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Social media all-stars of the financial advice community

With thousands of followers, these industry leaders are using Twitter and other platforms to find new clients, colleagues and friends

Mar 24, 2018 @ 6:00 am

By Ryan W. Neal

President Donald J. Trump isn't the only one using tweets to rock the world these days.

These advisers and other professionals who are influential in the financial planning domain are blogging, posting and tweeting their way to the heights of the industry's social media ranks.

Along the way they're drawing millions of clicks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter each year, helping their firms top popular Google investment searches and attracting potential clients to their websites.

But for these kings and queens of social media, it's more about expressing their personality and passion than about dominating a particular platform.

Marguerita Cheng
CEO, Blue Ocean Global Wealth
Twitter followers: 195,962

Before launching her own firm, Marguerita Cheng spent 14 years at Ameriprise Financial Services where, at the time, she was prohibited from using social media for business. Instead, she opened accounts to listen, gather intelligence and see who were the luminaries on each network.

All that observing paid off, as nearly 200,000 people now follow Ms. Cheng on Twitter alone. She also has a sizable following on LinkedIn, and she blogs on Investopedia and Kiplinger.

Ms. Cheng has converted some of that online popularity into clients and referrals, but the real reward for her is when a complete stranger tells her that something she shared helped them.

"It makes me feel really good about myself," she said. "If you share things you really believe are going to help people, it will come back to you."

Account she loves to follow: "If I had to pick one person in the industry, InvestmentNews senior reporter Mark Schoeff Jr. [@markschoeff] takes everything going on in Washington and explains what it means for advisers and how we can talk about it to our clients."

Barry Ritholtz
Chief investment officer, Ritholtz Wealth Management
Twitter followers: 119,003

Barry Ritholtz said it took him a while to really get the hang of using Twitter effectively. He commands an audience of more than 100,000 today, but continues to evolve his digital presence.

"This year I made a commitment that I would try to be nicer on Twitter," he said.

He and other members of Ritholtz Wealth Management have been successful on Twitter because they've embraced their roles as educators of the public on money and long-term investing, Mr. Ritholtz said. He's skeptical that the firm's social media presence directly leads to business, but said it has compressed the traditional process of finding and onboarding new clients, as investors can already learn everything they need to know about his firm online.

(More: Alternative investments in social media: Assessing the risks of trying a new network)

Advisers should give up the dream of someone handing them $5 million after reading a tweet, Mr. Ritholtz said. But a prospect could become a client after seeing consistent, ongoing information that is helpful, honest and authentic, he said.

Account he loves to follow: "I find @god totally hilarious … That's one of the things that makes Twitter so delightful. It's pretty insane."

Tadas Viskanta
Founder and editor, Abnormal Returns
Twitter followers: 62,853

Tadas Viskanta said he signed up for Twitter in 2008 without any idea of how he would use it. Thirteen years later, the platform is integral to the work he does daily on his "forecast-free investment blog," he said.

Being an early adopter, using a consistent message and not over-sharing have all helped him find success, but he's been even more successful on StockTwits, a social platform dedicated to sharing investment ideas, Mr. Viskanta said.

Social media has even spilled over into his real life, as he has since met several people with whom he first became acquainted with online.

Account he loves to follow: "The great thing about something like Twitter is being able to curate your experience. I can keep up with the @Cubs and the financial markets all in one place."

Michael Kitces
Partner and director of wealth management, Pinnacle Advisory Group
Twitter followers: 44,997

Michael Kitces really didn't start using Twitter until 2010, when he relaunched his "Nerd's Eye View" blog.

He's since become one of the most influential financial advisers on social media, frequently driving the conversation on industry news, technology and all things related to financial planning.

Mr. Kitces attributes his success to his willingness to state honest opinions, instead of bland or neutral statements, while remaining focused on his own areas of expertise.

Though he also uses LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter is by far the platform on which he is the most active. "Twitter's so well built for active engagement and real-time discussions," he said.

The XY Planning Network, a group of 600 fee-only financial planners focused on younger investors that Mr. Kitces founded with Alan Moore, began on Twitter.

Account he loves to follow: "Josh Brown [@ReformedBroker]. His combination of wit, perspective and real knowledge are phenomenal."

Kirk Chisholm
Wealth manager and principal, Innovative Advisory Group
Twitter followers: 33,692

Kirk Chisholm started using social media for his business in 2015 to reach a wider segment of the investing population and help them make better choices. To grow his following, Mr. Chisholm focused on challenging commonly held beliefs and sharing ideas and information he couldn't find covered by traditional media channels.

"The amount of information available to us is increasing every day and people are overwhelmed by it," Mr. Chisholm said. "They need someone to help them navigate this information, not by providing them choices, but providing them guidance."

LinkedIn has been the best platform for connecting with people and creating business opportunities, but he also uses Facebook for collaborative group projects and Twitter to find new information, he said.

Account he loves to follow: "I actually don't 'follow' people or accounts on social media. I don't find it to be a good use of my valuable time."

Bill Winterberg
Founder and president, FPPad
Twitter followers: 21,400

Since joining Twitter nearly a decade ago when he was managing technology for an RIA, Bill Winterberg has posted more than 36,800 times on Twitter, never once using an automated bot.

One of those tweets, a slide show he had put together for a presentation, led to dozens of inquiries for his consulting business.

Mr. Winterberg's had equal success on YouTube, where his FPPad channel hosts 450 videos on adviser technology and has about 1,400 subscribers.

He is focused squarely on fintech and stays away from topics like politics, sports or any other subject that strays from what his followers expect. This is a primary factor in explaining why his audience continues to grow, Mr. Winterberg said.

Account he loves to follow: "@timschmoyer [is a] great resource for YouTube ideas."

Joel Bruckenstein
President, Technology Tools for Today
Twitter followers: 12,881

Even though Joel Bruckenstein wasn't one of the earliest adopters of Twitter or LinkedIn, he was still on social media earlier than most advisers. Initially he wanted to use LinkedIn as a networking tool and Twitter as a public relations tool for his Technology Tools for Today brand, but both platforms have evolved over the last six years, he said.

Now he uses LinkedIn to participate in various groups, and that sometimes leads to business in the form of companies or advisers looking to learn more about his T3 conference, Mr. Bruckenstein said.

As for Twitter, he's much more active on it in the lead-up to a T3 conference.

"Others are total mavens and on it every day and totally engaged. I don't really feel that I have something of value to contribute every single day," Mr. Bruckenstein said. "One of the things that turns me off with other people is they are trying too hard."

Account he loves to follow: "Tina Powell [@tinacpowell] … whether it's a conference I may not have attended or talks she's had with interesting people, she has a point of view and is very prolific about sharing stories."

Ann Zuraw
President, Zuraw Financial Advisors
Twitter followers: 12,029

Ann Zuraw started using social media as a branding tool for her firm, but her accounts grew into go-to financial newsfeeds for retail investors. She is committed to ethical behavior and uses social media to elevate awareness on issues and topics she believes are important

In addition to using Twitter to follow and share news, she also uses Linked-In, Facebook, Pinterest and even Periscope, an app for sharing live videos, to connect with clients and prospects.

"We no longer spend countless dollars on print or ad marketing," Ms. Zuraw said. "Instead, we utilize the power of free online marketing and networking."

She's had particular success with YouTube, where her firm collaborated with Bridgeford Trust Co. to produce a series of videos for the channel "Chicks, Chat and Change."

Account she loves to follow: "@WEF World Economic Forum because I love the infographics and information they provide."

Bob Veres
Publisher, Inside Information
Twitter followers: 10,623

Bob Veres was an early adopter of digital media — he moved his Inside Information newsletter online in 2000 while helping Morningstar launch Morningstar Advisor — but he was slower to adopt social media.

"When Facebook came out, I told my friends that nobody wanted to know what I was doing, and when LinkedIn came out, I told my friends that I wasn't looking for a job," he said. "Don't get me started about Snapchat."

As for Twitter, Mr. Veres thought it could possibly begin the downfall of civilization, but something kept bringing him back. He reluctantly signed up and was surprised when tweets about his book, "The New Profession," translated into sales.

Social media platforms like Twitter have helped distinguish himself as a leader in the financial planning community.

Account he loves to follow: "I keep an eye on what Michael Kitces [@MichaelKitces] is tweeting, and if there's a conference I'm not attending, I pay attention to the hundreds of tweets that kind of put you in the front row of the important sessions."

Cathy Curtis
CEO, Curtis Financial Planning
Twitter followers: 10,212

In 2008, Cathy Curtis decided to rebrand her RIA to focus on female clients. She updated her website and opened accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, thinking it could eventually be a powerful way for her small business to reach more people.

Being an early adopter gave her a bit of an edge in growing her following, Ms. Curtis said.

"Not everyone is going to agree with or like everything you post, but people who are like everyone else aren't so interesting, right?" she said.

LinkedIn has a more direct link to client acquisition for Ms. Curtis, but Twitter fits more with her personality.

"I have gotten the most personal satisfaction and engagement from Twitter," Ms. Curtis said. "I have made personal friends on Twitter ... gained clients ... and met a ton of fellow financial advisers."

She now uses Instagram as well, but hasn't yet figured out how to turn it into a business tool.

Account she loves to follow: "I really like Gretchen Rubin [@gretchenrubin]. I like her content about behavior, happiness and habits."

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