While many advisors have struggled to adopt social networking tools, there have been few low-cost, turnkey solutions to help advisors curate information and automatically deliver digital content to clients and prospects. But two new ventures - Vestorly and AdvisorDeck - are now offering these services, and maintain they can deliver analytics and metrics that will enable advisors to evaluate the success of their digital communication efforts.
Vestorly is essentially a platform that lets advisors communicate with clients and prospects through social media. Currently, the service is by invitation only. To receive an invitation, visit vestorly.com/advisors/new and provide your name, email address, phone number, firm name and website so Vestorly's staff can check you out. Assuming they don't find anything objectionable, you'll get an invitation to create your own account. Creating and configuring your account is free; if you choose to go live with the service, the fee is $100 per month.
Once you receive an invitation, a set-up wizard walks you through the basics. First, choose from a set of news articles to share with your community. These cover four categories: money/personal finance, business, global markets and the economy.
Choose one or more of these topics to share the top five articles each day. Or opt out of the automated system and pick individual articles to share, adding comments as you wish. You can also share original content in the form of text, images or videos.
CREATING A NETWORK
To set up your network, upload a CSV file with columns for names, phone numbers, email addresses, notes and whether the people listed are clients. An easier method is to connect your Vestorly account to your social network; connections are available for LinkedIn and Facebook. Vestorly emails people an invitation to join your private network or, if you use your social network, it sends it through the network's message inbox. You can also invite individuals yourself by typing their information on the Vestorly website.
This may seem counterintuitive, but you are actually better off uploading your clients by the CSV method because you can designate all of your clients at once. With the social network method, you need to manually designate which contacts are clients. Otherwise, you will be making all of your content available to non-clients.
Vestorly lets you reach prospects in a number of ways. One is through the use of a proprietary recommendation algorithm. When invited members join your community, Vestorly recommends people in their social network who may be a good fit to connect with you.
Yet another way Vestorly brings in prospects is by leveraging your social media activity. When you blog or share to LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter through Vestorly, people are brought back to your online community to interact with your content. You can also track visitors and measure their activity.
Vestorly also turns your website into a lead-generation engine with a link that brings your website's visitors to your online community, potentially turning visitors into actionable leads without forcing them to fill out a form. Vestorly applies an algorithm to determine whether prospects are qualified and interested. If it works as promised, this automated process could be a valuable asset.
TRACKING & COMPLIANCE
Vestorly provides useful tracking and compliance tools. When you sign up, it asks if you are registered with FINRA. If so, supply broker-dealer and compliance information. You can either notify your compliance team when publishing something or hold off until a post has been approved.
Vestorly also offers a compliance dashboard, letting personnel log in to see what the advisor sees. One dashboard feature shows a list of all published content. Users can sort by date, privacy status (available to anyone, for instance, or clients only) and status (published, pending, etc.); or you can search by keyword. You can also edit settings - changing the view settings, for example, so only prospects can see an article you publish.
Tracking tools let Vestorly users see how many new members have been added to a network, or how many times a post has been read or shared. You can view these statistics at a global level, or break them down by prospects and clients.
At first glance, AdvisorDeck, another new digital marketing hub, seems similar to Vestorly. According to a co-founder, Cameron Nordholm, AdvisorDeck is focused on four goals: delivering qualified leads to advisors, nurturing existing clients, compliance and actionable metrics. The site aims to let advisors manage all of their online interactions in just 15 minutes a day. The hub offers a few key features that Nordholm believes make AdvisorDeck unique.
First, there is the actionable inbox. This offers access to everyone engaging with you online - whether by filling out a Web form, retweeting you or liking something you posted on Facebook. The idea is to consolidate everything you will want to respond to in a single location, and to allow you to respond within the hub without leaving it.
The second feature is what Nordholm calls "metrics tailored to financial advisors." He argues that standard metrics, like tracking page views, are not very helpful in our business. What does matter, he says, is how an individual interacts with you across multiple digital channels. AdvisorDeck's metrics are person-centric and provide a full history of interactions across all digital channels.
AdvisorDeck service includes an "instant Web presence" with a template website and a blog. You also get applications for sending mass emails and a newsletter.
MORE FEATURES COMING SOON
AdvisorDeck has been putting the finishing touches on some additional features, including the content-approval and content-archiving functions that compliance departments require. AdvisorDeck's compliance goals are more ambitious than those of Vestorly. It plans to offer a complete, free turnkey compliance application to broker-dealer compliance departments.
Here's how the company says it will work: When reps sign on with AdvisorDeck, their accounts will be linked to their broker-dealer's compliance department. The compliance policies will be applied automatically to that account, and content will be routed back and forth between the rep and the compliance department for approval. AdvisorDeck will archive a copy of all content, and another copy will be routed to the broker-dealer or its third-party archive service. According to Nordholm, the application will work with Smarsh, RegEd and other popular services. For broker-dealers without third-party archiving services, AdvisorDeck can provide the service for an additional fee.
AdvisorDeck will also offer integration with content libraries of participating broker-dealers as well as third-party product providers an advisor selects. If an advisor's broker-dealer offers educational materials on Roth IRAs, for instance, the rep would be able to share them with his network. The idea is to give advisors access to content that is preapproved by FINRA and ready to be shared.
AdvisorDeck's pricing is more complex than Vestorly's, but I suspect it will be simplified soon. Currently, there is a limited free account that allows you to get a feel for the system. A $49-a-month plan includes the Web presence, the ability to interact and monitor three social networks, and 300 "contacts" per month. A contact can be a recipient of a mass email or someone who has interacted with you through social media. There is also a $99-a-month plan that covers three users and up to 1,000 contacts a month. If you want unlimited social networks and contacts for up to 10 users, that plan costs $199 a month.
The plans appear to be priced competitively, but I do not believe that the concept of contacts has been well thought out. For example, if someone retweets you on Twitter, that is considered a contact. In my view, that does not constitute a meaningful contact. I hope AdvisorDeck will allow unlimited contacts with all plans, instead monitoring only the number of users, networks or bulk emails sent.
Both Vestorly and AdvisorDeck are new and evolving rapidly, so it is too early to subject them to comprehensive reviews. But both look promising.
Many advisors are struggling to participate in social media in a time-efficient, cost-effective and compliant manner. Both Vestorly and AdvisorDeck appear to offer inexpensive turnkey solutions to let advisors manage their online presence and analyze the success of their online interactions.
Joel Bruckenstein, CFP, a Financial Planning columnist, is co-creator of the Technology Tools for Today newsletter, conference series and technology guides for advisors, including the new Technology Tools for Today's High-Margin Practice. For more information, visit JoelBruckenstein.com.