We can talk for a long time about why financial advisors should incorporate social media marketing into their practices.

The manifold benefits include giving an advisor total control over his or her image and infuse the practice with a modern feel that attracts a broader client set. But this new social media undertaking has taken off so rapidly, enveloped so many in a short time, that advisors hardly have time to ask themselves an important question: ‘How do I know that this really works? How can I measure the direct impact on my practice and my bottom line?’

Socialware, a firm based in Austin, Texas, claims to have developed a software program that will allow financial advisors to answer those questions. The program, called Voices, is supposed to distribute business content via social networks and measure the content’s impact on their businesses. It’s an important boomerang effect that does not get enough ink in all the discussions about employing social media in a practice, the company said.

Marketing and sales channel staff can use Voices to run campaigns with pre-approved content that is customized to each salesperson’s contacts. And they are compliant, Socialware says. Each Voices user also has an individual and personalized Website landing page. Here, prospects and clients can view all of the shared contact and interact directly. Customizable dashboards use data from the landing pages to figure out if the user’s social media messages are effective.

I had a chance to meet with Mark Matson, founder and chief executive officer of Matson Money, a Cincinnati, Ohio-based investment advisor firm recently, and he talked about the effectiveness—as he measured it—of using social media.

Matson has dived into using social media completely. He runs a Facebook page and hosts a weekly Web-based show, Matson Money Live, to share his insights on investing and coach advisors on running their practices.

Within minutes of a meeting with Matson, he might launch into an argument, energetically, for why advisors are essentially giving away their hard work in financial planning. It is enough of a challenge that financial advice has become so commoditized, he says, but advisors tend to think that free consulting upfront is an acceptable loss, so long as they can land that client and charge for services later.

It won’t work in the long run, he says. Advisors will wear themselves thin running one-on-one meetings with clients, losing the passion for their profession. That has to go, no matter how accustomed advisors are to the format. It is easy to understand why Matson doesn’t do that anymore. He estimates that a typical practice is squeezing out a net 17% in profits from revenues, while the rest goes to operations.

Now, that doesn’t mean an advisor cannot run a lucrative firm and enjoy what they do, according to Matson. “Advisors can have massive amounts of freedom and money, but not with the traditional financial planning model,” he said.

Instead of envisioning the client base as a series of individual relationships, advisors need to think of themselves as leaders of small groups. Instead of individual meetings, they can do quarterly meetings or seminars, host Webinars, and of source, spread their messages online using social media.

It is all about leveraging all of the key tools and components of a successful enterprise—time, marketing, clients, back office operations and media. After years of studying how successful entrepreneurs sustained their businesses, he says they all had leverage in some or all of these areas.

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