Financial Advisors: 15 Tips to Use Social Media (Compliantly)

January 30, 2017
Joanna Belbey

According to a recent survey, 85 percent of financial advisors use social media for business. Eighty percent of these “social advisors” gained new clients resulting in nearly $5 million in average asset gain directly attributable to social media use. Eight-five percent also said that social media shortened the selling cycle. For these advisors, social media is no longer an option, but a proven tool used to gain new business and to build closer relationships with clients.

Are you ready to step off the sidelines and get started being social to build your business? Here are 15 tips help you use social media effectively, while complying with the rules and regulations in the financial industry:

  1. Understand your company’s social media policy. Most firms at this point have moved beyond “no” to allowing their associated persons to use social media in some way. Read and make sure you understand your corporate policy. Contact your compliance department with questions. Speak with colleagues. Participate in any training that may be available at your firm or online.
     
  2. Define your audience. Many financial advisors specialize. Do you target high tech founders? Healthcare professionals? Business owners? High net worth multi-generational families? Select the social media platform used by your clients so you can communicate in the manner your clients want to communicate.
     
  3. Define your personal brand. This is often the hardest concept to grasp for newcomers to social media. This is simply a consistent reflection of who you are. Define your special talents and areas of expertise that help your clients succeed. And importantly, reveal your personal interests and show your authentic self. Whether you are a rabid Bruce Springsteen fan, competitive bicycle racer, or volunteer for a good cause, include that too. Be careful though. It’s best to avoid politics, religion or controversial opinions to avoid excluding possible clients that hold a different view.
     
  4. Invest in a professional photo: The most important element of a social media profile is your photo. Unless your firm requires photos taken by the firm’s corporate photographer, make the investment and hire a professional photographer. Profiles without photos are met with skepticism, suspicion and generally ignored. Your profile photo should reflect how you look when meeting with clients, not some great photo of you happily drinking Mai Tais on the beach with someone’s arm draped over your shoulder.
     
  5. Select a social media platform. Select one platform initially and create an account to use for business. LinkedIn is a favorite place to start for many financial advisors, but some also use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or even Snap. It goes back to identifying your clients and prospects and being where they are. Once you become familiar with one platform, you can experiment with others.
     
  6. Create a social media profile compliantly. Based on your firm’s social media policy, you may find that your firm has specific requirements for your social media profile. Many firms require setting up the account with your business email for recordkeeping purposes. Or when using LinkedIn as an example, firms typically prohibit “Recommendations” and “Skills and Endorsements” to avoid the appearance of a testimonial. If so, and these already appear on your profile, you may be asked to “hide” them. For consistent firm branding, you may be instructed to include a pre-approved paragraph that describes your firm. Once your profile is complete, your firm may require that it is reviewed by a registered principle of the firm before it is used for business in keeping with advertising rules of the industry.
     
  7. Build your network. Once your profile is set up and approved by compliance, reach out to people you know and invite them to become a connection on LinkedIn. Personally written notes are key, so don’t click on “Connect” within “Who’s Viewed Your Profile”, or use the mobile app to make a connection. Although quick and easy, those invitations will be sent with a standard message. Instead, carefully craft introductions that remind people of how you know them, how you could provide value and perhaps mention your mutual connections. Initially, reach out to people you know and like from various stages of your life. For new LinkedIn users, strive for 250 connections. 500 is better.
     
  8. Listen and learn. Before you take any actions on social media, watch what others are doing. Pay attention to what you like and don’t like. Look at your competitors’, colleagues’, and friends’ posts. If you see a personal connection with a life event such as a birth or graduation of a child, a move, a promotion, or perhaps retirement, consider reaching out by phone to offer a genuine congratulations and to catch up. There are many stories of financial advisers who used a combination of social media and the phone to gain new clients.
     
  9. Engage. Once you feel comfortable, begin to join the conversation to provide value and be helpful. Social media is a two way street. Be generous with information and helpful. Depending on your firm’s policy, you may elect to add a comment, “like” or “share” your connections’ content. Some firms allow this, others don’t.
     
  10. Share useful content. Many financial services firms have libraries of articles that have already been pre-approved by compliance that you may share on social media. Share the content that matches your personal brand, demonstrates your specific expertise and is of interest to your clients / followers. Be consistent.
     
  11. Be authentic. If allowed by your firm, personalize the message of content from the library so that it’s in your own voice. If permitted, also find and share additional articles that will be of interest to your clients and prospects. To make this less time consuming, you can set up alerts on Google for topics of interest. Blogging is also an effective (albeit time consuming) way to demonstrate that you are an authority in your field. As with everything, check your firm’s policy before proceeding.
     
  12. Show your personal side: When posting content, remember the 80/20 rule. Consider posting 80 percent business content and 20 percent personal content that reflects your brand. Remember, we do business with people we like and who share our passions.
     
  13. Use social media for research and prospecting. If you have a premium account with LinkedIn, you can find, research and connect with almost anyone, anywhere, depending on the number and type of your 1st degree connections. Conduct searches based on your preferred customer profile. Select from years of experience, function, seniority level, company size and others. You can also search by personal interests that you may share. Limit your search to 2nd degree connections so you can ask for a referral if necessary. Conduct research and craft personalized introductions that convey why people may want to connect to you. If they agree, thank them with another note. Your firm may have templated communications for this purpose. Use the tagging feature on LinkedIn to categorize these connections for easier ongoing follow-up. Some financial advisors immediately ask for a meeting at this point. However, you may find it more effective to watch and engage and get to know someone a bit first. Share an article or something useful, so they can see where you add value. Use social media to demonstrate expertise and build trust over time.
     
  14. Avoid pitfalls. If you are allowed to venture past the library of preapproved content at your firm, be careful to both stay compliant and to protect your personal brand. Be sure to read an article before you share it. In the world of “click bait”, the headline may be vastly different than the article itself. Avoid “fake news” by only sharing content from reputable outlets such as well-known newspapers, magazines and networks. Remember to actually include the links to the article and make sure they are working. Make it a habit to be active on social media to avoid creating a “ghost town.”
     
  15. No pitching. And finally, no selling products. No one likes being pitched on social media and it may violate industry rules around suitability. Instead, move the conversation towards your traditional channels of one-to-one communications, such as email and phone, when it becomes more business oriented.

By following some or all of these tips, financial advisors can use social media to grow their business while staying compliant with the rules and regulations of the financial industry.

To learn how you may enable your financial advisors to use social media to attract new customers and grow assets under management, while complying with the rules and regulations, visit www.proofpoint.com/us/solutions/social-media-compliance.

This blog appeared previously on Forbes.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/joannabelbey/2017/01/03/financial-advisors-15-tips-to-use-social-media-compliantly/#32a26424e1e3