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5 Tips to Help You Take Charge of Your Social Media Strategy

If your biggest challenge as a financial planner is finding and acquiring new clients, you’re not alone. Nearly two-thirds of financial planners recently surveyed by the Financial Planning Association listed “client acquisition” as their top challenge.

And yet, the money and skillset required to come up with an effective prospecting—and what it might take to execute the plan—can make attracting new clients seem impossible.

While certainly not a magic bullet on its own, social media can be a cost-effective way to build your personal and professional brand and connect with potential clients in a genuine, authentic manner.

This post offers five tips to help clear up common misconceptions about using social media in business and to help you begin building a social-driven prospecting strategy from the ground up.

1.) Recognize the Uses of Each Platform. One mistake when using social media is to immediately build a profile on every platform without thinking through how to create or curate content for each separate entity.

Placing the exact same content on multiple platforms can make your brand look lazy and out of touch. What works on Instagram may be the opposite of what drives engagement on LinkedIn. Further, creating and curating the amount of content required to run a functional blog/website and generate activity on four to five separate social platforms is simply not an option for most small businesses.

Avoid the temptation to build a profile on any social outlet until you have worked out why and how you plan to use the platform. Here are a few tips on some of the heaviest hitters:

LinkedIn is primarily a professional network, and the content that performs best on the platform follows suit. Investopedia reports in its article “LinkedIn: How Advisors Can Use It to Grow” that nearly three-quarters of U.S. advisers maintain a profile, so it may be a good place to look at focusing your initial efforts.

Facebook and Instagram are more personal, with Instagram focusing heavily on imagery. This is not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t have a profile on these platforms, as many advisers do—it all depends on the type of clients you’re trying to reach, the content you are looking to create and/or share and whether you can support many platforms at once.

Twitter is essentially a newsfeed and, while the content required for each post is smaller in volume (140-character limit), the platform requires a larger volume of posts to maintain a semblance of activity.

2.) Find Your Formula. Businesses that use the social platforms for promotion often treat the content as a one-way street to aggressively push product and sales-related information. In his blog post “Why Content is Fire and Social Media is Gasoline,” marketing guru Jay Baer said, “Social media was not intended to be the world’s shortest press release.” I believe social media was designed to replicate human conversation, and building a healthy following is dependent on how well you tell your personal and professional story.

While advisers are somewhat limited in how much they can engage in two-way discussions on social media, one area that can make a major difference is in how you curate and deliver content. If your profile summary, original posts and retweets on Twitter reflect the tone of a sales brochure, you risk driving people away.

Instead, as you’re crafting your profile, writing your first few posts and deciding what to retweet or share, think about how you prefer to get to know someone when you meet in a face-to-face conversation. What do you want people to know about you? What are the things that are most important to you? What defines you? Answering these questions will help you frame your presence in a way that best reflects who you really are.

My good friend (and social media expert) Steffen Kaplan (@SpinItSocial) shared a formula for building an online presence that I have found to be unbelievably valuable, especially when it comes to attracting followers on Twitter. He recommends parsing the content you create, what you share and what you like into three separate buckets: one-third of your posts should be designed to create awareness about your business (think of this as your “branded” content), another third should be personal (answering the questions outlined above) and the last third should be content designed to engage and inspire (quotes, photos and videos that might make others smile).

3.) Share Content That Tells Your Story. Most advisers know they need to do a better job promoting their practice and value proposition, but many don’t consider themselves to be marketers or know where to start in communicating with prospective clients. In the past, promotion didn’t matter as much, as a high percentage of new clients came via referrals from happy customers.

In today’s world, communications should be more persuasive and educational than a simple list of your services. But who has time to create all that content and send it to the right people at the right time? The beauty of the level of saturation in the blogging and social media world is that you don’t need to spend all your time creating your own materials—you can easily find educational content that you appreciate and share it with your clients.

When you share content, you are advocating for the message of the material, and that’s often the closest thing to putting your name on it. Beyond saving time and money, shared content comes with its own set of advantages as it allows you to send powerful messages from a credible third party. Relevant, useful and valuable content is an effective way to build trust with current and prospective clients. As content marketing expert Drew Davis puts it, “Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”

4.) Don’t Overdo It. You don’t have to post content 50 times a day to be successful. Sure, social media requires creating and posting content with a high level of frequency, but that doesn’t mean you must spend your entire day brainstorming your next tweet.

Like any other marketing medium, social media success depends on the quality of the content you distribute—including the actual post, the attached image or GIF and the post’s linked content. To help focus on quality over quantity (and maintain your sanity), create a simple editorial calendar and plan out posts for each week or month. You can find countless free content calendar templates with a quick online search, but a traditional printed cat or firefighter calendar will also work just fine.

5.) Have Fun! Seriously, have some fun with it and do your best to be you. Your readers and followers will appreciate it, and it will make your content better in the long run.

Happy Tweeting!

Disclaimer: Before you go down this path, it’s important to understand FINRA’s regulations surrounding the use of social media, as well as any guidelines provided by your broker-dealer or RIA, if applicable.

Dan_Martin_Headshot
Dan Martin is the director of marketing for the Financial Planning Association®, the principal professional organization for CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER (CFP®) professionals, educators, financial services professionals and students who seek advancement in a growing, dynamic profession. He is an award-winning author with a diverse financial services industry background in marketing and communications. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Denver and his MBA in marketing from the Daniels College of Business.


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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.