Technology Update

At boot camp, advisers learn social-media tools

Hands-on session teaches them how to build blogs, tweet and use other Internet technologies By Davis D. Janowski

Mar 7, 2010 @ 12:01 am

By Davis Janowski

Recognizing the need to get a better understanding of social media and blogging, 20 advisers shelled out $300 apiece to attend a four-hour boot camp in hopes of finding ways to use the new tools in their respective businesses.

“I'm here to learn the mechanics of all this, to get some hands-on exposure,” said Steve Johnson, principal of Johnson Lyman Wealth Advisors.

He said he realized it was time to tackle social-media strategies.

“After all, I'm comfortable in front of a microphone and crowd, so why shouldn't I feel comfortable with this, too?” Mr. Johnson said.

The boot camp, held Feb. 28, the day before last week's FPA Business Solutions 2010 conference with the Tech Expo powered by InvestmentNews., was hosted by Marie Swift, owner of Impact Communications.

The hands-on session allowed advisers to set up a simple blog with an initial written post, a video post and audio podcast.

It also featured two webinars, which outlined for advisers the difference between a blog and a website, and sought to equip advisers with a basic understanding of Internet technologies, including Google's Blogger platform and Twitter, among others.

The boot camp covered digital-video recording with simple and inexpensive Flip Video cameras that could, in turn, be plugged into an adviser's laptop using a USB port for uploading files to their new blogs. The same thing can be achieved using a webcam from manufacturers such as Logitech.

There was an audio-only session to show advisers how to record a simple welcome message for visitors to their blog using AudioAcrobat. An alternative to this would be to use a headset microphone plugged into a computer, with re-cording software provided by Windows or Apple.

Finally, there was an editing, polishing and tweaking session.

Several of the advisers said they had new appreciation for the amount of time and energy needed to create a quality product targeted at their specific market segment.

Mr. Johnson, for example, said he wanted his blog to appeal only to his firm's sweet spot, clients with a net worth in the $1 million to $5 million range.

“We have pretty high minimums and want clients to engage us for the long term,” he said. “We are pretty picky, but that's who we really want to get the word out to.”

For Mr. Johnson, being picky meant writing and rewriting his video and audio scripts several times.

Martin Kurtz, or “Midwest Marty” as he called his blog, said that while he had dabbled with Twitter, he had yet to figure out the most effective way to use it to benefit his firm, the Planning Center.

“We all need to sit down and come to understand what it is we're doing with this stuff,” he said.

Mr. Kurtz, the president-elect of the Financial Planning Association, noted that his firm is in Moline, Ill., and added: “We're in the middle of nowhere, but people still find our website, which is a pretty static affair, and it would be great to make use of a blog and other social networking to be more proactive in delivering useful, timely information for them when they do.”

Most of the advisers who attended the boot camp said they felt it was time and money well-spent. Many agreed they would look for additional social media training.

“I'm clear on why we did the blog, why we are doing video and audio, but I still don't really understand where Twitter fits into all of this,” said Sammie Gatti, a financial adviser with Navigation Financial Group in Dallas.

E-mail Davis D. Janowski at djanowski@investmentnews.com.

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