Advisors using Twitter and other social media platforms should be allowed to speak their minds, says Earl Evans, head of Macquarie Private Wealth. “Everyone’s tweeting, but in most organizations it’s prefabed and pre-approved as opposed to the spontaneity,” he says. “We allow people freedom of speech and freedom to market.” It’s a different attitude compared with many counterparts, but it’s also consistent with the platform agnostic approach the firm’s taken with the advisor teams it works with—they can develop client bases, fee structures and so forth as needed, with minimal interference from the dealership.
Evans points to one team whose blog has received 30,000 hits over the past six months as evidence it’s willing to put their uniqueness forward and acts as a platform for their operations. “It’s embracing it at a firm level and encouraging the advisors and making it easier for them to do,” he says. “Otherwise they stop putting forth ideas because it’s just too hard.”
A similar attitude about social media is in play at T.E. Wealth, says Wendy Greene, manager, communications and social media. She says about 75% of the firm’s 36 advisors are on LinkedIn, seven use Twitter, and eight contribute to its blog. “If you’re unable to trust your own employees to speak well of themselves and the company, you’re facing a bigger problem,” she says. “Do you need to give your employees a rule book on how to use the phone? If we presented a list of rules, it would deter people. We wanted them to focus on the opportunity and not on the worst-case scenario.”
Mike Philbrick, an advisor and portfolio manager who heads Macquarie’s newest downtown Toronto branch, says higher-end advisors also aren’t comfortable being handed a pre-approved package of bloggable or tweetable articles that don’t necessarily reflect their own views. “If your advice is independent, why shouldn’t that be the case with media?” says Evans. “We should trust people to speak their minds.”
When it comes to enforcing social media compliance, T.E. Wealth goes with a principles-based approach, and uses examples to explain to advisors what’s verboten. “You wouldn’t rant about an altercation with your manager,” says Greene. “Read a tweet before you retweet it; if you retweet something, it indicates you agree. Don’t give specific advice.” The policy, while general, still has teeth. “If employees are found not complying, they may face consequences up to and including dismissal. But we’ve never had to do that.”
The company also has two corporate Twitter accounts, @TE_Wealth (English) and @TEMirador (French). How have their clients reacted? “Our clients are high-net-worth and are generally older,” says Greene. “They’re mainly using LinkedIn and Facebook. But I think it’s important to also have a presence in other areas of social media to help with corporate brand awareness. [Client] demographics are always changing and we’re ready for when they get there.”
T.E. Wealth’s tips for LinkedIn
- Under your name, showcase what your expertise is (this may indeed be your title, but if your title doesn’t clearly explain what it is you do, use this area to explain).
- Post a comment, questions or a link to an interesting article on your homepage (top of page, beside your photo). Do this at least weekly to keep your account looking active.
- If you do connect with a client, ask them to post a recommendation about you on your profile. Similarly, if you can recommend a connection, do so—they will appreciate it.
- Enter industry terms to search for alumni, industry, or professional groups to join (top right corner). Join and participate in the conversations. This is a great way to meet others and position yourself as an expert. Check the groups once a week.