Despite the giant regulatory eye watching the financial industrys use of social media, activity on these sites is still growing among advisors and asset managers.
As regulators step up oversight, it will help advisors to spot the common danger zones that can trip them up as their engage on social media. Heres what you should watch out for, and how to stay compliant.
1. Incomplete Profile
Financial professionals need to show that they are credible, reliable, and qualified to help their prospective clients. An incomplete profile can persuade prospects to move on, or skip to the next professional.
Solution: First, post a professional photo of yourself. Then provide your credentials: education, specialties, licenses, etc. It helps to work on a platform where such credentials can be verified. Finally, dont forget to include contact information.
2. Targeting the Wrong Audience
Because social media is full of broad platforms, it is easy to target the wrong group of people as you search for your audience.
Solution: Create groups, or rooms, that are built around a specific specialty or goal that caters to one particular audience within a social media network. You can create groups aimed at firms, advisor specialties, and investor goals. Clients will seek out groups that appeal to their interests and the advisors strengths.
3. No Links to Websites
Potential clients wont patronize a financial professionals business if they cant find a link to the business website.
Solution: There should be an easily visible area (or areas) on a professionals profile page with links to the firms website. Products and services links as well as an about us link are also useful.
4. No Tags on Articles and Content
Tags categorize different pieces of information on a social media site and make the information easier for Internet search engines to find.
Solution: Take the extra step to add keywords to your content.Potential clients will take you more seriously if you show that youre serious about helping them find you on the Web.
5. Failing to Engage
An advisor with a well-furnished profile hasnt finished the job if he isnt posting content on his site and responding to the comments that his followers post in turn.
Solution: Dont file and forget. By spendingjust 10-20 minutes a week posting cogent content and responding to followers, you can spread you insight to a lot of people and build your reputation and credibility.
6. Overdoing Hashtags
Hashtags on Tweets can be a great way to route content to key targets, but overuse can be confusing to readers and counterproductive.
Solution: Use tags sparingly, with an eye toward focusing on whom youre trying to reach with your message.
7. Testimonials, endorsements, and advertisements
Regulators frown on these claims if theyre inaccurate, misleading, or poorly documented.
Solution: Set up a system at your firm that allows compliance officers to easily review employee posts on social media platforms and make changes when necessary.
Its important for financial advisors to understand that FINRA is not unveiling new or more burdensome regulations, but merely measuring compliance with existing guidance on social media that it provided the industry three and a half years ago.
As social media expands in the financial world, advisors have a growing need to keep up with the evolving industry.
Jennifer Openshaw is president of Finect, the online social network for the financial industry. She previously founded Womens Financial Network, now a division of Siebert Financial, and is a columnist for Dow Jones MarketWatch.