Advisors are natural networkers.
That’s why they “gravitate toward [platforms such as] Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn,” says Clara Shih, founder of Hearsay Social. “These technologies help them amplify what they do, be more efficient and kickstart client conversations.”
Read: Keep clients devoted
Shih has helped professionals adopt social media since she developed the first business application for Facebook—now called Faceconnector—in 2007. In 2009, she published her social media guide for business owners, The Facebook Era.
Shih then launched Hearsay Social in early 2011, a company that offers social media solutions, such as a way to sort through the online posts of people you’re connected to. She says approximately 16,000 advisors have signed up for her services, and the majority (64%) has sourced new business online.
“For financial advisors, the sales cycle is long and client attribution is difficult,” says Shih. “It’s takes more than a single post, lunch or phone call” to land a prospect, and social media helps speed the conversion process.
During a recent visit to Toronto, she told Advisor.ca that planners can leverage online platforms in the following four ways.
1. Be findable.
“Before people decide to work with advisors, they search for them online to see if they’re legitimate,” she says.
So even if you aren’t comfortable posting on platforms like Twitter, Shih adds, “you need to develop an online presence that’s aligned with your brand.” The first step is to get on LinkedIn and to build a website that promotes your services.
2. Grow your following.
Invite existing clients to follow you on Twitter, connect with you on LinkedIn and visit your website. Think of colleagues, family and friends that can write positive reviews for you and help share content.
If advising is your second career, this step may be easier. Shih knows one B.C.-based advisor who started his practice after losing his jewelry business in 2008. He was well-known in his community, so he asked his previous customers to help him build his online influence and book. He became a top advisor in his region in less than two years.
3. Listen first.
Keep up to-to-date on what clients are posting, says Shih. People often announce life events that can affect their finances, such as births, on Facebook, and they highlight career news on LinkedIn.
But “there’s a lot of noise,” she adds. Look for statuses that include words such as baby, house and retirement, and send advice or congratulations. Monitor your top clients closest.
4. Follow etiquette.
“Emails and phone calls are pretty intrusive,” says Shih, while social media lets you start with the soft-sell approach. You can offer content that highlights your expertise and personality to a broad audience without eating up their time.
In the beginning, advisors often translate information from print materials like brochures and reports into more digestible, online formats for their followers, says Shih. The information is then “more easily consumable for someone who’s in line at Starbucks or on the subway, and [people] can forward posts” to friends.
When posting, focus on people’s needs rather than on your services, Shih adds. To avoid spamming followers, post content a few times a day (for clients who are active online) or a few times a week (for clients who use the Internet more sporadically), and make sure to “talk about your values and let your personality come through.”
Top social tips for advisors
- If you’re worried about regulators, contact compliance before deciding on a media strategy, says Shih. Some businesses have been reluctant to enable social selling but most are developing media solutions due to the “groundswell of demand from advisors.” Read: Regulation doesn’t stifle social media
- When you’re deciding which platform to use, think of your target market. If you deal with high-level professionals and wealthy clients, LinkedIn is a good place to start, says Shih. But if you’re a younger advisor with younger clients, you may find most of your prospects on Facebook.
- Twitter is where advisors can post about current news and trends to plant the seeds of client conversations, she adds. It also reveals people’s priorities and what they’re feeling in the moment, given most Twitter posts are reactionary.
- When using any of these platforms, always be open with clients, concludes Shih. If you’re riding in a charity race on the weekend, for example, talk about that race and why you’re doing it. Social media platforms are there to help you keep in touch with people, deepen connections and stay top of mind.
- If you’re more introverted, using social media will help you network. When meeting people face-to-face or making cold calls, you often have to think of responses on the spot. When posting online, you can take the time needed to properly phrase posts and reponses.