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4 Elements of Social Media Guidelines

If you’re not using social media to promote your firm and content, consider this: 22 percent of the world’s population uses Facebook (not to mention 79 percent of Americans) and nearly 1 in 3 internet users with a college degree are on Twitter.

When financial advisers use social media well, it can boost their overall marketing strategy considerably. When they don’t, it can be an expensive, potentially career-ending disaster.

But don’t let that scare you. Just establish firm rules of engagement in these areas before posting anything.

1. Compliance

Watch out for these potential red flags:

Promissory language: Don’t promise success and don’t say you can get any better results than anyone else.

Testimonials: This one’s also kind of obvious, but it has some finer points. In the SEC’s guidelines, they lay it all out, but it basically boils down to this: keep the testimonials off your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other self-run social media sites, even if the clients post it themselves. But reviews from other people on sites like Yelp, Google Reviews or Angie’s List are OK.

Out-of-context numbers: I made a good number of mistakes in this area when I first entered the financial world because I assumed anything that was acceptable in a blog post was acceptable on social media.

After a few panicked phone calls from clients, I learned this lesson: don’t post any market statistics. They can easily be taken out of context and viewed by someone as promissory.

2. Approval Process

Giving anyone (including yourself) total freedom to post anything on your social media accounts whenever they want is not a great idea. You’ll want to implement an approval process.

At Mineral, we developed a social post template that makes it easy to share social post ideas with your team and track the approval process. (I set up a “View Only” version of our sheet that you can check out for yourself. If you want your own, in the File menu, just click “Make a Copy.” We also have an Excel version.)

But a social post template alone won’t solve all your approval problems. You’ll need an approval workflow that takes your posts from creation to publication.

Here’s ours:

Creating posts should fall to your creative team (if you don’t have one, a more creative or social media-savvy team member will do). But final approval should be reserved for the people who will ultimately be held responsible if a bad post goes up.

Jud and Kim (our CEO and president, respectively) reserve the right to final approval. It’s their necks (and business) on the line.

Don’t have the time or interest to approve every piece of content that goes out the door? That’s okay, just understand that you’re basically handing over the reins of your firm’s public image, so you need a professional you can trust.

3. Personal Profiles

During a speech by Trump in early March, Dan Grilo, a principal at Liberty Advisor Group, posted something stupid about the wife of a fallen soldier and landed himself in some very hot water.

He posted from his own personal account, but people still began associating Liberty with Grilo’s tweet. In the end, he was fired and Liberty issued an apology, InvestmentNews reported.

Set up some suggested guidelines for what employees should avoid talking about, even on private social media channels (the big three are inflammatory political statements, market predictions and offensive language). You could require guidelines or you could just use Mr. Grilo as an example.

People can and do get fired for stuff they post on their personal accounts. It happens all the time. See this Oxygen article on things people have been fired for posting on their social media accounts.

4. Interactions

Social media is a two-way street. And that’s a good thing! If you don’t respond to people tweeting at you or posting on your wall, you could miss out on prospects and end up looking rude.

Make sure engagement notifications are sent to a phone, computer or Slack (using social integrations) so you don’t miss anyone reaching out.

When someone tweets at you or posts on your wall, you have two options: one of the final approval people could handle interactions so engagements move smoothly, or you slow down the engagement process and use the approval workflow.

This could be done easily and quickly in Slack (an app directory site where we have a #social channel to kick ideas around for posts and responses).

Bonus Rule: Keep Records of Everything

As FINRA wisely cautions, you should keep records of everything you do on social media. To do that, you’ll want to use a social posting and archiving service like Social Assurance or Hey Orca that keeps an audit trail.

Social media is fertile ground for adviser prospects. Who knows? Your next $1M-plus client could find you because of a simple retweet. Just make sure you think about these four areas before you post.

zach-mcdonald

 

Zach McDonald
Editorial Director
Mineral Interactive
Omaha, Neb.


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3 LinkedIn Tips to Implement Today

lauravirilli“What’s your story?” has become the new value proposition, according to marketing expert Laura Virili. “Even with all of our devices, we are still humans, and we still connect through stories,” she told the planners in attendance at the FPA Annual Conference—BE Baltimore. “You need to tell your story online, offline, and you need have your story down!”

But first, you need to find more people to tell your story to. Virili is a strong believer in the power of LinkedIn, and she shared a wealth of tips and strategies for using LinkedIn to expand your reach and fill your pipeline.

If you’re wondering who on LinkedIn you should be connecting with, Virili offers these suggestions: clients, prospects, alumni, friends and family, centers of influence, community leaders, professional acquaintances, former colleagues, and the next generation.

For how to best connect, here are just some of the tips Virili shared (for dozens of online resources, visit her at lauravirili.com/resources.htm).

Make It Personal
Personalize your LinkedIn invitation to connect request. You have 300 characters in that request to differentiate yourself. Sign the request with your name and phone number; don’t make people work to reach you.

Say Thanks
Send a thank you message for accepting your LinkedIn invite. That message will plant the seed to get you in front of that person, because as Virili said, “You want to use the internet to get off the internet” and build that in-person relationship.

Update Your Profile
Google gives preferential treatment to LinkedIn, so make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date, because it will be one of the first results that surfaces when someone Googles you. Some other profile tips are:

  • Spend money on a great profile picture, and keep the headshot casual, because social media is casual.
  • Put your certifications with your name; they help identify you.
  • If you’re not a writer, hire one to help you tell your story in the 2,000-character summary section; it’s well worth the investment!

Bonus: Virili’s Daily Best Practice
Every day, go into “my network” on your LinkedIn profile and click on “connections.” This will bring up three things that are happening in your network, they’re social triggers you should respond to: birthdays, work anniversaries, and new jobs (new jobs are potential money in motion.) Take a few minutes to send personalized messages offering congratulations or best wishes.

Schulaka Carly_resizedCarly Schulaka
Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, CO


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Paid, Owned and Earned Media—a Must for Your Marketing Strategy 

 

During a recent seminar I conducted for a group of financial advisers titled, “Leveraging Marketing Content to Build Credibility, Gain Visibility and Grow Your Business,” my audience posed several questions about content types such as paid, owned and earned media.

In our digital age, marketing content is king. Consumers no longer rely exclusively on print and broadcast media to get their information about products and services. Access to a plethora of online content from expert sources enables them to make educated decisions for their purchases. This has significantly altered the traditional, straightforward path to sales and created a compelling need for service and product providers to generate valuable content. The latter plays a crucial role in establishing an ongoing social media dialogue with consumers to establish credibility from the inception of the sales process, generate brand recognition and shorten the sales cycle.

In the seminar, while a handful of advisers had a vague idea of paid, owned and earned media, many desired to hear definitions of each and how each relates to content generation and, most important, how to make it part of an overall marketing strategy.

Here are broad definitions: generally speaking, paid media is useful to generate brand recognition and collect client demographics. Owned media helps build brand experience and earned media helps foster conversation about a brand. For those of you not familiar with this media triad, here is a brief overview of them:

Paid media: Any paid activity aimed at disseminating your messages and attracting visibility to your brand. Better known as advertising, it involves print and broadcast media, as well as any type of paid social media, such as promoted Facebook posts, sponsored LinkedIn ads and pay-per-click.

Paid media contributes very little to building credibility. However, it is very useful for creating brand awareness and gathering valuable audience demographics. It is a viable means of mass communication, especially when used in combination with owned or earned media and it must feature call-to-actions based on customer benefits.

Let me explain: to generate new business leads, an adviser can use paid media to promote her appearance on a radio or TV interview. She can add to her paid media a call-to-action to direct prospects to her website to download a digital “freemium,” such as a white paper or a podcast—her owned media—and capture prospects’ contact information and other key information.

Owned media: The channels created, owned and controlled by your business. These include your website, social media accounts, mobile site, blog, email list and any content you give away with the intent to generate leads.

Owned media enables advisers to be in complete control of what free content to distribute, when and how. Owned media’s popularity is rising fast, as consumers increasingly rely on online information to make their buying and investment decisions.

A recent inPowered/Nielsen study confirmed that when considering the purchase of a product or service, consumers currently seek out and rely on content generated by trusted expert sources five times more than they did five years ago. Often, the boundaries between earned and owned media are not as clear as they can appear. For example, an adviser’s blog post (owned media) when republished by a media outlet or an influential industry blog(s) will be considered earned media.

Earned media: What your followers, fans and clients say about you and your expertise. It attracts the attention of your key audiences, and if they like your brand and message(s), they become your brand evangelists and influencers by voluntarily sharing your content, insights, tips and brand with prospects and additional potential brand advocates in the social media world and by word-of-mouth.

Retweets, shares, likes and mentions, which are not paid for, are earned media. It is the hardest type of media to secure, yet it’s the most trustworthy and instrumental to the success and growth of your business. The direct effect of earned media—retweets and/or mentions of your name, an interview or quote in a leading print or broadcast media outlet—is immediate and strong credibility. Press, radio and TV especially provide an adviser with the most powerful third-party endorsement by positioning her or him as an authority and a trusted expert source.

As consumers increasingly depend on online content to gather valuable information, advisers must implement tactics that drive traffic to their websites and increase visibility for their brands, expertise and services. This can be achieved by developing holistic online marketing strategies that astutely combine paid, owned and earned media models to tell a consistent story that engages and motivates their audiences.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.


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Financial Advisers Are on Board with Social Media, but Questions Still Linger

The findings of the Putnam Investments 2015 Social Advisor Study, which surveyed more than 800 U.S. financial advisers, point to the fact that social media continues to become an increasingly essential tool for advisers to communicate with their clients and build their book of business. Here are some of the study results:

  • 81 percent of advisers currently use social media for business, up from 75 percent in 2014
  • 40 percent of advisers (vs. 25 percent in 2014) use four or more social networks for business
  • 69 percent of advisers report social media is a significant component of their overall marketing effort—up from 56 percent in 2014
  • 79 percent of advisers report acquiring new clients through social media (up from 66 percent in 2014) with average annual asset gain from such clients standing at $4.6 million

These numbers appear to provide tangible proof that social media has grown to be the most direct path for advisers to reach out and influence their key audiences. However, despite this success, some degree of skepticism among advisers continues to linger. Below, I’ve listed the three most recurring questions financial advisers pose to our firm about social media.

Does Social Media Really Matter?
When confronted with this question, we consistently reply that the answer is debatable. What works for a financial planning practice may not work for a wealth management firm. And, in some cases, social media may not be a choice at all. However, before rejecting it, there are some key factors to be considered:

  • Unlike meeting a prospect face-to-face, or attending a live marketing event, social media interaction does not require travel and the costs associated with it
  • It allows advisers to exhibit knowledge and expertise to an audience beyond her or his established database of contacts and leads
  • It empowers advisers to create a sizable virtual network to develop new business
  • It helps foster conversations about an adviser’s brand
  • It establishes a bridge between an adviser’s website and her or his target audience—a good social media page will drive traffic to the adviser website
  • It enables advisers to position themselves as an expert sources at a negligible cost

How and Where Do I Begin?
Traditionally, the answer to this question has to do with what the adviser is seeking to achieve. Before engaging in social media activities, we recommend that our clients familiarize themselves with what other advisers, journalists and bloggers are doing—for example, the type of topics they cover, the frequency of their posts, the volume and quality of response they receive. This preliminary exercise will enable them to gauge whether or not social media is an effort they “really” want to pursue.

The second step is getting acquainted with a couple of platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. After joining them and establishing suitable profiles, the next action is to create engaging content—topics of compelling interest to the adviser’s core audiences—that includes tips, guidelines and actionable ideas. Then post such content on the adviser’s website and concurrently proceed to “push” it via established social media accounts. Ultimately, your social media engagement should seek to achieve two key strategic goals: 1) engage your audience prompting it to share your expertise and guidance; and 2) direct traffic to your website.

How Can I Handle Compliance?
Traditionally, compliance is advisers’ major deterrent to social media. Often, this is due mainly to their lack of understanding on how to meet social media compliance requirements. Prior to launching into social media interaction, it is crucial that an adviser attains a good understanding of FINRA’s rules governing communication and specifically how they regulate social media activities. FINRA’s guidance, articles, podcasts and videos on this topic abound and are easily found on the Internet. To shield themselves and their firms from legal consequence arising from bad social media interaction, advisers must establish a social media policy—that includes archiving procedures and guidelines—and if needed, seek appropriate legal counsel.

With social media, like with any other type of marketing communication effort, advisers must pay utmost attention that any post, comment, tweet is FINRA compliant. For example, a post or tweet in which an adviser may support a specific stock or bond could represents a “recommendation.” As such, it could be consequently treated as a breach of FINRA’s suitability rule and bear legal consequences for both the adviser and her firm.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

 

Editor’s Note: Other FPA social media-related content that may be of interest to you include:


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Social Media Strategies of High-Growth Firms

Your clients don’t want to have to rely on you for everything—they want information to make educated choices. And the way to engage them and other prospective clients is through content development and social media, found a recent study.

The study, titled “Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media,” was conducted by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn was conducted by If Not Now Research, found that was the case.

The study found that clients crave more knowledge and many high-growth advisory firms are satisfying that craving by curating content and sending it out to current and would-be clients via social media, which is termed in the report as “thought leadership.” And it’s paying off.

“The study draws an important connection between the drivers of client engagement and communications strategies that will help advisers stand out from the crowd,” said Julie Littlechild, President of If Not Now Research.

“This report aims to help financial advisers of all business models understand how their peers are engaging in social media and thought leadership, the connection between business growth and these communication tactics ,” writes Lauren Schadle, CEO and executive director of the Financial Planning Association.

Some of the study’s biggest takeaways include the following:

Clients are engaged online. All age groups surveyed engage in online searches, but different age groups do so differently. While younger clients (ages 18-44) are more likely to search prior to meeting an adviser, older clients (ages 55-64 and those over 65), are more likely to look up an adviser to validate their impression of them.

Clients are engaged in social media and they expect you to be too. The age range of those most engaged in social media is 18-44 with 62 percent of respondents active on LinkedIn, 86 percent active on Facebook, and 55 percent active on Twitter. LinkedIn is the primary site advisers are using—76 percent of those surveyed—which is a good thing because the clients surveyed said they expect their advisers to at least be on LinkedIn.

Clients want education. They sought you out because they want professional help, but they also want to be educated on the issues so they can make their own informed decisions.

Firms that curate and push out educational content grow. Firms that wrote blogs, newsletters and other informational content and pushed it out via social networking sites and email saw growth over those who didn’t. The study found that 67 percent of high-growth firms said they added new clients as a direct result of using multiple professional and social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Today we have a choice: to watch how the change plays out or to take action and be part of the change,” the report notes. “The data suggests that the leaders are the high-growth firms that are reaping the rewards of driving the change.”

You can find the full study here.


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If the CIA Can Tweet, So Can You: 5 Marketing Lessons from David Meerman Scott

DMS

David Meerman Scott takes a selfie with the BE crowd to prove the power of real time connection.

When David Meerman Scott turned 50, he was bigger, he said.

He proved this by showing a roomful of people at the second general session at the FPA Annual Converence—BE Boston a picture of big 50-year-old him, and new fit 54-year-old him.

He changed his mindset, he said. That’s exactly what you have to do with marketing in real time utilizing social media.

1) Provide Great Content. Generate helpful blog posts and Tweet links. You may be concerned about regulations, but Meerman Scott gave the example of the CIA tweeting, so you shouldn’t have any excuse not to, too.

“Yes you have regulations, yes you have to be ethical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate,” Meerman Scott said. One of the methods to communicate is something Meerman Scott calls “newsjacking,” which is the art of injecting your ideas into breaking news.

2) Connect With Your Markets Via Social Media. Align the way you sell with the way people buy. A good example of this is Donald Trump. Meerman Scott emphasized he wasn’t endorsing Trump politically, but said the man is “crushing it” in terms of social media connection.

For example, when Trump’s phone number was published by Gawker, instead of changing his number Trump changed his voicemail message to be a campaign tool, driving callers to his Twitter page and his campaign website.

Trump is leading in the polls, and it’s probably no coincidence that Trump has Tweeted 27,000 times.

Meerman Scott also emphasized following the “Sharing More than Selling Rule,” which is 85 percent of your activity on social media should be sharing and connecting, 10 percent should be original content and 5 percent or less should be promotional stuff.

3) Real Time Is Key. You should be operating in real time. Planners know about real time when it comes to markets and the news, but when it comes to marketing, they tend to look to past information to make plans for the future.

“If you’re spending all of your time in the past and the future, you’re not spending any time in right now,” Meerman Scott said. And that’s a problem because potential clients are looking for right now.

He used the CIA as an example here, too. The agency answers questions and interacts with its followers in real time, often making comical statements like, “No, we don’t know where Tupac is,” referring to the famous 90s rapper whose death involves numerous conspiracy theories that he is alive and well.

“If the CIA can do it, what’s you’re excuse,” for not doing it, Meerman Scott posed.

4) Bring Humanity to the Organization.  Don’t ask your potential clients to first fill out a form before you give them access to your content. Make your content free and encourage followers to share it. Take a lesson from the Grateful Dead, who shared their music for free and were tremendously successful.

Also, don’t describe your firm in technical, hard-to-digest terms. Eliminate stock photos and hire a real photographer to take pictures of you and your firm.

5) Manage Your Fear. The best way to manage your fear is to change your mindset. Think of it in terms of fitness, Meerman Scott said, and be diligent and consistent.

“If you want to get fit and run around a stage like I do,” Meerman Scott said. “You can’t dabble, you have to truly become fit.”

Same thing with marketing and sales, he said.

For more on Meerman Scott, check out this recent Journal of Financial Planning article.

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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3 Ways to Manage Your Time on Social Media to Get Results

You’ve heard social media marketing is a must. You know you need to engage potential clients in the places where they are: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like. You understand there is value participating in the social sphere, but you haven’t quite cracked the code on how and where to invest your energy to make it pay off.

Rather than espouse theory on what could work, I want to share exactly what I do. This combination of three ways to engage has returned exponentially to me in direct clients and opportunities I could not have anticipated.

By implementing all three ways outlined below, you will know where to spend your time and gain the most leverage out of your effort:

1: Daily interaction
You’ve been told to spend 10 or 15 minutes a day on social media, and you can have an impact. While I don’t subscribe to this tactic as your only engagement, allocate time each day for commenting, sharing and otherwise participating in the social media ecosystem. Daily interaction is almost always ‘reactive’ as you respond to what others post.

Examples:

  • You attend an industry event and Tweet a photo, tagging others in the shot.
  • You congratulate a client on a recent promotion you read about on LinkedIn.
  • You comment on a post an estate planning attorney shares on her firm’s Facebook page.
  • You “retweet” and “favorite” an article published by a journalist you want to meet
  • You read an article that is spot-on for your target audience and you post an update on your company LinkedIn page.

2: Weekly Sharing
An effective adviser marketing plan starts with weekly content creation or curation aimed specifically at the concerns and aspirations of your target client.

Whether you create a blog post, a video or a podcast, social media expands your distribution pushing your message from the limited traffic of your website out to your social followers. This often overlooked act opens up the number of people who may view, like and share your content. Each time you upload a blog post or publish a new video, be sure to share it across all of your social media accounts.

Examples:

3: Quarterly Campaigns
Proactive sharing of the story you want your target audience to hear comes alive through your quarterly content campaigns. Take a page from the advertising agency media playbook where you carve out a distinct time periods across the year (quarterly works well) where you focus your content on a single theme. Plan and set it up in advance, streamlining the time you invest in the effort.

Here’s how:

  • Select your first topic that you want to share (e.g. The 20 Financial Tasks Middle Managers Must Complete before Retirement)
  • Identify all of the content you already have that fits this topic (blog posts, newsletter articles, write-ups from a financial plan or client email excerpts)
  • Craft new content (think “tips”)
  • Pinpoint the “holes” in your campaign. Find resources, articles, photos, or other professionals who can provide the content. Fill in any remaining blanks with your advice.
  • Break down the content into posts for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, or whichever platforms your audiences uses.
  • Set up and schedule the content distribution in advance through Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com) or Buffer (http://www.buffer.com)
  • Announce the campaign at the start of each quarter to let your prospect email list, your clients, and your followers know what to expect.

The quarterly campaign is where you gain leverage in your marketing. You repurpose existing content, you have a reason to craft new content that you can reuse, and you guarantee that you will show up regularly with a message that reinforces what you want your target audience to read or see from you.

When you set up a campaign each quarter, you can rest assured that if your daily interactions fall to every few days, your weekly sharing slips to semi-monthly, you have to deal with the quarter end, or you want to take a vacation, you will have a campaign supporting you in the background.

Sounds like it’s worth the time, right?

Kristin Harad 2014Kristin Harad, CFP®
Marketing trainer for advisers
www.kristinharad.com
implement-now.com
San Francisco

Editor’s Note: Kristin Harad has several great pieces on how to branch out and attract and engage clients virtually, including this one that was published in our March 2015 issue titled, “9 Steps to Building a Client-Attraction Virtual Event.” 

For more educational opportunities, check out our webinar titled “Introduction to LinkedIn for Business,” presented by Susan Catalano. Or register for FPA BE Boston 2015 to meet one-on-one with social media and websites business coach Maggie Crowley of Advisor Websites