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Don’t let social media become a conundrum

Social media as a business strategy can be a conundrum for advisers.

On the one hand, it can feel like received wisdom at this point that firms without a strong social presence are falling behind. But in the universe of Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter and others, it can be unclear how to form a social strategy and to what end.

“RIAs definitely see the need for a social-media presence today, even if the value proposition isn’t always clear,” says Angela Giombetti, marketing manager at FiComm Partners in Los Angeles, who helps registered investment advisers with their social-media strategies.

Susan Forman, senior vice president of institutional services marketing at Schwab Advisor Services in San Francisco, makes a rather straightforward case for RIAs to hop on social media, however: That is where their existing and future customers are.

“Advisers are increasingly aware that their clients and prospects have new expectations when it comes to engaging with brands and products, characterized by seamless access to information whenever and wherever the consumer wants it,” she says. “We see this as only intensifying as wealth transfers from baby boomers to younger generations.”

Forman says that a “modern, professionally designed website,” paired with a presence on social sites such as LinkedIn “have become a core element of the marketing playbook.”

Questions about how to tap into social media to boost an advisory practice have become so pervasive among RIAs that custodians such as Schwab and TD Ameritrade have developed extensive guidance to help firms focus their thinking.

George Tamer, managing director of strategic relationships at TD Ameritrade Institutional in Fort Worth, Texas, says that the subject routinely comes up when his team visits RIAs.

“I think a lot of folks are asking, is it something I need to be doing, is it something I need to be planning for?” he says. “We help them create a social-media plan to drive success.”

TD Ameritrade Institutional counsels advisers to approach social media from the perspective of how it can help achieve their business objectives.

Put another way, how do advisers want to position their firms in the various social channels?

Does the firm want to be an educational resource? An industry visionary?

Perhaps a practice wants to showcase its high-touch customer service. Or maybe the social channel is a way to generate leads or boost engagement with existing clients.

Whatever the answer, it should guide the social-media strategy. But that isn’t the end of it.

Many advisers fall into the trap of “inactivity,” where they scramble to set up profiles on a variety of social sites but neglect to establish a process for managing and posting, which “means many pages are left dormant,” Giombetti says.

Tamer amplifies the point.

“If you're going to be out there trying to build a brand, you have to be committed to it,” he says. “You can't post once a quarter or once every few months or when you just think of something that you want to say.”

Giombetti suggests a scheduled of posting “once or twice a week on LinkedIn, once a week for a blog, daily on Twitter.”

Even with that accelerated pace, it can be helpful to remember that, at its core, social media isn't a complete departure from more traditional marketing channels. Think of the paper brochure or the static website of 10 or 15 years ago.

What the social space does, however, is “force-multiplies your ability to reach more people in a faster fashion,” Tamer says.

“It goes back to what has always differentiated successful advisers: What is it you do that's so different that you can articulate better than everybody else?” he says.

“That's never going to change. It's just how that information is passed is in this new medium,” Tamer says.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on strategies to boost your practice.

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