When used effectively, social media can represent a boon for wealth managers, offering a way to keep in touch and build relationships with prospects and clients and stay updated on important life developments across your network such as a marriage, a new child, relocation or a retirement announcement. These milestones often provide an opportunity to revisit portfolio arrangements for current clients or an opening to reach out to potential new clients when they need it most.

But which social media tools should advisors use and what steps should they take first? There are five essential questions every advisor should answer in order to effectively grow their connections, referrals and business on social:

1. Who are you?

Yes, you are presenting yourself as a financial advisor and resource, but to get noticed on social media it’s important to make distinctly personal connections through sharing information that’s personally relevant or relatable with a client or prospect.

With that in mind, consider what other interests and attributes might inspire someone to connect with you. Are you a community leader, parent or not-for-profit volunteer? Your whole persona is greater than the sum of your parts and the image you want to portray will greatly impact which social media networks you use, as well as the manner in which you communicate.

2. What do you have to say?

Start by just “listening” and watching what your contacts are saying on social. This will help give you a feel for what your connections are specifically looking for as well as when they will be most receptive to the services you have to offer them.

Once you’re ready to start sharing, keep in mind the old adage, “content is king.” On social, sharing compelling information that is both relevant and timely to your specified audience is of the utmost importance. Due to compliance requirements, today many financial services organizations require advisors select from pre-approved content libraries. In these cases, consider how you can personalize content or add context to make it relevant to your audience before posting. If personalizing content isn’t an option at your firm, think about which topics are most relevant to your target audience and choose to share those resources.

Every advisor should employ a unique blend of content and techniques depending on factors such as age, the financial services firm they represent, the type of clients they currently serve and the type of new clients they hope to attract.

Check out the infographic below to help determine where your target audience is engaging online.

Image Credit: GlobalWebIndex

3. Who are you trying to reach?

Think about why you are reaching out to a particular individual. Answer questions such as:

  • Do you have an expertise in an area you know would benefit them?
  • Are you connecting with others in your community or people you have a commonality with, like a shared professional group or fellow alumni?
  • Are you someone they already know and trust? If not, how can you begin to get them to know you to build that trust?

Keep in mind your audience on each social network will also have different expectations in terms of engagement, content and personality. For example, on Facebook interactions tend to be more personal in nature, like sharing news of a new baby or a new house purchase, while on a site like LinkedIn, the interactions are more professional in nature like sharing a new job title or company news. Make sure the content or information you share is relevant to each social site.
4. How does your audience want to be reached?

When you were just "listening," what did you notice about their preferred methods of communication? It’s important to know what works best for your prospect; more so than what works best for you.

Whenever possible, ask clients and prospects directly: “How do you prefer I contact you?” You’ll be surprised by what you hear.

The key is the extent to which you can adapt your communication style to each of these channels. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answer – there is only what works and what doesn’t within the confines of your firm’s compliance policy.

5. Once you connect, what’s your plan?

Good news: You’ve finally made a connection and reached the right person. You have their attention, now what? One of the key benefits of social media is the ability to offer timely information when your audience is most receptive to it. Specifically, moments defined by life-changing events like those previously mentioned -- a job change, new relationship or a child going to college -- are typically when your clients will be most receptive to financial advice, resources and information.

Having a plan for both identifying these moments when they occur and for how to best serve as a resource can go a long way to securing relationships and growing your business. This could be in the form of sharing a piece of content, like information on how to roll over a 401(k) to a contact who started a new job at a new company, or sending a congratulatory email when a contact announces a new baby to the family along with an offer to discuss college savings accounts.

Case in point: An advisor we work with recently noted that a valued clients’ son had been accepted into a local university. The advisor used this as an opportunity not only to congratulate the family by purchasing the son a celebratory gift (a hat from the university) but also to offer help with financial planning before the tuition bills arrive.

Despite what some experts might tell you, there is no single path to success on social. The key is to find your unique voice on social, which should reflect your voice in the offline world. Remember, the same things clients find compelling as you build lasting relationships face-to-face also apply to social media – trusted advice, authenticity and valuable insights.

Joyce Sullivan is the vice president of social business programs for Socialware.

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