Forward-thinking financial advisors are incorporating social media into their marketing plans. You should consider including a few social media tactics, too.
A recent study by Socialware (a social media compliance/archiving solution for advisors and financial institutions) on the use of social media by financial advisors reveals that 60% of the advisors that use social media feel that it has made a positive impact on their practice, 34% have used it to generate new client leads, and 17% have used it to attract new clients.
According to SocialGloo, a social media consulting firm, three billion applications were downloaded in less than 18 months from Apple’s App Store, demonstrating that users are consuming more and more information on mobile devices.
In a book entitled “What Would Google Do?” Jeff Jarvis talks about how Google has used the Internet to impact culture, marketing and advertising. Jarvis makes the point that customers are now in charge. He says the mass market has been replaced by a mass of niches and that openness is a key to Internet success. Networks, and the platforms upon which they are built, enable customers and users to create products, businesses, communities, and networks of their own.
Advisors who use Web 2.0 and Social Media strategies online can build buzz and generate awareness that compliments traditional networking and marketing strategies. Here are six good reasons to step into the water:
1. Electronic communication is a good tool for creating more personal and frequent connections with your clients. Connecting with clients in multiple ways can make your relationship stronger.
You can’t just rely on “once removed” communications such email, newsletters, quarterly reports, your blog or Twitter feeds, website or YouTube posted content, of course. Nothing will ever replace the power of a face-to-face meeting in your office, a wine tasting or golf outing, a year-end holiday party, a handwritten note, a birthday phone call, or a town hall meeting / seminar for your clients.
Social media and, indeed, all web-based communications, should however be a supplement to your traditional marketing and client communication activities. That said, more and more of your clients—and their heirs—are going online to do research, get information and socialize. And, as the Pew Report revealed (see last week’s Marketing Maven contribution), older Americans may be less inclined to travel for meetings and get-togethers. As we age, health issues, family obligations, traffic hassles and busy lives may give us pause. In addition to cutting travel time and costs, clients who are environmentally conscious may decide that attending a webinar, sipping a cup of tea in the comfort of their own home, beats driving to your office or meeting venue. A trend in the industry that we believe we’ll be seeing more of is advisors offering both live and virtual events so that clients have choice.
2. In addition to “touching” your clients more often and in different ways, electronic communication can also help you generate referrals. If a client likes your content, they’re likely to forward it to their friends or post it to their social networking site–thus marketing your name and services. This can create a viral spiral as people forward good information via their own social networks, blogs, websites or through email or good old word-of-mouth.
For instance, I created a short Video Postcard (http://bit.ly/xRXIJP) letting people know how to find me at the TD Ameritrade national conference this week I posted the link on Twitter, LinkedIn and my blog. The “share button” made it easy for people to “favorite” or “share” the information with friends and colleagues. I could see how many people were opening and watching the video thanks to a nifty system I’m using to create and distribute branded videos on-the-fly.
3. Enhance search engine page rankings (SEPR). When people Google you, what do they see? You want lots of positive information to come up about you and your firm. The more positive items that come up on the first page, the better you will be perceived. The trick is to populate the worldwide web with positive media mentions, published content and credibility-boosting web listings such as Paladin Registry inclusion, NAPFA Membership, FPA Membership, Garrett Planning Network Membership, Baron’s Top Advisors list, Financial Advisor magazine’s Top RIAs list, etc.
A LinkedIn profile usually comes up high on the first page when people are using a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo to find out more about you and your firm, so having a good LinkedIn profile is a highly recommended first step as you enter the social media and networking world online.
Some on what comes up online when you are Googled can be self-published content such as articles and commentary you put on your website and/or blog, or that you contribute as a guest post on a colleague’s, association or community/group site.
Many advisors are now using a blog system such as WordPress (www.wordpress.com) or Blogger (www.blogspot.com) to create short, less formal (but still professional) posts online. Think of a blog like your website—which can indeed contain many of the new media options such as videos, audios and multimedia presentations—but your website should really be more “business formal” whereas your blog can be more “business casual” in nature. Both work together to build your online presence, so cross-linking is key.
Another great way to boost your search engine rankings is to subscribe to www.financialadvicenetwork.com.
If you are short on time (and who isn’t these days), Peter Montoya is now offering ready-to-use social media content through his Marketing Library system (www.marketinglibrary.net).
4. Traditional PR and Media Placements can be enhanced via a cross-linking, buzz-building strategy. During a Google search, it is also important that people see content, bylined by you or quoting you, that was published by a credible news outlet such as Financial Planning magazine, Morningstar, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Parenting magazine or Psychology Today.
Anyone can write a blog, but not everyone can write and publish a good book or be quoted in the LA Times. Use your blog, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn profile, website and presence within other online social networks to help more people see and acknowledge your traditional PR efforts.
5. Being a part of online groups and following people can provide good business intelligence. You can learn a lot about your clients, prospects, strategic partners and competitors by using social media as a listen-and-learn tool. A great way to start with Twitter, for instance, is to simply sign up for a free account, search for some people you know using the built-in “find people” tool, and watch the stream of information go by.
You can set up lists on Twitter so that certain people and conversations are grouped together. You can also use a social media dashboard such as TweetDeck, HootSuite or the paid alternative Radian6 to monitor keywords (your own brand, clients, friends and competitors), manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Wordpress and Blogspot profiles, schedule messages, etc. LinkedIn has also recently upgraded the way it can be set up to work as a social media dashboard of sorts. Google Reader or a similar RSS feed/read system can cut down email distractions and give you a place to quickly review information such as Google News Alerts based on keywords that are important to you (e.g., your name, your company name, a key client or competitor’s name). Twitter, in particular, offers you the opportunity to monitor what customers are saying about your firm in real-time, while allowing you to respond instantly.
6. If your clients and colleagues need a place to group online, you can easily start and manage one specifically for that purpose. As you learn more about existing social networks and online groups, you may want to sign up and look around before you commit much time. Ask your clients if they belong to any web-based social media groups. If you find out that a handful of clients congregate in a specific place, such as Eons, “the online community for spirited BOOMers who want to explore their passions, keep in touch with friends, connect with interesting people,” you’ll want to check it out. You can also Google key words such as “social networking site for baby boomers” and see what comes up.
Let’s say you are a part of a group of community leaders interested in promoting financial literacy for high school students. You can quickly and easily establish your own social networking and information distribution / workspace using a service such as WildApricot.com, Groupsite.com or Ning.com.
Bottom line: A good Web 2.0 and social media strategy coupled with a traditional yet new-age media relations strategy can work hand-in-hand to build your reputation and visibility. Both fall under the public relations umbrella. A coordinated effort will yield the best results.
Next week, the Marketing Maven will discuss the good ways to integrate social media and new media such as video and multimedia content into your marketing plan.
On the conference front, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and new at the TD Ameritrade Institutional National Conference: Feb. 1-4 in Orlando. Look for me in the Social Media Lab and let’s dialog about how you can take the next step forward in building your interactive online presence! Follow updates on the 2012 TD Conference on Twitter @TDAmeritradePR keyword #TDAI2012. View a Video Postcard from me here: http://bit.ly/xRXIJP