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How to use social media marketing to produce results

Social Media Marketing for Financial Advisors

A well-planned social media strategy should be an important part of your digital marketing

It takes specialized knowledge and skills to build a robust social media presence for RIAs and financial advisors who want to make the Internet an important source of new clients. There are currently over 2.38 billion monthly Facebook users! Billions more are using the various other channels ranging from LinkedIn to Instagram, Twitter and beyond. 

Your financial advisory firm could easily become lost in the vast number of these users without a solid social media plan and a dedicated person or team to execute it. Social media will not completely replace your other marketing methods. Rather, social media will enhance your overarching marketing strategy. If your social media plan is properly executed, it will:

  • Increase your brand recognition through:
    • Organic social growth
    • Paid social traffic
  • Establish you/your firm as subject matter experts on specifics topics important to investors
  • Connect with social influencers who can help you reach more potential clients

Whether it is a social media profile on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or videos on YouTube: creating an online presence with content people care about will connect you with more potential clients.  

Even if your presence on these essential platforms does not immediately result in an uptick in business, the investment will pay considerable dividends in due time.  Social media really is the gift that never stops giving. As time progresses, many more people will find your social media accounts, read your posts and consider your value offering.  

Provide your audience with informative, insightful and helpful content and you will have planted a metaphorical seed in their minds that gradually grows over time, ultimately resulting in a steady flow of clients.  Furthermore, many of those who visit your social media pages will share links to your pages and online content with friends, family, colleagues, and others in need of financial advisor services. In some cases, a single viral Facebook post, tweet or Instagram post is all that is necessary to generate a considerable uptick in business in the years to come.

I

Brand Awareness

Ask yourself: What makes me/my firm so special? What is my story? The answers should compel connections with your targeted audience

Words describing brand awarenessCreating your own personal brand that resonates with your targeted audience will attract more clients to your business. Your personal brand tells the story about you. This is your opportunity to put your merits on display to communicate why clients should choose you over everyone else. Your unique brand should set you apart from the rest by informing your audience who you are, what your philosophy is and what they should expect from you. Take a moment to think about what makes you and your firm stand out? Creating a strong positive brand for yourself will help you add relevant followers on social media that in turn increase word of mouth referrals. As an example, using Social Media Video For Financial Advisor Branding is a perfect way to put your personality and face in front of potential clients.

A large part of the social media brand awareness challenge is creating content that proves worthy of sharing.  If you merely post updates about your firm, share industry-relevant links and link to the occasional blog post on your website, you won’t make much headway in the quest to heighten brand awareness.  Take some time to brainstorm social media posts that will inspire people to share your content with others. If a couple of your social media posts go viral, that many more people will be exposed to your brand and consider your value offering.  This increased exposure will eventually result in more phone calls, emails and social media connections with prospective clients. Such improved brand awareness will eventually lead to a meaningful spike in business that ultimately adds to your firm’s bottom line.

Be sure to quantify your brand awareness through in-depth tracking.  After all, there is no way to prove you have enhanced your brand awareness unless you can show it with facts and figures.  The top social media platforms provide insightful engagement statistics. As an example, Facebook Page Insights display the likes and shares generated by content posted to the platform.  It is also prudent to use tracking links in social media posts to help quantify the response to your content. Make use of a URL shortener to gauge the number of times your links are clicked through.  As an example, Bit.ly is one of the more popular URL shortener tools available. 

Above all, you must closely examine your firm’s web analytics to identify the social media platforms that generate the most referral traffic.  This insight will help you understand exactly which social media strategies are working best as well as the ones that are not working so well. Once you have this in-depth level of understanding, you will be able to take the appropriate action necessary to ramp up brand awareness.
II

Build Relationships

laptop attracting website traffic through engaging contentInvestors are more likely to select you as their advisor when you build strong connections by engaging with your ideal types of clients. Increasing engagement across your social media takes time, skill, and patience. Simply putting a post ‘out there’ does not mean anyone will read it. By creating a buyer persona and then targeting that persona in the content you post, you will increase the likelihood of meaningful engagement.  The more engagements you have, the stronger your connection is with your audience. Not sure how to get started? Here are some social media tips from the pros.

Engaging the target audience with captivating content is only half the battle.  Once the audience is engaged with your social media content, your firm’s value proposition will be front and center.  This is your opportunity to reinforce your firm’s merits with an ongoing dialogue. Respond to all questions, comments and criticisms of your firm on every single social media platform where you have created an account. 

If interacting with your audience on these platforms will prove overly-laborious for your communications department or customer service representative(s), consider hiring a part-time or full-time social media specialist to do the work on your behalf.  This way, your online audience will be constantly engaged with your firm, helping your company build essential relationships that lead to potentially endless referrals in the years to come.

Financial Advisor Guide To Using Facebook Live

 

 

 

III

Increasing Website Exposure

Increasing your website traffic will directly influence leads and conversions. A successful social media advertising campaign will drive high volumes of traffic to your website. More traffic=more clicks.  More clicks=more conversions.  

Be sure to provide links to your homepage, blog and other components of your online footprint throughout your social media.  This way, even if your social media followers and visitors do not read through the entirety of your posts, they will consider the merits of your services as detailed on your website.  Pay particularly close attention to the nuances of your website content. Specific keywords, key phrases, and local identifiers should be used throughout the entirety of the website for search engine optimization purposes.  This way, when those in need of your financial services sleuth the web for the services your firm offers, they will find your company’s website on the first page or two of search engine results pages (SERPS). Above all, your website pages should include a persuasive call to action.  This is your opportunity to brag, detail the merits of your financial services and push online visitors toward taking action in the form of a phone call or e-mail to your firm.

IV

Social Media Digital Advertising

Social media digital advertising can be a very cost-effective form of advertising. On average, you can spend a mere $5 and reach 1,000 people.  Advertising through social media is especially powerful because you can target your ideal types of clients. You can reach the right people based on:

  • Demographics: Run laser-targeted advertisements to reach people based on their interests and online behaviors. Target specific ages, locations, income levels, and more
  • Email Lists: Run custom ads to your email database.
  • Website Visitors: Add retargeting pixels to your website and advertise to recent website visitors. Only 1-2% of visitors convert on their first visit. 
  • Use retargeting to increase your conversion rates.

Though it might be hard to believe, some financial services firms rely on Facebook advertising for the entirety of their online marketing.  Though this approach might not be the most prudent strategy for your unique company, you should dedicate at least a small portion of your marketing budget to social media advertising.  As time progresses, many more people will gravitate toward the web and its many social media platforms as opposed to TV, radio, newspapers and other traditional forms of media. If your firm does not adjust with the times, your conventional outbound advertisements will gradually reach fewer and fewer people while the competition connects with an ever-increasing number of prospective clients through inbound marketing channels on social media and beyond.  

We would be remiss not to mention the fact that the coveted millennial age cohort, as well as many members of Generation X, are spending more and more time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms.  Target these tech-savvy individuals through social media advertising, bring them into the fold as early as possible and you will have the chance to win their loyalty for continued business across posterity.

V

Social Media Action Plan

Social Media gives you the opportunity, how you use it will determine the outcome

It is important that you (or a designated representative) proactively shape the conversation about yourself as well as your firm. You want to be a part of the conversation or listening in on it. Not being invited at all is the worst possible outcome. That is why working on a dynamic social media plan that builds your brand and loyalty is important. You may want to consider hiring an employee to manage your social media marketing, or you may want to consider outsourcing this critical piece of your marketing. Here are some ideas to get you started in putting together a plan:

  1. Assign a dedicated social media manager or team to develop your strategy and execute it. This person should already know about your business or will learn it.
  2. Keep in mind: Financial advisors have specific requirements when it comes to social media, we help you make sure you’re compliant.
  3. Perform market research and develop a tailored strategy for your firm. Great social media is not one size fits all. Remember you want to resonate with your target. Consider a competitive analysis, identify your ideal client’s personas and develop an effective content strategy. You should be solving the investor’s problem or pain point. Posting just to post something is a waste of time and money.
  4. Execute your plan! Use content and advertisements that are unique to your firm. Your compliance department may want to review and approve all of your content, so be sure to check in with them.

VI

Compliance

Maintaining full compliance with the nuances of the law when using social media is easier said than done.  After all, most financial advisors do not pore over the language of the law as it relates to compliance in the context of social media use.  However, the SEC has specific financial adviser advertising rules every firm must follow. The overarching purpose of compliance guidelines is to ensure investors are properly protected, market integrity is maintained and prospective clients are not misled.

The SEC definition of advertising now includes all forms of communication used to acquire or retain clients/investors.  In other words, the manner in which your financial advisor firm uses social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has the potential to create legal problems that negatively affect your company’s bottom line.  It is particularly interesting to note the SEC now permits financial advisers to publish client testimonials, ratings from third-parties and endorsements to social media platforms. The SEC has also proposed a rule that allows firms to share investment performance on social media as long as they meet specific standards such as providing comparisons across specific periods of time, be it a year, five years or a decade.  

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has especially nuanced rules pertaining to communications posted to social media platforms and elsewhere.  This regulatory body demands financial advisory firms provide the public with truly fair and balanced communication.  In other words, financial advisory groups are legally required to provide comprehensive information pertaining to the risks and benefits of the value proposition when discussing the business on social media.  If you fail to include important content or hide it in an obscure footer, it might be determined that your company intentionally misled clients.

Keep a Detailed Record of Your Social Media Activity the word archives stamped on a folder representing record keeping

Be sure to archive your social media activity in a comprehensive manner for posterity’s sake.  This way, if your financial advisory firm is accused of breaking one or several compliance laws, you will have your firm’s online activity fully documented for easy reference.  However, it is important to note personal communication outside of the business and third-party content does not have to be archived as it is not considered business communication.  Therefore, regulations are not applicable unless your firm pays for the content. There is no need to archive your social media activity manually. Instead, tap into the power of archiving tools that do the work for you.  Examples of such tools include Actiance, Smarsh, and SocialWare.

 

 

Recognize and Respect the Boundaries of Social Media

There has been much consternation about how a “like” on a social media platform such as Facebook or even the favoriting of a tweet will be construed.  The SEC Risk Alert from 2012 stated the interpretation of such a “like” or “favorite” of a client’s post on social media constitutes a testimonial. However, if someone at your firm merely clicks the “like” icon on a picture of a fellow financial advisor’s family picture, it is typically not considered a testimonial. 

When it comes to links to third-party sites, the SEC’s guidance clearly explains the manner in which financial advisors can use third-party commentary on the many social media platforms.  This guidance states advisors should not provide a link to commentary on third-party social media sites unless the advisor in question does not have the ability to impact the specific public commentary or the manner in which the commentary is presented on the social media site.  If there is any sort of material entanglement with the site in question, the link should not be shared.   

When in doubt, it is always better to be safe as opposed to sorry.  If you are unsure as to whether you will violate compliance rules by advertising a financial product on social media, refrain from doing so.  Opt to use these essential platforms to educate prospective clients, build relationships and ultimately coordinate in-person consultations to discuss your financial planning services.  Continue to monitor compliance regulations for financial advisor firms as they change, notify your employees of those changes and train them appropriately.  Develop an internal social media compliance policy that details the type of content to be published, when it should be published and the employees who will oversee your company’s social media accounts. 

Social engagement doesn’t happen overnight, but when it does, a whole new world of possibilities will open for you.