Advisors are taking a diverse approach to social media, which experts say is the way to go when it comes to online branding.
“Social media is done best when it’s an extension of an advisor’s existing sales and communications efforts,” said Michael White, chief marketing officer of Raymond James Financial (RJF), who led a panel of advisors Thursday during a social media seminar put on by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in San Francisco. “Apply social media tools to extend your success and then go offline with the communications.”
Employing a flexible and thorough social media strategy can “be a challenge for many firms” in the heavily regulated financial services industry, White explained, echoing the views of others at the conference.
But the efforts pay off.
“At Raymond James, we have supported social media for quite a while and have seen fast adoption,” he explained. “It’s gone up 50% in the past 18 months or so with 3,000 advisors on our Hearsay Social platform.”
Rather than having advisors follow cookie-cutter approaches, firm should let the reps “be authentic,” White says.
“There’s no silver bullet,” he added, repeating the view of LinkedIn senior account executive Devon Slattery, who also spoke at the SIFMA event.
Kimberly Hunter, an advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) in Santa Rosa, California, isn’t looking for referrals. But she uses social media to interact with clients, as well as partners like CPAs and attorneys.
“Social media to me is now social capital,” said Hunter. “Look at millennials. People do not want to be sold anything. They want to buy. And when they need information [about what they may buy], they go online to get it.”
For Vivek Thoppay, a Merrill Lynch advisor in San Jose, California, restricting those he connects with online works best to his targeted business-growth approach.
“I got to be an early adopter of LinkedIn for Merrill Lynch, and it’s a fabulous source of information on client and prospects,” said Thoppay, who used to work as a Silicon Valley engineer. “I connect to them … and it’s a great way to get referrals.”
But, he adds, “I only connect with clients and prospects on LinkedIn, and nobody else.”
For advisors looking to grow their practice in other ways, though, it may make sense to embrace more social media.