“To build online influence in the age of social media, you must build a powerful online presence and consistently publish your thought leadership insights through a professional blog site,” says Stephanie Sammons, founder of Wired Advisor, a company that helps advisors set up search engine optimized blogs. “Blogging allows you to attract your target audience, cultivate relationships, accelerate referrals, and showcase how and why you're different.”

While Sammons asserts that an advisor’s blog should be their online hub, I take a slightly different bent by insisting that the advisory firm’s website should serve as their online hub. Sammons and I do agree on this: Blogging helps you build a strong online presence in a couple of ways.

First, frequent blog postings on your site or a credible third-party site (especially if crossed-linked to your website or a secondary blog) can significantly improve your search engine page rankings. Second, blogging can position you as an expert in your field and a contributor to a body of work or a community of interest. Blogs don’t always have to be just words, so if writing is not your strong suit, consider video blogging or posting audio content instead.

VIDEO BLOGGER EXTRAORDINAIRE

Andy Millard, CFP, a NAPFA Registered Advisor and president of fee-only advisory firm Millard & Company based in Tryon, North Carolina, has mastered the art of producing good-looking video clips—without the help of a professional video team. This allows him to script and capture his thoughts more frequently. He posts his videos on the company website and a stand-along blog, cross-linking the two and using social media sites to “buzz up” the new content. He also uses an e-newsletter to push out the blog posts and videos to his “house email list.”

“My clients and strategic partners love the videos and blog posts,” Millard said in conversations with me at the FPA national conference last year. “It’s really added a richness—a sense of ‘knowingness’—to our business relationships.”

Millard continues to use the free Blogspot page he created while at one of the Social Media Boot Camps I led for FPA in 2010; he uses a mix of audio, video, photos and text.

DON’T DISCOUNT TWITTER

Since Twitter is closely correlated to blogging – after all, it is really just micro-blogging – and is fairly easy to do (especially if you automate some of the tweets you post), I also encourage advisors to consider adding that to their top tier social media tactics.

Don’t discount Twitter as a way to expand your reach.

A recent Forrester study provides these surprising facts:

  • People are more likely to buy from brands they follow (37% Twitter vs. 21% Facebook)
  • People are more likely to recommend brands they follow to friends (33% Twitter vs. 21% Facebook)

These factors are the yardsticks by which many social media branding campaigns are measured – and in the Forrester study show that Twitter may be an emerging market force.
Twitter can also be a wonderful listening tool. For instance, follow industry thought leaders, peers and journalists to see what they are saying. Respond to their tweets and post your own meaningful, related content. You may impress them enough that they’ll ask for an offline conversation.

Many journalists now have their own Twitter feeds and, if attentive, you can see trending topics or possible story opportunities or ways that you could serve as a resource. When journalists cover a breaking news item they’re looking for someone who can provide them with credible information about the news event and a new perspective related to that event -- insights into how and why something happened – or the ability to interpret the news event’s impact and/or future implications (e.g., how the news item is affecting other areas or industries, new threats or opportunities arising from or created by the news event, etc.). When you see an opportunity on to interact with a journalist or industry thought leader on Twitter, a fast intelligent response is required. Responding 24 to 48 hours later means you miss the boat. 

Advisors should proactively post short, catchy headlines and shortened links on Twitter (link shortening services include www.tinyurl.com and www.bitly.com). Learn to “bottom line it” and create a bit of intrigue. Think of yourself as a reading service, pointing the way to good information. Then try to engage people who follow you. Retweet their posts. Comment on their posts. Mix it up so you are not just talking about yourself – an example might be to post about 75% of the time with links to good content (your own blog, news sites, etc.) and a quick comment that will give people insight into your own business philosophy, and about 25% personal insights and character-revealing posts (such as motivational quotes or links to relevant snapshots).

To see how I do it on my own custom-branded Twitter page, Visit http://www.twitter.com/marieswift.

If you are new to Twitter, just start an account and follow a few people or entities you know and trust such as @finplan @marieswift @napfa @sherylgarrett @loringward @copytalk @bobveres @daviddrucker @fintechie @michaelkitces.

Once you listen and watch for a while, it will all begin to make sense.

GET THE ENTIRE SCOOP

The content above was excerpted from the new book (and my chapter, which is chapter 7 on building a strong online presence) Technology Tools for Today’s High-Margin Practice: How Client-Centered Financial Advisors Can Cut Paperwork, Overhead and Wasted Hours. It is available on Amazon.com, if you’d like to get the entire scoop in a well-organized 7000 chapter.

WHAT’S AHEAD

I’ll be speaking at a number of industry conferences in May, June and July, including the Investacorp national conference in Puerto Rico, the National Advisors Trust Company conference in Las Vegas, the Garrett Planning Network retreat in Kansas City and the Loring Ward conference in Monterrey. The best way to keep up with my appearances is to visit www.impactcommunications.org or www.marieswift.com.