You might quickly disagree, but prospecting for new clients on social media “isn’t about marketing or advertising. It’s about socializing and selling. It’s about starting new conversations with people you want to do business with.” That’s what Charlie Van Derven, founder-president of Social Advisors, argues in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.
Call him a wingman for FAs: He helps start online conversations with folks they don’t know but who would ideally fit their client niche. A 20-year veteran of the digital marketing world, Van Derven launched his own company in 2013. Clients include RIAs and FAs of independent BDs like Cetera Financial Group, Commonwealth Financial and LPL Financial, as well as individual wirehouse FAs who hire him to help with their social media engagement strategy.
Over the last five years, the financial services industry, in general, has increasingly embraced business use of the most popular social media: LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Indeed, a late 2018 study by Putnam Investments found that 98% of advisors were using it for personal and business purposes — 83% for business — and that 92% gained new clients as a result. LinkedIn was the most popular platform, the survey showed.
As for how to best put social media to use, simply posting content is not the route to expanding an advisor’s client base, Van Derven contends. Advisors also need a strategy to engage prospects and start conversations with them.
“If all an advisor has is a content strategy,” he says, “they’re only doing half the work. Content helps show their expertise, but content alone does not produce clients.”
Enter: LinkedIn Sales Navigator, a premium upgrade that Van Derven leverages to help FAs find and link up with ideal prospects. The sales tool can “slice and dice” LinkedIn data by 12-15 different criteria, says the coach, who has no business affiliation with LinkedIn.
In the interview, the marketing expert, who advocates for an integrated approach of traditional media and social media, discusses FAs’ biggest challenge when it comes to using the latter.
ThinkAdvisor recently interviewed Van Derven, on the phone from his office in Daytona Beach, Florida. He noted that, stemming from a conversation Social Advisors started for him on LinkedIn, one of the firm’s clients recently landed a $3 million account. “He invited me to a steakhouse for lunch,” Van Derven says. “I figured it must be good news.”
Here are highlights of our interview:
Why is it important for advisors to use social media for client acquisition?
Social media allows an advisor to decide exactly who they want to work with in their geographic area — and find those people en masse.
Is posting content the best way to acquire new clients?
There’s a big gap in advisors’ understanding of how to use social media. Though a good content strategy is a must, that alone does not produce clients. Posting content — like articles, videos and podcasts — isn’t a client-acquisition strategy and isn’t really leveraging social media. Content can help demonstrate expertise; but if all an advisor has is a content strategy, they’re only doing half the work.
What, then, is an effective client-acquisition strategy?
Advisors create new client opportunities by talking to the right people; so they also need a good engagement strategy to start conversations. Social media isn’t about marketing; it’s not even really about advertising. It’s about socializing and selling. It’s about starting new conversations with people you want to do business with. So if you’re not reaching out and asking people to talk business in some capacity, you’re not actually prospecting.
But FAs are required to follow regulations about using social media.
Certainly there are regulations, but the [industry’s] fear of social media isn’t there anymore. It’s not the scary environment it was even three years ago.
Are more younger advisors than veteran FAs using social media to acquire clients?