There are two distinct camps among advisors regarding the benefits of social networks: people who need to be convinced, and people who don’t.

The “convince me” group, by far the majority, is still looking for evidence that social networking is worth their time and resources.

Read: Should you outsource social media tasks?

The “convinced” group clearly understands that online social networks can help extend their brands, build relationships with clients and attract business opportunities. These folks feel like they’ve discovered a powerful business development tool and, frankly, they’re fine with the majority’s skepticism – because it gives them a head start.

I reached out to three advisor teams that have embraced social networking to find out what they’re doing right. Here’s what I discovered.

The social advisor is more visible

Desmond Chow manages virtually all of the social networking activity on behalf of his advisory group at ATB Securities Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta. He spends about 45 to 60 minutes reading financial news each day, and shares the best pieces via the social scheduling tool Buffer. That results in five to six posts per day. When he attends events, he tries to be more visible by live-tweeting.

Chow started his Twitter account in 2011, the same year he joined ATB, and says his active social networking gives him an advantage over other advisors when it comes to being found in online searches.

“With Google’s algorithms, the more active you are online, the more relevant you become in searches,” Chow says. He credits his increased visibility in search and social networks with attracting at least eight new households to his practice since 2012.

He also shares personal finance articles on Facebook related to topics he thinks his friends would be interested in (economy, housing, mortgages, etc.). In one case, a friend who was living abroad and moving back to Canada needed help with transferring foreign pensions, so Chow stepped in. In other cases, when his friends’ financial queries are not related to his business, Chow refers them to his network of strategic partners.

Says Chow, “You have to make it part of your routine and business. If you’re not committed to doing so, don’t bother. You’re not going to see any true long-term benefit.”

Read: How to measure social media ROI

Getting value by adding value

Lorne and Chantal Marr operate LSM Insurance, an MGA in Markham, Ontario. The pair are active on Twitter and LinkedIn for business, preferring to keep Facebook for family and friends. Lorne allocates two 20-minute sessions per day for managing his social networks and also checks in if he has downtime before meetings.

When I ask about the benefits social networking brings to his practice, Lorne points to two new advisors that he met online and recruited to LSM in the past two years.

“Many brokers visit our website as we have a lot of content on industry-related issues. They generally reach out to me and my wife Chantal through the site, LinkedIn and/or Twitter.”

The firm posts this financial industry content, rather than product and service information, to its website several times per week. Posts feature original content or links to interesting third-party content. LSM employs a dedicated marketing director to drive their content publishing and social media activity.

“Our strategy is to engage in conversation and share content which adds value,” says Lorne. “As for return on investment, I can say it’s been profitable.” While he won’t share how many clients he’s attracted online, LSM has realized success is about more than just dollars and cents.

“I think it’s a great way to meet new people and gather new ideas,” Lorne says.

Read: Overcoming social media barriers

Connecting visually

When I asked PJ Wiese, marketing consultant for Allan Financial in Vancouver, about the ROI of her social media efforts, she’s quick to point out that no one asks her about the ROI of their phones.

“Social media is another tool to listen. It’s where your clients and prospects are.”

Founder Ross Allan has developed personal friendships with many of his clients over his 25 years in the business, so a Facebook page seemed like a natural social networking tool to use. The Allan Financial Facebook page has almost 500 likes and has become a place where clients and friends can connect and share stories. Plus, Facebook is conducive to visual sharing and Allan prefers talking about what he does, rather than writing about it.

Thanks to Wiese’s cinematic eye (she has a background in film production) and Allan’s comfort in front the camera, the firm has produced more than two dozen videos that range from straight talk about financial planning to poking fun at old-school insurance sellers to impersonations of prototypical clients.

Each video takes roughly two to three weeks to produce, and the goal is to reveal the people behind the firm to viewers.

The Allan Financial videos are distributed via clients’ preferred channels. Some clients are active on social, so the videos are embedded in periodic blog posts on their website and mentioned in social media feeds. Others want emails, so videos are included in newsletters and pushed out to those clients.

Wiese describes this as an 80/20 referral strategy: “Give your top 20% of clients something they can pass on to a friend or loved one that’s memorable and says ‘Hey, this is my guy. Check him out; he’s not like the others.’ [Then,] make it easy to watch on any device with a one- or two-minute commitment. Referrals get much easier after that.”

She says business has doubled in the past three years. “Is that because of the marketing? Not entirely, but it certainly has contributed to a healthy business ecosystem, and the videos made for exponential buzz. They are almost always mentioned by new clients.”

Jay Palter is a social media strategist and coach with two decades of experience in financial services, software development and marketing.
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