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How far should you go to show off your personality online?

Jun 10, 2014 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Practice management, social media, technology
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(iStock)

One of the best ways for advisers to use their online and social media presence is to show off their personalities.

Whether it's a post on Facebook, a quirky article shared on LinkedIn, a tweet or a video on their website, advisers should use these tools to share a part of themselves and show they're as human as their clients — yet different from their competitors.

“We are drowning in a sea of sameness,” said Dan Richards, chief executive of ClientInsights, a consultant for financial services firms. “It's important to convey that you are different and show off your personality.”

He noted that advisers have to remain professional online, “but not at the expense of completely ending up wiping all the personality out of what they're conveying.”

Nashville, Tenn., financial adviser David Adams is the envy of colleagues because of a video on his website that captures his relaxed style and shows how he's well-positioned to help clients, many of whom are musicians, with their financial concerns. With a country music background, the video shows off his office's shabby chic environment, his relaxed style working with staff and his interaction with clients outside the office.

“I wanted us to be different than our competition and exude a comfortable and approachable feeling,” Mr. Adams said about the video. “That's how we are in the office and how most of our clients are used to us being.”

Mr. Adams even gets his yellow Labrador retriever, Bailey, into the action, giving him his own blog on the company's website. Yes, a dog blog.

Evan Shear, founding partner at CrossleyShear Wealth Management in Heathrow, Fla., said he thinks Mr. Adams' video is much better than most of those he sees on other advisers' websites.

“It's a really heartfelt message without being salesy, and shows the kind of person he is,” Mr. Shear said.

His firm is interviewing video production firms and hopes to create its own recording that showcases CrossleyShear Wealth's personality and flair. The firm's advisory board specifically directed the firm to avoid producing a boring video that looks like something prepared for a law firm, Mr. Shear said.

His firm already attempts to personalize itself with some of its Facebook posts. For instance, along with articles the firm shared about the best places to retire and how to sell a home, Mr. Shear posted a photo of his son's Little League Championship team photo on May 20.

“These things show you're a person, not just a professional,” Mr. Shear said.

Kate Holmes, founder of Belmore Financial in Las Vegas, includes a video that pokes fun at how boring the financial education process can be. The effect shows how she operates differently.

(Read Ms. Holmes' blog on why she shares her personality online.)

Twitter is another place advisers can demonstrate their humanity. In this tweet, Oxygen Financial founder Ted Jenkin demonstrates he's a dedicated father: “Spending two days at your daughter's swim meet. That is a #realdadmoments for sure. Pleasure spiked with pain!”

Experts point out there are limits, of course, to how far outside the corporate norm advisers should take their online personalities. First and foremost, people have to trust advisers with their money, Mr. Richards said. Advisers unsure of whether a particular post is appropriate should consider whether it's a conversation they would have with clients face to face.

“It's very much driven by how people interact in the normal course with their clients,” he said.

For websites, Mr. Richards recommends ditching corporate head shots and the smiling, staged staff photos and replacing them with pictures of the staff working together in a conference room or photos from events.

People should look like they are enjoying themselves, the way this adviser's client services team seems to be in this photo from Alan Rae Wealth Management in Richmond, B.C., he said.

Videos that show advisers interacting with their staff and their own families, and participating in charitable events or hobbies, generate more feedback, Mr. Richards said.

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