Over the past several years, financial advisers and their firms have worked hard to harness the power of social media to build their businesses.
Although some advisers are starting to master the use of this tool, most are still committing some serious social-media blunders.
Here are a few:
Selling, selling, selling. Although a little shameless self-promotion isn't a bad thing, financial services firms have a tendency to go overboard. I see this more from firms rather than individual advisers, with larger companies providing their advisers with preapproved status updates and posts that all look like blatant attempts to sell something.
Advisers can avoid this by following the “one-third, one-third, one-third rule.”
This rule, which I tell my clients is a must with their social-media engagement, suggests that just one-third of all posts or social-media updates should be about the adviser, the company or the products and services provided.
Another one-third should include informative, educational or motivational information on topics important to the adviser's target market, for example, an article on “The top 10 things college freshmen need in their dorm room” for an adviser whose primary focus is education planning, or “How to blend family and career” for an adviser whose clientele consists of working moms or dads.
Some companies also have started to incorporate “quotes of the week” into their posts. Anything an adviser thinks would be of value to the firm's target market is great.
The final one-third should be used to promote others. Congratulate a client, center of influence or colleague on an accomplishment, or mention a charity or restaurant that a friend just opened in town.
This is an excellent way to help others and for an adviser to show care and concern for something outside managed portfolios.
Too many restrictions. For some advisers, the restrictions placed on them by their firms make following the “one-third” rule difficult, which leads to the next major mistake that firms and advisers are making.
In the financial services industry, we all know the importance and the frustration of compliance constraints. Although the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has issued guidance on communication with the public via social media, most firms have developed internal social-media policies that are even more restrictive.
For larger firms, it can be tedious and costly to monitor the social-media activities of thousands of advisers. However, firms need to put systems in place that allow advisers a bit of autonomy and creativity.
The social-media policies I have reviewed for some larger firms are so limiting that their advisers can do little more than create bland profiles that read like a legal brief, and can post only sales-oriented, preapproved status updates.
Firms are missing the mark here.
If a firm doesn't want to be seen as stodgy, out-of-date and out of touch, they should follow the lead of smaller registered investment advisers and determine how to, compliantly, allow advisers to customize their profiles, personalize their status updates and get involved in online conversations. The firms that take the lead on this, and can do so without a focus on selling, will be the ones to come out ahead in the social-media game.
Failure to connect and engage online. Another mistake that advisers make is to assume that just being on social media is enough.
Once an adviser has built social-media sites, it is imperative to let others know that they are active on those sites and to connect with those they meet. Include links to the firm's social-media sites on the website, in e-mail auto-signatures and on business cards.
Dedicate time each week to engage online: Send connection requests to new people met throughout the course of the week, and sign up for LinkedIn updates and Google alerts in order to congratulate and reach out to connections regarding major milestones or accomplishments.
Spend time crafting engaging status updates and take part in thoughtful dialogue with connections. It isn't simply being online that counts but what is done there.
Although there are many more social-media blunders of which advisers are guilty — not updating the site or using video, failing to identify a target market, going #hashtag crazy, etc. — tackling these three basics will start advisers on the path to leveraging the power of social media to build a practice and develop connections.
Kristin Andree (kristin@andree media.com) is president of Andree Media & Consulting.