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How to Make Your Firm a Social Media Juggernaut

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The benefits of social media for individual advisors’ success, and thus firms’ business overall, have long since been established and proven in terms of new connections made, qualified leads generated and sales achieved. Having said that, for some firms and advisors, the prospects and process of getting started on social can be overwhelming, and they may just disallow or avoid use of the medium altogether as a result.

Social success doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s also achievable for firms that are willing to continually invest the time and resources. Here are a few considerations and recommendations for firms to be sure they’re setting advisors (and their expectations) up for victory:

Strategize with the right people at the right junctures. Assemble a social media team that includes representative stakeholders from every group that will touch the the program: marketing, compliance, IT and advisors. Having a diverse set of viewpoints and business objectives helps chart strategy, which should be reviewed and adjusted on a quarterly basis. One of the most important aspects of developing a strategy and surrounding policies, as well as selecting technology to aid the program, is to determine how to measure ROI and track effectiveness. If all parties involved don’t sign off on how to determine if advisors are “winning,” a program leader is going to have trouble recruiting advisors and proving value down the line.

Cultivate champions. Specifically, a program needs a champion from senior management, as well as a top brand ambassador to drive the day-to-day success of the program. Find an executive who understands the benefits of social (or is at least willing to listen) and can sign off on program costs, resources and staffing. Additionally, enlist a central figure from the executive bench or a digitally-savvy advisor who is active on social platforms to help boost program awareness, recruit and put success on display. This role model will also give hesitant advisors reassurance that they can use social effectively and without negative consequences. Serving as a champion should not be an expectation of every advisor, but there is typically an early adopter or core group willing to make the commitment.

Education is not optional. It’s imperative that every advisor receives some form of onboarding and training when it comes to social media. Be sure advisors understand how to be appropriate, effective and compliant with firm policies before they’re turned loose on social channels. Initial training is often the largest one-time investment for advisors. Offering recurring supplementary training to update advisors on social platform changes is another best practice.

Compliance both is and is not the advisor’s concern. Making sure compliance is in check goes hand-in-hand with education. While advisors should be as personally aware as possible of compliance rules, it’s unrealistic to expect them to shoulder the burden of understanding, keeping up and complying with all of the ever-changing, complex advertising rules that apply to social media from FINRA, the SEC and others. As we’ve seen, compliance sanctions can be expensive. There are social media compliance platforms that can automate compliance for the firm and the advisor, and reduce the expected risks of using social media. Communicate that time commitment is inevitable… although the more important point to make to advisors is that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. While automated tools are available to help with scheduling posts, selecting content and establishing new connections, a time commitment from advisors is still a requisite. Expectations should be set that even roughly an hour a week, spread out across days, can make a significant business impact and turn advisors into positive brand ambassadors.

Setting clear expectations is often the most difficult part of launching or recruiting for a social program in any industry, let alone one as intricate as financial services. Still, once the expectations a firm lays out are weighed against the benefits of social in the marketing and business development context, advisors are generally on board. Firms need only establish those expectations at the outset, structure and strategize for their program, institute training, and address compliance before letting their advisors jump on the train to social success.

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