A client may visit the financial advisor’s office for a financial check-up just twice a year. The advisor’s got a lot of stuff on the wall attesting to his credibility. “It’s intimidating,” says Pat Allen, a digital marketing consultant for financial services firms.
In that brief allotted time, the advisor’s personality may not emerge as the discussion focuses on topics such as the client’s investment objectives and portfolio allocation.
“If I’m a financial advisor, I’m not going to waste that time on my [recent] kayaking trip,” says Allen, whose firm, Rock the Boat Marketing, is noted for Allen’s penetrating blog, updated weekly, on financial services social media usage.
“But I can use Twitter to demonstrate that I’m a person [with broad interests]. Because otherwise they’re just thinking about performance, about fees—that’s an easy relationship to replace,” she tells ThinkAdvisor in a phone interview.
“It enriches the relationship,” Allen (right) says of Twitter and other social media platforms. “We have more dimension to us than what you see in a 30-minute encounter. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.”
Advisors appear to have gotten that message. American Century Investments’ latest annual social media survey showed a significant rise in Twitter usage—34% in 2013 compared to 27% the previous year. LinkedIn continues as advisors’ favorite social media outlet (75%), with Facebook (34%) and Twitter (16%) far behind.
These three platforms and the many others (e.g. Google+) all have their uses, but the key, says Allen, is “to show there are people running the account, to show there’s a face and a personality.”
A GDP announcement is, by itself, just a piece of information.
“But everybody’s got a different take on it,” Allen says.
It is that personal spin that Allen rates highest among advisor social endeavors. Every advisor must have a LinkedIn profile nowadays, but “blogging is probably the best thing a financial advisor can do.”
After blogging, Allen most advocates Twitter use as a means of amplifying an advisor’s blog posts. “Twitter has better tools for staying relevant,” she says. “Facebook is complicated because it’s a real mix between personal and professional.” LinkedIn, she adds, is especially valuable as a means of viewing what content is being shared online.
That said, the digital marketing strategist understands social media can be overwhelming for many advisors.
“You don’t have to do all of it, but you should master at least one platform — that’s a legitimate strategy.”
While advisors short on time might wisely choose to concentrate on a single social media outlet, Allen is not a fan of using broker-dealers’ preapproved content libraries.
“It’s turnkey, but it’s not what’s going to get the most engagement. What gets the most engagement is something that is timely — commenting on something that’s happened today.
“Social media … is a conversation,” she says. “Every incremental update continues the conversation. The tweet is additive; it extends the story that you have told me on your blog. It keeps you front of mind.”
Allen also cautions, and comforts, advisors not to have a lot of expectations of a single tweet. “It’s the body of work…It’s all in a stream and the stream passes by…you have to build a reputation that this is somebody worth following.”
Apart from keeping content fresh and considering the oeuvre of your social media efforts, Allen stresses the value of diversifying your content.
“People work with financial advisors not just because of performance and what they know of the market—it could be their support of the community; it could be all kinds of softer reasons."
That’s where the kayaking trip comes back into this.
“If I talk about kayaking for a while, I’m likely to attract kayakers,” Allen says. “You’d never hang up a shingle and say ‘I specialize in investors who kayak.’
And yet that interest attracts followers, Allen says, citing a marathon-running advisor who in this way has managed to attract other marathon runners as clients.
“That’s why people join clubs,” she says.
Finally, Allen points out that a growing use of Twitter among advisors is for networking with other professionals—rather than prospecting, though it can have that benefit as well.
“They want to be part of an ecosystem that includes lawyers [for example] so they can discuss what a tax change could mean. If I’m a retail client and I’m seeing my advisor talk in real time about some kind of tax change, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, this guy’s earning [his keep].’”
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