When the four partners founded Monument in 2008 on LPL’s platform, Armstrong decided it was important to differentiate the firm via its use of technology. Social media furor was at the time reaching fever pitch and Armstrong realized then and there social media was the future of hyper-efficient client outreach.
Now, the firm has its own website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, Twitter account and blog, which Armstrong uses in concert to reach clients, prospects and the general public. And he does it all in a safe and complaint manner.
“It all starts with content creation,” Armstrong says. “If you don’t have the content people want to read, your social-media outreach won’t be effective.”
Armstrong points out that information doesn’t have to be timely to be useful. An advisor could put together an article on the Top 10 things to look for in a financial advisor, for example. “There’s plenty of time for compliance to bless it and then you can get it up on your website,” he says.
Armstrong’s site uses an opt-in option so visitors have to give their names and emails and agree to being marketed to in the future in order to access his articles.
To keep people coming back, you have to make sure you often have fresh material to read. Armstrong recommends advisors create an editorial calendar for their websites as part of their overall marketing strategies. “It’s so easy with just a 500-word industry piece and permission-based entry,” he says.
One of the most popular articles Armstrong wrote was about the 10 worst mistakes investors made in the past two years. “10 things” articles work especially well, he says, “because if you say ‘Download this white paper,’ people see it as a commitment of time. But if it’s a “10 things” story, the commitment is more like 10 to 15 seconds,” so many more people click.
You can tell how popular a story is by using a simple and free tool called Google Analytics. If a story isn’t generating traffic, he’ll either move it down the list or remove it altogether, replacing it with new content. By staying on top of the clicks to his site, Armstrong ensures that the most popular content is the first thing visitors see.
The advisor users a Twitter account to drive traffic to his site. “If people have an opinion about what you write, they’ll retweet it, and that’s what drives traffic,” he says. “Opinion is the currency of Twitter, so when you take a position on something, people will read your content.” For example, Armstrong tweeted about a Wall Street Journal article about the S&P 500’s poor performance over the past decade. His comment? “That’s why you shouldn’t dump all your money in the S&P 500!” Guess who has compliance-approved content on his site detailing better investment strategies?
Making comments on something someone else has posted does entangle you, but “the biggest challenge isn’t compliance itself, but what’s inappropriate to say,” Armstrong says. “Anyone who’s registered knows 99% of what they can and can’t say—you can’t promise a 10% return, for example. The real issue is retention, and there’s now a lot of technology out there you can pay for that will do that.” Armstrong uses Erado.com.
The advisor counsels against trying to put a dollar amount on social media outreach. “You won’t generate a lot of new business, but you will gain credibility with people you normally speak to,” he says. “The object is to be an opinion leader.”