Social media has become a necessity for financial advisers to stay “top of mind” with clients and prospects, but they need to be able to “put the time and dedication into it” in order to make their efforts successful, said Amy McIlwain, president of Financial Social Media.
LinkedIn is a popular choice for financial-services firms because its users are there for business purposes, making it the “trade show” of social media platforms, McIlwain said Saturday during NAIFA’s Career Conference and Annual Meeting in San Diego. On LinkedIn, “your booth is going to be your profile,” which should be complete and tell your story effectively, she said.
Advisers who use Twitter should “listen first [and] talk second,” she said. As they become acquainted with the platform, they should follow others and take note of trending topics, which are designated with hashtags, she recommended. Once comfortable, they should join in the conversation and tell interesting, relevant stories to build their brand, she said.
Everything posted in social media, regardless of the platform, should accomplish at least one of four objectives, which McIlwain called the “Four E’s”:
Businesses that are venturing into social media need to identify a niche, as well as build trust by talking about topics that clients see as important, whether it is Medicare, college costs or another area of concern, McIlwain said. They also can raise awareness of events they hold for clients through viral marketing and gain press attention through strong social media efforts, as well, she said.
“Business transactions don’t happen online. The relationships are built online. And you can take those conversations offline and do business,” she said.
And advisers need to track the results of their social media efforts through tools such as Google Analytics, which is free, McIlwain said.
But a firm’s website should be the hub of an online marketing campaign, with social media serving as a tool to amplify the content on the website, McIlwain added.
“A blog and a website, they used to be two different things. That’s not the case anymore. The blog needs to be at the heart of your website, pumping it full of fresh and relevant content,” she said.
And a key rule of thumb with regard to regulatory compliance in social media is that “if you wouldn’t say it offline, don’t say it online,” McIlwain advised.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities and Exchange Commission guidelines for social media that largely put such communications into two “buckets” of interactive and static content, McIlwain said.
Most adviser social media activity falls under the interactive category, she said. That includes status updates and is similar to giving an in-person presentation before investors. It requires no pre-approval, although records and retentions are still a must, she said.
Firms can take steps to ensure compliance by enforcing policies and procedures for social media and training employees on proper social media use, she said.