Savvy financial advisors are using social sites to differentiate themselves from the competition and to build trust and credibility. Perhaps the biggest reason for financial advisors to get involved in social marketing can be summed up in four words: Your customers are there.

A recent study of high net worth individuals (meaning those with an annual income of $200,000 or more) found that 75% use Internet social sites such as LinkedIn for investment research. You can be a part of that process as you become skilled at social media marketing.

A recent survey of 600 financial advisors showed the effectiveness of the three major social sites in generating new business: 61% of the advisors using LinkedIn, 40% of the advisors using Twitter and 35% of the advisors using Facebook acquired at least one new client through these sites. That 61% is a pretty impressive number, so let's take a closer look at how you can use LinkedIn in your prospecting efforts.

LinkedIn is the only social network positioned as the network for professional connections. Facebook and Twitter are great places to generate business, but the people on those networks are more likely to be looking at pictures of their grandkids than looking for business contacts. LinkedIn has a variety of tools for professionals, and one of the features that's really handy for financial professionals are LinkedIn Groups.

LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are basically clubs inside of LinkedIn, centered around an industry or a topic. There are thousands of these groups, and the number of people in a group ranges from 5 to 50,000. Some of them are completely open to the public, while others are fairly exclusive and require you to be accepted by the head of the group. So, what do people do in these groups? It's actually pretty simple; they start conversations on a message board and then chime in when they have something to say regarding the topic. For example, the "Financial Planning Magazine Group," offers an ongoing conversation between advisors about topics of interest to financial professionals.

The most common use of LinkedIn Groups is as an opportunity to network with professionals and thought leaders in your own industry; a lot of people use it as a sort of sharpening stone for crafting their own perspective. For the financial professional there are some great Groups out there: Financial Advisor Network has 8,000 members, Independent Financial Advisors has 4600 members, and there are dozens more. These groups are typically sharing business building ideas and most of them are exclusive to financial professionals. All are great resources.

Using "Groups" as a Prospecting Tool

Trading ideas is all well and good, but I want to show you how to use groups to actually generate some business. I assume that a fair amount of your prospects are in the retirement phase or are approaching it. So let's start by going into LinkedIn and running a quick search of groups; just type the word "retired" into the search bar and see what comes up. When I did this I found over 800 groups with "retired" in their name or description. Now go over to the side filter and just have it show you "open groups." Open groups are groups that anyone can join. In my experiment that filter narrowed the list down to 200 or so. Just looking at the page, you will notice some big active groups in the list, for example, a "U.S Veteran" Group. If I had experience in the military, I might want to join this group. Select a few groups that are of interest to you and join up.

What you'll find is that on any given day people in these "retired" groups are starting conversations and posing questions about money, social security, and other topics that should be answered by a financial professional. And that financial professional should be you! If you're helpful enough (which should be really easy for you given your wealth of knowledge) you'll have the chance to build relationships and leads right from within the groups. Don't forget this is LinkedIn; people are here for business related reasons, so to pass up the opportunity to network and hunt for prospects is really to pass up the opportunity for free leads.

Each social site offers a different opportunity for prospecting and relationship building. Use LinkedIn groups to promote yourself as a professional by joining some conversations and showing your expertise. LinkedIn can become a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal as you use it wisely.

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