesn't care about compliance," said Gary Vaynerchuk, who used social media to build his family's liquor business from $3 million to $45 million in five years. He was the keynote speaker today at a LIMRA social media conference in Boston.
Within three years, there will be "an exponential change in how we reach customers" in every industry, including financial services, he said.
"Just as it's impossible to be successful in business today if you don't have a website, the same is about to happen in social media," Mr. Vaynerchuk said.
Professionals should examine common interests of the clients they have brought on in the last two years and become experts in those topics.
"If that's fly fishing, then become the authority in that," said Mr. Vaynerchuk.
The content advisers send out should focus on that interest, with approximately every eighth communication actually getting around to talking about what they can do for someone, he said.
Advisers also should always be looking to embrace new platforms and become effective on them because user numbers grow quickly.
For example, Vine, a video sharing application created in January 2013, now has 40 million users, Mr. Vaynerchuk said. Twitter purchased the app from its creators in October 2012, even before it was formally launched.
"Anything with that many users is something, as biz people, we need to pay attention to," he said.
Robin Reeve, a web developer at Platinum Advisor Strategies, coaches independent advisers on how to use social media and finds that compliance officers often are a barrier.
"I feel like we educate advisers, then compliance hits," Mr. Reeve said.
Mr. Vaynerchuk said informal talks he has been a part of in Washington suggest that the issue of compliance officers blocking use of social media in industries such as financial services is getting attention.
"Washington will inevitably get it, but it will be too late," Mr. Vaynerchuk said in an interview after his presentation. "The financial industry will have to push the boundaries of gray."
Victor Gaxiola, a social media expert at Actiance Inc., said that one of the best ways of persuading advisers they can use social media safely to attract new clients and build relationships with existing clients is to show them examples of those who have.
"The biggest catalyst for adoption of social media is success," Mr. Gaxiola said.
But advisers who were early adopters and have been most successful with social media are sometimes "quiet about their success" because it's such a competitive landscape.