Being a good listener is key to social-media success

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Conventional wisdom holds that advisers must promote themselves on social media, but they also shouldn’t forget to focus on the unique interactive qualities that can help them become better listeners.

“Listening is a much better use of social media for financial advisers than using it to promote yourself,” says Brian Kuhn, a CFP with PSG Clarity in Fulton, Md.

Paying close attention to what others are saying online can help reveal client thoughts and concerns, he says.

Kuhn doesn’t even have to see his own clients tagging, liking or tweeting, as he can learn from many online sources.

Just as advisers need to listen carefully in direct client interactions, it is important for them to be attentive to parsing social-media messages.

“One of the things we do a lot now is ask questions on social media,” says CFP Brittney Castro, founder and chief executive of Los Angeles-based registered investment adviser, Financially Wise Women, who has focused heavily on social media for the past five years.

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By asking questions and really listening to the answers, she says she can better serve and attract clients.

Often, Castro finds that she gets answers that she never expected.

For example, several years ago, she assumed that her client base, professional women in their 30s and 40s, would be most interested in learning about investing.

Instead, Castro discovered that her audience was far more interested in learning how to save money -- for example, the best strategies for budgeting or for paying off student loans.

“We really love asking those questions because it’s a great way to engage,” says Castro, who says that she can then tailor her own social-media messages, which include weekly videos, to the real interests of her clients and prospects.

“A lot of times what I find is that people don’t really necessarily need long-term strategy. They are more interested in day-to-day things about their money,” Castro says.

“I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t ask and really listen to what they were telling me,” she says. “That’s huge.”

Listening on social media provides a great opportunity for attracting new clients, says CFP Sophia Bera, founder of Gen Y Planning in Austin, Texas.

“If someone is asking questions about a post or article you write, that can be a great way to engage with a potential client by encouraging them to sign up for your newsletter,” she says.

Don’t forget to thank them for their thoughts, Bera says.

Still, there are limits to social media, Kuhn says.

Although it is great to listen and engage on social media, the most meaningful interactions with clients are still direct, he says.

Even as a younger adviser, Kuhn says he doesn’t expect that clients will use social media to communicate with him.

“We may be connected, and they may like the articles I write, but that’s primarily the extent of the interaction,” he says. “If they are worried, they call or they email.”

Paul Hechinger is a contributing writer for On Wall Street.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on ways to upgrade your practice.

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