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.
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.