With nearly nine in 10 private clients active today on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, social business is no longer optional for advisors. It’s mandatory.
Indeed, two-thirds of U.S. millionaires say they would like to use electronic media to communicate with their advisors, according to a Fidelity Investments survey. And that figure is still growing.
Probably the single greatest advantage for advisors is that social networking sites are perfectly suited to help them do what they’ve always done–build relationships, educate clients, garner referrals–but much more quickly and efficiently. For example, instead of having to manually scan through newspaper wedding and birth announcements, or try to discover job changes serendipitously from one-on-one conversations, today’s savvy “social advisor” can simply scan her social media feeds to hone in on the right signal and reach out with the right message at the right time.
Not surprisingly, seven in 10 advisors in North America are already using social networks to both cultivate new client relationships as well as grow existing relationships. Some advisors use social media to build their brand, while others are engaging with customers to stay top of mind and offer thought leadership. The best are doing both.
Keys to Advisor Success in 2014 and Beyond
To see the returns from being on social media, financial advisors need to do more than just launch a LinkedIn profile and call it a day.
Instead, the best financial advisors will take the best practices that already work for their business and apply them to the social media realm. Here are the four steps to becoming a social advisor.
Step 1: Be Findable
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter have become the “Yellow Pages” of our era. The first step is just to be present and findable. If you are in institutional asset management or work with high-net worth and ultra-high net worth clients, start with LinkedIn.
Retail advisors may want to start with a Facebook Business Page. Ask your clients and ideal prospects on which social networks they would like to communicate with you. Build a profile that is the best professional representation of your brand and your firm, but which feels authentic. Your profile photo, credentials and expertise are all important components by which prospects may judge you.
Step 2: Grow Your Connections
Before you can grow your business through social media, you first need to grow your presence. It’s easiest to start with friends, centers of influence such as accountants and lawyers, and existing clients. You should make it standard practice to invite clients and prospects to connect whenever you’ve had a successful call or in-person meeting to help sustain the relationship until the next call or meeting. Finally, you can actively promote your social media accounts by linking to them from business cards, email signatures, brochures, and your website.
Step 3: Listen to Your Clients
Once you’ve established yourself and built a following, you should start tracking social signals. As I mentioned in my last ThinkAdvisor article, tracking information shared on social media is essential to driving client loyalty. If you see your client sharing an important life event (like a new baby or new job), that’s a great opportunity to reach out and congratulate him or her. Later, after an appropriate amount of time has passed, reach out about how you can help in their transition. Note that your follow-up might take place on social media, but often doesn’t. Just because you learn about a trigger event on social doesn’t mean you can’t then follow up by phone, email, or other traditional means.
Step 4: Stay Top of Mind
As a final and ongoing step, every financial advisor on social media needs to maintain a consistent presence with great content. Share up-to-the-minute financial news and your point of view on important developments, such as new tax laws or 401(k) rollovers, to continue building your brand as the go-to financial expert. Ultimately, all this work will help you build credibility amongst your client base.
Above all, authenticity will be a prerequisite for doing business in the social era. The best advisors have always been those who knew how to build a strong personal and professional brand, cultivate high-quality relationships, really listen to clients, and provide valuable thought leadership and advice. Social business merely amplifies each of these steps and—when done right—can ultimately increase AUM.
With clients increasingly expecting to engage with businesses over social and mobile, firms need to adapt to meet those changing expectations. For every financial advisor in 2014, it’s a social world now.