Think you’re connecting with your clients on social media? Think again.
If you’re like most advisors, you’re on social media: 81 percent of advisors have taken the plunge, according to a recent study by Putnam Investments. Maybe you joined Twitter a couple of years ago – and pop up a tweet now and then – or you tweak your LinkedIn profile every six months. Once in a while you get an invitation to connect, but overall you’re not really getting anywhere client-wise.
But you should be. “Using social media shows that you’re engaged, which is important to investors,” says Jillian Bannister, CEO of Ext. Marketing in Toronto. Demographics are also at play. She points out that millennials are all over social media, and with intergenerational wealth transfer becoming an important topic for them, having a social media presence is critical in conveying essential financial information and positioning yourself as a thought leader.
The key is making the commitment: Tweeting now and then doesn’t mean you’re resonating with your client base. A recent survey by Ernst and Young found that fewer than seven percent of Canadian investors claim to interact with their advisor using social media — but a surprising 40 percent of advisors believe they are making contact with their clients.
Before you ramp up your social media presence, though, you have to have something to say, and also have the ability to produce relevant content, says Michael Kitces, partner and director of wealth management at Pinnacle Advisory Group and publisher of the blog Nerd’s Eye View.
Mr. Kitces, who has a staggering 32,000 followers on Twitter, built his fan base by producing stories a couple of times a week on issues of critical importance to his clients. In his case, they were 3,000-word articles on tax strategy and retirement, he says. He now tweets three times a day “for a few minutes,” and creates two articles a week for his site and blog.
“My income has quintupled in five or six years,” he says. “I systematically shared content and let people find me. The effect is that it just continues to grow.”
Here’s how you too can be a social media maven.
1. Be strategic
If you’re running articles on general topics covered by big news groups, you’re wasting your time, says Mr. Kitces. You have to create content that you feel is of interest to your clients and that fits into your own knowledge and training. “Who are you trying to reach?” he asks. “It’s brutally difficult to have any success if you don’t have a niche or specialization. You have to be prepared to create content that demonstrates your expertise.”
2. Take LinkedIn to the next level
“What’s great about LinkedIn is that it’s all business,” says Melonie Dodaro, founder of Top Dog Social Media and author of The LinkedIn Code. “And you can easily connect with your target market.” She says that instead of just sending invitations and never following up, “Establish some rapport. Send personalized thank-yous when people connect with you. Share status updates. Build relationships – don’t just collect connections.” And, she adds, advisors should skip the hard sell on LinkedIn: “Where you promote is in offline conversations.”
3. Don’t give anything away for free
While LinkedIn can be a valuable vehicle for new clients, skip LinkedIn Publisher, warns Mr. Kitces. He says that even though you want to be seen as a thought leader, you should house any writing on your blog and website. Google searches won’t find LinkedIn-published pieces, he says, plus advisors lose the opportunity to sell their services via their website. “The long-term goal should be that when people plug their request into Google, you come up as the answer,” he says.
4. Play to your strengths
Not a writer? No worries, says Mr. Kitces. Use a different social media vehicle to get information across, such as a YouTube video or a podcast. Ms. Dodaro says that infographics also make for great client take-aways. And you always want to position yourself as a source for easy-to-access information. You want clients to say, “‘I love my advisor – they’re always sharing good content on social media,’” adds Ms. Bannister.
5. Don’t get lazy
“It’s a lot of work putting it together,” says Ms. Bannister of creating and then maintaining your social media presence. Mr. Kitces agrees. He posts regularly to ensure there’s no downtime on his site or Twitter account. To that end, he also uses social media tools like Buffer and Meet Edgar, which help to manage different accounts and allow users to schedule posts. That way he can ensure his content is distributed at regular intervals, when it’s most likely to be read by his followers. “Consistency is very important,” he says, adding that it’s all too easy for a Twitter follower to drop off if they feel the content is boring or irrelevant.
And for those advisors who feel it’s all just too much work, Mr. Kitces says they need to see it as potentially yielding much more in sales than time-consuming networking meetings. “I get an exponentially better return on my time,” he says.