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Best of 2018: 8 Components of a Social Media Policy

Editor’s note: Until the end of 2018, we will be revisiting the top five blog posts of 2018. The first post is from Claudio Pannunzio and it is the very definition of an oldie but goodie. This post originally appeared in 2012 but continues to be one of our most-viewed posts every year since. This year, it claimed the No. 1 spot on the most popular blog posts of 2018. See this evergreen post on the eight components of a social media policy for your financial planning firm. 

Engaging in social media activities can be a wise and rewarding decision for a large number of advisers. However, many issues need to be addressed prior to deploying a social media communications strategy. One of the most important issues is implementing a sound social media policy that provides a blueprint for interaction and establishes clear rules to ensure proper adherence to compliance.

The goals of a social media policy are straightforward:

  • Establish rules and procedures for all users when using social media sites
  • Facilitate users’ understanding of their responsibilities when engaging in online communication
  • Promote and maintain compliance within all FINRA, SEC and other applicable rules

Let’s now have a look at some of the basic components you should consider when creating a social media policy for your practice:

1. Purpose
State why your firm is engaging in social media and the scope for putting in place a policy governing its use. This will help everybody in your organization attain a solid understanding of the reasons behind the firm’s social media engagement.

2. Definition
Define what you and your firm regard as social media and how your firm will leverage the various social media platforms to communicate with its external audiences.

3. Users
Determine the professionals authorized to contribute to social media sites on behalf of your firm, specify what activities these individuals should be engaged in and establish who will be in charge of monitoring their activities.

4. Ownership
Define the professionals responsible for creating and selecting social media content and establish posting guidelines and schedules.

5. Content
The information you will provide via social media platforms is of critical importance. Clearly spell out the type of information that can and cannot be divulged via social media, unmistakably emphasizing what is considered proprietary or confidential information.

6. Employee Conduct
Establishing a code of conduct will help you achieve two strategic goals:

  • ensure that communication is consistently transparent, ethical, accurate and adheres to compliance rules; and
  • prevent employees in their personal social media interactions from inadvertently or casually stating their affiliation to your firm without your formal approval, knowledge and control.

7. Communication Risks
Establish general guidelines and best practices for the different platforms your firm is planning to use, referring to the FINRA and SEC compliance regulations. Create a list of subjects that should never be discussed and/or posted on social media, such as confidential information, financial details, legal matters and proceedings, as well as libelous or defamatory information, obscene images/content, information infringing third party’s intellectual property rights, copyrights or trademarks.

8. Negative Comments Protocol
We strongly recommend to all our adviser clients to develop a well-defined protocol on how to handle a third party’s negative posts/comments on social media platforms. These can include tactics such as acknowledging the negative comment and offering a solution; immediately deleting inappropriate comments of threatening, profane or obscene nature; or setting up social media accounts to not allow any posts/comments.

Claudio Pannunzio

Claudio Pannunzio is the managing director of Cürex Group Holdings. He was formerly the president of i-Impact Group Inc. in Greenwich, Conn.


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Productive Ways to Make the Profession Inclusive

Arlene and SonyaWhen Sonya Dreizler was the CEO of an RIA and broker-dealer hybrid, she was relatively young for that role, she said, plus she was a woman. So many of her older, male colleagues continued to test her and question whether she was right for the position long after she had already proven herself.

“I got a lot of that from people who didn’t think I was old enough or qualified enough or male enough,” Dreizler said in a recent 2050 TrailBlazers podcast with Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP®, and Arlene Donley Moss. “You spend so much time proving yourself when you could just be working. It’s such a strain on your resources as a productive employee.”

Whether we admit it, we all have implicit biases like thinking women or people of color are less capable or deserving of their positions of power. But we can all utilize whatever privilege we have at our disposal to help dispel implicit biases that stand in the way of an inclusive profession.

That’s what Dreizler and Moss have begun doing in their lives thanks to personal and professional experiences. They recently shared tips with Dorsainvil on what they’ve learned to help make the profession more inclusive.

Acknowledge mistakes. Moss admitted that she doesn’t always get it right, and that’s OK. She had one such experience at a recent conference. Though she didn’t dive too deep into the story, she acknowledged she’d inadvertently made a man feel uncomfortable because, as a friend pointed out, she’d engaged in “casual racism.” She hadn’t meant to.

“It is embarrassing to admit, but I flailed and stumbled and felt horrible,” Moss said. She reached out to the person she’d offended and apologized. They had a great discussion.

Moss grew up in a family that didn’t see color, she said, and sometimes implicit biases come up that can be perceived as “casual racism.”

“All of a sudden they pop up and you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that just happened,’ and you have to acknowledge it and fix it,” Moss said.

See and appreciate color. Oftentimes people say, “I don’t see color,” or “Why do you have to make everything about race?” But for people of color, race is ingrained in everything.

“To say you don’t see color is so dismissive,” Moss said. “It’s putting the blinders on and pretending that this huge element of a person’s humanity isn’t even there.”

So, Moss tries to get away from that. Telling people, you don’t see color isn’t the way to make the newcomers from different backgrounds feel welcome in the profession. What is, Dorsainvil said, is surprisingly simple.

“Just make eye contact and smile,” Dorsainvil said, on how to make somebody who is clearly not comfortable or perhaps the only person from his or her ethnic background in the room. “Just go and have a conversation.” Unsure how to do that? Compliments help, she said.

Don’t tell them, “I’m not a racist,” or “I’m an ally,” Dorsainvil added. Just be empathetic and make them feel comfortable. Be their ally if something does happen.

Try being the “only” in a group once. Moss recently traveled to Paris. She and her family went to see an out-of-the-way cathedral and ventured into the surrounding area to see what shops and restaurants they could uncover. There was nothing open as it was Ramadan and the business owners in the Muslim neighborhood were likely observing it. So they chose to explore another neighborhood where primarily West African immigrants lived.

“We stuck out so very, very much,” Moss said. “We are not just white, we’re white Americans. And you can pretend that you’re not looking like an American, but you do.”

They continued to walk and though they were left in peace and were not in danger, Moss felt tired.

“About an hour in I just looked at my husband and said, ‘I’m really tired of being looked at. Can we just head back?’” Moss recalled. “The unspoken part of that ‘head back’ sentence was ‘to the white parts.’ All of sudden, I had that ‘Oh my gosh, this is what it’s like every flipping day’” for a person of color.

That experience gave her an added layer of empathy and a desire to be an even bigger ally.

Share the message with people who look like you. There’s likely no changing some people’s minds when it comes to diversity and inclusion. If so, then these podcasts and blog posts are not for you. However, there are people out there who can be convinced, and perhaps it takes somebody who looks like them to do the convincing.

Recently at a dinner, a white man said to me, “Arguably, I can do more to advance the cause of diversity and inclusion than you can.” I didn’t even try to argue, because I know this to be true.

Dreizler said that she first got involved with racial justice and diversity issues after hearing about them from another white woman.

“Why wasn’t I hearing that message from people of color? I mean, we could unpack that all day, like maybe I didn’t have a very good circle of contacts then or maybe I was just more likely to be receptive to a message if the messenger is someone who looks like me,” Dreizler said. “Now I’m just happy to be that for other white people.”

Helping each other feel included isn’t going to be smooth sailing.

“We’re going to make mistakes but let’s embrace them together and stumble together,” Dorsainvil said.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is associate editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org. Follow her on Twitter at @AnaT_Edits.


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Why Yearly Marketing Goals May Not Be Your Best Bet

Toward the end of the year, there’s a lot of buzz about annual marketing goals. I think I’ve read five blog posts this week alone on what annual marketing goals I need to check off my list before December 31st, or how to set new annual marketing goals next year.

Here’s the thing: these pieces of content only do one of two things:

  1. Affirm that you’ve done everything right and you can pat yourself on the back.
  2. Affirm that you’re the worst and haven’t accomplished anything on your annual marketing to do list.

I’d say that the majority of us fall squarely into Camp B—myself included.

I think there’s a time and a place for annual marketing goals. They can be incredibly helpful guides and a great way to organize ideas. I also believe that they often cause a lot of marketing problems for business owners and are often more hurtful than not.

When Annual Marketing Goals Help (And Hurt)

Annual marketing goals offer a space for business owners to dream big, and that’s valuable. When you set your yearly goals, you’re allowing yourself to stretch out of your comfort zone. You’re thinking critically about where and how you want to grow your business, and that’s not something I’d ever want you to tamp down. Annual marketing goals help you accomplish so much. For example, they:

  • Act as a content scheduling guide
  • Force you to think outside of the box when it comes to promoting yourself
  • Help you to think critically about how your ideal clients can be reached and what problems they’re facing
  • Guide your marketing efforts toward an end-goal, rather than diving in willy-nilly (which can cause frustration, shame and burnout)

Unfortunately, many annual marketing goals aren’t sustainable for a variety of reasons.

You can say:

I want to blog once a week for the entire year.

or

I’d love to do monthly Q&A events for teachers where I am able to answer financial planning questions pro bono.

These are big goals that could have an incredibly positive impact on your business. But what happens when you want to blog weekly, and immediately remember that you hate writing and have an anxiety attack every time you open a new Microsoft Word document? Or when you decide that you want to change your niche, so monthly Q&A events for teachers no longer makes sense?

Goals Change

A year is long, and so many factors that impact your marketing strategy could change in that time frame. When you remain inflexible, you’re closing yourself off to a lot of opportunities that could crop up.

Changing goals shouldn’t make you feel ashamed. We’re all human, and sometimes we don’t know what we want until the opportunity presents itself. If your goals for business development change, you need to be willing to restructure a marketing strategy that supports your new goals.

It’s also wise to “check in” with your annual marketing goals a few times a year. Do they represent the growing goals you have for your financial planning practice in the same way they did when you wrote them down at the beginning of the year? Are you sticking to a marketing strategy that isn’t serving you anymore? Did you learn about a cool new marketing strategy that would be more efficient or more enjoyable?

Sometimes we luck out and the annual goals we set in January are perfect. Most of the time, though, this isn’t the case. We need to be willing to tweak our goals and embrace a fluid marketing strategy that changes as we grow and learn. I suggest checking in with your annual marketing goals monthly or quarterly. Track your KPIs and do a gut-check to see whether they’re still working or if you need to move the goal posts.

Done Is Better Than Perfect

On the other side of the coin, I find many advisers getting “stuck” after setting their annual marketing goals. They set the bar too high for themselves and get caught in analysis paralysis. They’re overwhelmed trying to figure out the best way to execute their strategy perfectly and get nervous that they won’t do it “right.”

Here’s what I hear people say:

This year, I want to create a lead magnet and promote it once a month, have a blog post a week, and I’d love to launch a podcast. I’m not sure how to do those things, so I’m going to take a few courses, do a little bit of research, and hopefully get started by X date. I really want to get it right, I know I need to be doing these things.

And then they do exactly none of those things. Sound familiar?

News flash: there isn’t a right way to go about marketing. There are certainly best practices, but there’s no one solution that will ensure your marketing plan will go off without a hitch. You need to show up anyways.

I’m a big believer in two things:

  1. People are waiting for you to show up, because they need the services you’re selling—so show up, even if it’s uncomfortable at first.
  2. Done is better than perfect.

If you wait until you have a perfect marketing strategy, and a perfect set of writing/podcasting/video editing skills, you’ll be waiting for forever. Your financial planning practice is worth executing a marketing strategy right now, as is.

So, if you’re using your annual marketing calendar as an excuse to not put anything out there to market your financial planning practice—stop. You deserve better than that.

What To Do Instead

Whatever reason you have for struggling to stick with your annual business goals, you’re not alone. Yearly goals are tough! That’s why I prefer to think of annual marketing goals (or an annual marketing calendar) as a launchpad—not a checklist.

There are several things you can do to make your marketing goals both more flexible and more manageable:

  • Set big marketing goals, but schedule check-ins. Check in quarterly to make sure the marketing goals you set at the beginning of the year are still serving your business.
  • Think outside of the box. Don’t jump on the blogging bandwagon if writing makes you break out into a cold sweat. Find ways of creating content or connecting with potential clients that’s fun for you.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. The fastest way to derail an annual marketing strategy is to set goals that replicate someone else’s marketing strategy. Do what works for you—not what worked for someone else.
  • Set monthly goals instead of annual goals. Breaking things into bite-sized action items to do each month is so much more manageable (and sustainable) than sweeping annual goals without a plan to back them up. Work to do one new thing each month that markets your business—start posting on social media, create a lead magnet, host a client and prospect event or post a blog a month. Don’t try to do everything simultaneously in the beginning of the year. You’ll burn yourself out.
  • Know yourself. Annual marketing goals are a great place to dream big, but we shouldn’t set marketing goals for ourselves that we know we’ll hate executing six months from now. Set goals that you know you’ll be able to fit into your schedule or consider outsourcing elements of your strategy that you know you might not excel at.
  • Know your why. This is the biggest piece of marketing or goal-setting advice I can give you: As you start to set goals around your adviser marketing, get clear on your why. Blogging for the sake of blogging doesn’t make sense. Shooting for 1,000 email subscribers by year-end won’t do you any good if you don’t have a strategy for converting them to clients. Take some time to sit with how you want to grow your business and who your ideal client is. From there, put marketing goals in place that reflect your unique why.

Annual marketing goals are a tricky thing. They can be useful guides, but marketing often doesn’t fit into a neat “yearly” box. If you feel yourself setting yearly marketing goals, but struggling to follow-through, it might be time to rethink your process.

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Zoë Meggert has built Perfectly Planned Content around financial planners because she firmly believes that they’re changing the world—one life at a time. Together with her clients, she and her team help develop and implement unique content marketing strategies that connect and convert.