These days, your social media presence is more than an opportunity – it's a mandate.

Thanks to today's social networking platforms and the plethora of digital assets that can be produced with little effort, financial advisors now have the opportunity to connect with current and potential clients in ways that weren't possible prior to the advent of websites, blogs, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

BUILDING TRUST

Believe it or not, people trust business leaders more when they have an active social media presence. Research conducted by GroSocial shows that 82% of consumers trust a brand more when its senior leadership are active on social media.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, building trust requires a demonstration of clear personal values and societal benefits, and also that companies behave with integrity and engage with clients and stakeholders.

"It is vital to communicate across all platforms and in every priority area – operations, purpose, products and services, engagement and integrity," says Deidre Campbell, Edelman's global sector chair.

"Eighty-three percent of those we surveyed told us that 'keeps my family safe' was an essential attribute [of a financial company] – but only 56% thought the financial services industry was performing well on this measure," Campbell adds.

REINVENTING MODERN LEADERSHIP

These changes can't be ignored by firm leaders. "This is an ideal time for the reinvention of modern leadership," says Ann Charles, founder and CEO of Brandfog, a company that promotes social media leadership branding for C-Suite executives.

"The role of the CEO has evolved to become more visible, social, connected and accessible than ever before. The competitive environment has likewise been transformed, and customers, investors and stakeholders expect to have access to the insights and vision of brand leaders on a continuous basis. C-Suite executives who ignore this trend do so at their own peril."

Modern leadership -- which today entails having a strong online presence -- in our industry is exemplified by Mark Tibergien of Pershing, Mark Casady of LPL, Michael Kitces of Pinnacle, Joe Duran of United Capital, Sheryl Garrett of the Garrett Planning Network, Nathan Bachrach of Simply Money, Cheryl Holland of Abacus Planning Group, Gordon Bernhardt of Bernhardt Wealth, and many more.

"We are witnessing a fundamental shift in the culture of leadership, brought upon by social media, but sustained by the strategic inventiveness of smart CEOs," Charles explains.

"While social media is new, the nexus between communication and leadership is not. Many of the world's greatest leaders — from Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, Jr. to Steve Jobs — have been highly skilled communicators. Social media, in all its forms, empowers CEOs to improve their communications skills, deepen their connections with people inside and outside the company, and emerge as more effective leaders," Charles says.

'BE HUMAN'

But leaders aren't perfect and don't have to be. According to Steve Stava, co-founder and CEO at Creelio, a social media marketing and branding company, "high trust leaders" are those who are willing to show their personality – and even their vulnerability.

"I know this sounds completely counterintuitive to the command-and-control methods of the industrial economy, but in the connection economy, leaders are those who are great communicators and are willing to be human in public — flaws and all. Today, leaders come from everywhere and don't need to be at the top of an organization for permission to communicate," Stava says.

How you present yourself and your company online and in person is one of the few ways that you can differentiate yourself from all of the competition. So, make sure you are making the most of your social media platforms. Sharing bland, impersonal content is just as bad as not sharing anything at all. If all you have is a stale website, a generic LinkedIn profile, some canned content on Facebook and a couple of tweets, the impression most potential clients and strategic partners will have is that you're remote, unengaged and uninteresting.

AVOID 'ADVISOR SPEAK'

First impressions, increasingly happening online, matter. According to eye-tracking research conducted by the Missouri University of Science and Technology, it takes less than two-tenths of a second for a website visitor to form a first impression. It takes only another 2.6 seconds for that first impression to be reinforced. That's a lot shorter than the standard seven seconds you get to make a first impression in person. Do you look like a modern leader or a no-wow, dime-a-dozen advisor?

If you want people to trust you with their money, they're going to have to trust you as a person. This means revealing things about yourself. Show your personality. Be vulnerable.

Language is used to communicate meaning, but when all people hear are corporate buzzwords, much of that meaning or authenticity is lost. "Advisor speak" is often solely concerned with rules and regulations, and overly focused on echoing the sentiments advisors think people want to hear: security, opportunity, risk management. Instead of the warmth and caring that these words aim to communicate, advisor speak can appear manipulative, impersonal and crafted.

So it's not so far fetched to ask the question: "How would you describe your company's voice?" If you're not sure of the answer, you might look to see if your company communications (both internal and external) are a little impersonal and inconsistent.

THE CONNECTION ECONOMY

In today's economy, especially for financial advisors, prospective clients want to connect with and trust the service providers and companies they select. It's a whole lot easier to identify with a company that is the expression of its people and demonstrates some humanity versus one that comes off as an emotionless robot.

In his book, The Icarus Deception, marketing genius Seth Godin states that one of the reasons our economy has changed dramatically is because the digital world doesn't offer scarcity as a driver. This abundant and interconnected resource has all but eliminated supply-and-demand for products, services and information. The thing that holds actual value, then, is trust.

To be successful in this so-called connection economy, Godin says we must become "high-trust leaders." To be high-trust leaders, we must create opportunities for both employees and clients to harness their creativity and unique vision, as opposed to just following instructions or plodding along. The connection economy allows leaders to make more meaningful connections and partnerships with those around them.

Today, if your website and social posts aren't helping to connect and inspire others, then these platforms probably aren't delivering any value--and they could be hurting your brand.

Does your blog and social media content sound canned, bland or impersonal? It's time that it sounds like you.

As president and CEO of Impact Communications, Marie Swift leads a team of marketing communications and PR professionals serving financial institutions and a select group of independent advisors. 

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