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What Social Media Marketing Can Do For You, and How to Get Started

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Advisors who see social media as a gimmick or a burden they’d rather not be saddled with should reconsider its importance to their marketing plan.

There are two main goals for a social media marketing strategy, according to Jill Jacques, vice president of wealth management and retirement lead at North Highland, a global consulting firm.

“One is around deepening the client relationship and eventually share of wallet, starting with the core clients that you have and want to continue to build those relationships,” she told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday. The second goal is client acquisition: “targeting the types of people you want to replicate in your book. Social media is a flexible way to both deepen client relationships as well as target the right kinds of clients for their ideal client profile.”

For the firm as a whole, there is a third goal, Jacques said: “That is around experienced advisor recruiting and targeting the right kind of advisor to come into the firm.”

Compliance, obviously, is a major issue for advisors who use social media in their marketing plans: FINRA announced in June that it was conducting “spot checks” on firms to make sure they were complying with social media regulations.

Jacques said that the first challenge for advisors adopting social media was “figuring out what can’t be done, how tailored it can be to pull out their strengths and personalities online. Firms are working right now with different vendors on how to systematize the compliance piece of it: archive and retain the social media content. For advisors, that can create more work if the compliance processes aren’t consolidated.

“A second challenge would be to figure out what they want their brand to be online and understanding that they need a through line and a consistent message, no matter what type of social media they’re using, so it doesn’t detract from their practice but enhances it.”

She acknowledged that compliance scares a lot of advisors away from using social media at first. “They think that compliance will be so unwieldy and overwhelming, but if you can get a baseline through compliance, most compliance departments know that social media is a necessity, especially around websites and LinkedIn.” Jacques said that many compliance departments are working more with advisors “to figure out a good solution, so you can get a template of some sort to get started. Get a baseline presence on social media, and then evolve to the more interactive social media that needs to be more of a daily or weekly update.”

Jacques called LinkedIn the “front-runner” in social media for firms and individual advisors. “It does present itself as the professional social media outlet,” she said. “That has been taking off more and more, to the extent that firms will allow FAs to use LinkedIn. There are plans in place across the industry for how to create a surround sound marketing message with Facebook and Twitter, but going back to what your brand and your messaging is, FAs are trying to figure out the types of folks they will attract on Facebook and Twitter, what kind of information they should be putting out there.“

Jill Jacques, North HighlandJacques (left) encouraged advisors to focus most on LinkedIn over other social media channels. That network has seen the most growth, she said. It’s also commonly used among clients and prospects, even if they’re using it in different ways. “They are going to LinkedIn to see what kind of presence and specialties they have as a financial advisor. Prospects are going to LinkedIn to see who else knows this advisor: Are they in a network of friends of family? How connected are they to their community? As a client, they’re looking for thought leadership: white papers and research. They are going to LinkedIn and Twitter, but for different reasons.”

As social media and its value to marketing plans has risen in importance in the financial industry, some firms are trying to help advisors streamline those activities, Jacques said. “If you’re in the RIA world, there are more firms coming out with holistic marketing tools and resources for financial advisor to create webpages to LinkedIn pages to Twitter feeds and how they all coordinate together.”

However, before advisors jump into the full breadth of social media offerings, Jacques urges advisors to focus on two things.

“For FAs, what I would recommend is making sure that they have a website and a LinkedIn page at a bare minimum, and that those two are really professional and showcase not only their certifications and their networks, but also their interests and their personalities. Focus on the website and LinkedIn and get those right first, then move on to Social Media 2.0 and think about Twitter and Facebook.”

Jacques encouraged advisors to be “cautious about excluding boomers or older generations because they are very active on social media.” She said, “A lot of research we’re seeing shows that baby boomers are involved in social media as much if not more than some of the Gen X and millennials when it comes to financial advisors and firms.” That’s good for advisors because “they don’t need to necessarily tweet for one group or another. They can go out with a more holistic message and brand.”

That’s not an excuse for advisors to ignore the “know your customer” principle, though. “I would encourage advisors to understand what their ideal client profile is–if they do have a certain age group that they target or if they target small businesses, to bring that out in the social media presence, whether on their website or LinkedIn pages. That will naturally attract the people they want to be in front of.”

Advisors should think of social media as a way to engage in a relationship online without letting it replace the in-person relationship they have with their clients, Jacques said. “They need to figure out if they want to use it as a one-way street, pushing out information, or a two-way street of dialogue.” Those are the differences in how different age groups use social media, she said.  

To learn more about how you can use social media to grow your business, we invite you to a free ThinkAdvisor webcast on Oct. 1 featuring social media experts Amy McIlwain, Clara Shih and Hardeep Walia.

Check out LinkedIn Payoff: Advisor Tells How He Landed $70M Account on ThinkAdvisor.