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Seven Tips on Developing a Social Media Strategy

The best financial advisors use social media to stay in contact with clients, increase their reach, and win new business. Here’s how.

Some financial advisors may still be hesitant to incorporate social media into their marketing and communications, and for understandable reasons. Their clients may be older and less familiar with social media channels. Advisors may work at established firms that still rely on traditional outreach. Or they may not be clear on how to stay in compliance with investor-targeted communications, thinking that there are more risks than rewards.

Yet those holdouts are missing a key opportunity. Virtually all companies, in all industries, now use social media to stay in contact with customers, raise the brand profile of their firm, and ideally generate new business. Financial advisors can do so as well. In fact, because the industry has been relatively slow to adopt these tools, there are clear advantages for advisors who are able and willing to jump in.

One note—like all communications to investors, social media is governed by strict rules, both in terms of regulatory compliance and within individual firms. For example, some firms prohibit employees from listing endorsements or recommendations on LinkedIn. Other firms let you publish only from a library of preapproved content or may not allow the use of certain media platforms at all.1 Whatever your firm's rules are, you need to know them and stick to them.

Here are seven tips for how to start using social media.

1. Think Strategically
You wouldn't start buying and selling investments without first understanding a client's current situation and long-term objectives. The same holds true for social media. It's a powerful tool, but it will only help if you have a clear objective in mind. Rather than simply starting to send out messages, take some time to figure out where you want your firm to be in three to five years, and how digital marketing (including social media) will help you get there.2

2. Analyze Your Audience
When you meet with clients, you probably tailor the amount of information to their level of understanding. (It's communication 101: Present information in a way your audience can understand.) Social media works the same way. You need to define your target audience, in terms of age, gender, other media channels they use, and what kind of personal-finance challenges and concerns they have.2 Critically, most firms have a particular type of client they specialize in, like business owners, high-net-worth families, or tech entrepreneurs.3 Those parameters will shape the way you reach out to them. Crucially, this analysis will help you narrow the list of channels you use. It's neither effective nor necessary to be on every social-media platform.

3. Analyze the Competition
You also need to scan the competitive landscape and figure out what your competitors are saying and what kind of response they're generating. Just like your firm's overall strategy, your social-media posts need to be differentiated so they stand out from the pack. You can only do that if you study the pack systematically.

4. Align to Your Overall Brand
All firms have a brand, and social media posts should reinforce that brand, not undercut it or confuse clients. Does your firm have a specific style for its communications—e.g., do you aim for informal and straightforward language? Do you focus on the complexity of your investment approach for more sophisticated investors? All communications, including social media, need to align with that brand voice.2 Even minor things like spelling and grammar need to be consistent.

5. Aim to Intrigue, Not Explain
The best social media content is short and specific. You don't have room to explain complicated investing topics, and you shouldn't try. Instead, use the channel to route people to your website, where you can engage with them by having them subscribe to an email list or request a longer publication with more detailed information.4

6. Think in Terms of the Funnel
For all products and services, customers go through a distinct process on their way to—ideally—becoming a customer. At the first stage (i.e., the top of the funnel), the goal is to raise awareness. In the second stage (the middle part of the funnel), the goal is engagement, so that people associate your brand with the products and services you offer. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, the goal is acquisition, or turning browsers into buyers, and then cultivating that customer relationship over time. Each stage requires a different kind of message.4

7. Send Messages When They're Most Likely to Be Read
Last, there are no iron-clad rules about the timing of messages, but the best time to get your messages to resonate with readers (based on click-through averages) is typically 1-4 p.m. The best day? Wednesday. The worst time? Weekend nights.1 These are general guidelines, of course, so you should test different days and times to find the best approach for your client base.

In sum, social media is becoming a standard part of how financial advisors operate. Those who think about the channel systematically and use it with a clear objective in mind will give themselves an edge. Those who don’t will find it harder and harder to compete.

1 James, Pollard. "7 Easy and Actionable Social Media Marketing Tips for Financial Advisors." The Advisor Coach, accessed Dec. 3, 2018.
2 "Beginner's Guide to Content Marketing." Moz.com, accessed Dec. 3, 2018.
3 Joanna Belbey, "For Financial Advisors, 15 Tips to Use Social Media (Compliantly)." Forbes, Jan. 3, 2017.
4 Michael Kitces, "What 'Works' in Digital Marketing and Social Media Advertising for Financial Advisors." Kitces.com, April 26, 2018.

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