1. Do: Invest in Social Media
Existing on social media is no longer an optional exercise; it's a requirement to legitimatize your firm in the digital world. As financial services social media guru Michael Kitces says, “I am not giving anyone my life savings before I type their name into Google to make sure they weren't Madoff's lesser-known partner. An adviser's LinkedIn profile establishes this.” Having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is as important as having a website or a business card today. Take the time to create your profile and connect with your clients and business partners.
LinkedIn is the top social network for advisers because it's the #1 business networking site in the world, with one out of every three professionals on Earth owning a profile. Twitter and Facebook are nice to have, but you simply should not be operating your practice without a current profile on LinkedIn.
2. Don't: Spend Too Much Time
An investment in social media can grow your network and pay off in increased referrals and prospects. However, it's easy to get caught up spending too much time on social networks. A good rule of thumb is to spend no more than 10 minutes per day on social media. Focus this time on building relationships, not just broadcasting content. Connect with other professionals that you have done business with or would like to work with in the future. Check in on clients and use changes in their social media status, like a job change or new baby, as triggers to schedule a meeting. Send key influencers valuable and relevant information and follow up to answer any questions. All of these tasks can be achieved with a consistent investment of ten minutes per day or less.
3. Do: Make It Personal
Social networks are social by nature. Think of your social media interactions as you would a networking event. Sure, you should share your professional expertise and talk business, but any good networking conversation includes small talk about interests, hobbies, family or travel. Include posts and photos about your personal life like a recent family trip, a charity event for a cause you are passionate about or a family milestone you are proud to share. Keep in mind that social media posts with photos are twice as likely to be shared, and posts with videos are 12 times as likely to be shared. Leverage photos and videos to engage with others over shared experiences and common interests.
4. Don't: Overshare
“Oversharing on social media is just as awkward as it would be at a cocktail party,” Michael Kitces warns us. “I want to be reminded that you are a human being, but I don't need to know what you had for breakfast.” Gut-check your personal posts by asking if you would share the information in a client meeting or at a networking event. The anonymity of a computer screen can tempt even the most well-meaning adviser to post information they later wish they hadn't. What you post on social media can hang around on the Internet forever, so err on the side of caution when deciding what to share.
5. Do: Connect with Key Influencers
Many advisers think the main targets of their social media engagement should be potential clients. However, a more efficient way to leverage your social media investment is to connect with key influencers within a particular niche. If you work with CPAs or attorneys, be sure to join groups those professionals frequent and provide content that is helpful or interesting to them. By establishing yourself within centers of influence, you will have a much broader referral base and a higher ROI on your social media expenditures.
6. Don't: Make Recommendations
Most advisers worry about compliance on social media and some give up on their social media marketing efforts entirely for fear of compliance mishaps. The truth is that remaining compliant on social media is easy, as long as you be sure to stay away from making any recommendations. According to Sheri Fitts, social media compliance expert, “Advisers should never, ever mention any financial product on social media. If they focus on building relationships with a goal of setting up in-person meetings to discuss financial planning, they'll be just fine from a compliance perspective.”
7. Do: Share Valuable Content
Don't worry about how often you post, but focus on the value of each post. Sharing content that your audience finds useful should be your top priority. Posts that resonate with your audience are at the intersection of what you want to say and what they want to hear. The social media marketing company Hootsuite recommends that you ask yourself three questions before each post:
• Is this content valuable to my audience?
• Will it educate or entertain them?
• Are they likely to share it?
Asking these three questions can help you post the content your audience will find most interesting. Keep your audience in mind when you're sharing articles, videos and news. If a piece of information pertains to some contacts but not others, consider sending a personal message through social media to share content with each contact directly.
8. Don't Reinvent the Wheel
Experts recommend spending up to 20% of your week creating great content to share with your clients, prospects and partners. Focus on evergreen content, meaning content that is perpetually relevant that you can refer contacts back to again and again. But even if you invest that amount of time to create great content, you likely will not have enough to keep a consistent and prominent social media presence. That's where curating and purchasing content should be used to fill the holes. Curate content from influencers you follow and the reading you do. Purchase additional content to fill your arsenal, particularly videos, which otherwise can be time consuming and expensive to create.
9. Do: Leverage Emotion
The New York Times' study on the psychology of social sharing found that there are only five basic motivations for sharing content, and the motivation to share is driven by emotion. People want to share things that affect their emotions, with posts eliciting positive emotions more likely to be shared than negative. When creating articles or videos, leverage the power of emotion to increase the sharability of your posts. Focus on why you serve your clients, how you help them achieve their goals and how reaching their goals makes them feel. Remember that the core need advisers fill in a client's life is rarely about financial planning, but the emotional result of that planning, such as certainty, security, independence or philanthropy.
10. Don't: Forget to Reciprocate and Pay it Forward
Social media is not a one-way communication broadcast (like advertising), but a dynamic and ongoing conversation. Be sure to participate in the discussion to get the most out of your digital networking. Start by spending a few minutes each day to respond to any messages, comments or questions users have sent you. Then, spend some time reading your network's posts and discussions. This will give you insight into their interests and will keep the conversation going, allowing you to build relationships and grow your network. Browse groups, follow key influencers and read relevant material to expand your digital reach. Help promote causes you care about and make introductions for others in your network to pay it forward. Social media is just another avenue for you to help your clients and others in your network reach their goals.
Craig Faulkner is CEO of FMG Suite. You can also follow him @fmgsuite on Twitter.