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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