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For Advisors, Social Media Is ‘Social Capital’: ASPPA 401(k) Summit

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For some, “social media” is a synonym for “Facebook,” but at ASPPA’s 401(k) Summit in New Orleans on Monday, it was all about LinkedIn.

“Social media is like having thousands of conversations at once,” said Sheri Fitts, vice president of advisor marketing for LPL, in a session.

Fitts moderated the session with Dr. Bruce Johnston, president and CEO of Advisolocity, and James Holland, director of business development and assistant compliance officer at MIRA.

As of March 2011, LinkedIn had 44 million users in the United States, she said. The largest sectors using LinkedIn are the service sector (20%), finance (9%) and technology (9%).

Johnston reminded attendees that LinkedIn specifically, and social media overall, is a way to attract and retain clients at a low cost.

LinkedIn’s popularity represents a decline in outbound marketing in favor of inbound marketing. Johnston compared the two to a sledgehammer and a magnet. With the outbound or “sledgehammer” approach, prospects are deluged with multiple marketing messages. Inbound marketing, or the “magnet,” seeks to attract customers and provides two-way communication.

Furthermore, inbound marketing provides clear value and entertains and educates prospects, whereas outbound marketing doesn’t.

“It’s not about you. It’s about how they want to get their information,” Johnston said.

Compliance, of course, is an important consideration, and Johnston stressed the importance of archiving social media.

The SEC’s rule 17a4 applies to RIAs, he said, and is perhaps less onerous than FINRA’s various social media rules.

Fitts reminded advisors to be cautious about the links they post for friends, followers and connections, as the advertisements on that page could be considered recommendations.

LinkedIn is more “social capital” than social media, Holland of MIRA said. It’s one component of a marketing strategy that includes search engine optimization, thought leadership, analytics, compliance and marketing automation.

“Even if it’s not your thing,” he said, “it’s not going away.”

Search engine optimization is the “art and science” of social media, Johnston said. Advisors need to think about the keywords that will describe their practices the way clients and prospects think of them. When using LinkedIn, he encouraged attendees to summarize their specialty in their profile, rather then be tempted to describe what they do too broadly. Words like RIA and investment advisor don’t work, he said, because that’s not the way investors look for help.

“All conversation should lead back to your website,” Fitts reminded attendees. The traffic that advisors generate on their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter pages should ultimately send visitors to their website, which is “the hub” of their online presence. She encouraged attendees not to get discouraged if their social media efforts didn’t immediately pay off.

“Social media is 92% giving and 8% getting,” she said.

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