To be or not to be on social media: That isn’t the question. Today, it’s a must for financial advisors to have a digital presence, and that doesn’t mean just putting up a website and hoping prospects will find it.
There’s a strategy for using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to reap marketing results, as Lisa Turley, senior vice president-advisor marketing at Raymond James (RJ), a leader in social media for advisors, tells PC360, in an interview.
Turley shares top dos and don’ts for putting those three platforms to work to attract prospects and network with business partners and potential advocates.
While a website is the heart of the advisor’s digital brand, the most productive way to direct traffic to it is via social media.
Raymond James introduced social media for its financial advisors back in 2011. Now a big 80% of the firm’s 6,600-plus U.S.-based advisors are using it for digital brand-building.
Part of advisor's marketing plan
Turley, who educates RJ’s financial advisors on how to use social media effectively, sees that effort as part of an advisor’s marketing plan, as well as an excellent way to increase the number of touches to current clients.
PC360 recently spoke by phone with Turley, who joined Raymond James nearly 23 years ago and is a member of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association's Social Media Roundtable. She says that RJ is now inspiring advisors to take an even deeper dive into social media marketing. Here are highlights of our interview:
PC360: What’s Raymond James’ newest plan for financial advisors to connect with clients and prospects on social media?
LISA TURLEY: Our goal is to continue to encourage them to become more and more active, moving from the comfort level of posting prewritten content to posting all custom-created — personalized — content. That’s where we see the real value. Many firms discourage or prohibit that. But we feel it’s important for advisors to personalize content to the audience they’re trying to reach.
How much has Raymond James invested in putting its advisors on social media?
We’ve made a commitment to it, and there’s an expense associated with that, which we feel is well worth it. [But] we don’t disclose the scope or size of our vendor relationships because it’s proprietary information.
What’s your relationship with technology vendor Hearsay Systems? The firm’s Hearsay Social helps financial services firms compliantly engage on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.
We’ve worked with them exclusively for advisor social media support since 2013.
Do you require all financial advisors to be on social media?
Absolutely not. [But] we highly encourage them to establish a basic presence — to have their LinkedIn profile complete and professional — and to use social media to post content, both curated and custom-created.
What if an advisor says, “I have a very robust business, so I don’t need to participate in social media”?
We hear that, and often from people who have very successful practices. We ask them how they typically grow their businesses. Most often it’s through referrals. Today, one of the early stages of client engagement is to Google the advisor’s name to learn a little about them and see their credentials, team and value proposition. So, having a media presence and a digital brand allows advisors to represent that brand to prospective clients.
What’s another good reason to be on social?
It’s a way to establish thought leadership, particularly if the advisor has an area of expertise or certain client niche or service that they offer.
What choices do you give financial advisors when it comes to the content they can use?
There are three options. One is a preapproved library. [But] increasingly, as advisors become more [social media] savvy, they’re writing custom posts to deliver that content; for example, a link to an article or infographic. They’re personalizing the library of content so that it resonates more with their clients and connections.
What’s the third option?
They can write their own content — custom posts from scratch, whether it’s thought leadership in an area they have expertise or sharing something that personalizes their practice, like community involvement or other lifestyle topics.
What restrictions are there in what financial advisors are permitted to say?
They’re the same as with [traditional] marketing or communication channels: certain language and certain guidance. We don’t think social media is the right spot for them to provide investment guidance or product solutions. Rather, we look at this as an opportunity to share thought leadership or to distinguish themselves with their expertise — but not in a technical way.
What about political opinions?
We recommend staying away from controversial topics. Conversations that might be inflammatory in person or could cause division with the client aren’t appropriate on social media, so [we recommend that financial advisors] stay away from those. There are exceptions, however; for example, where a big part of an advisor’s personality and client conversations are around topics such as their political leanings.
Do financial advisors have to clear everything they want to post?
Yes. For Raymond James & Associates and Raymond James Financial Services advisors, the posts pass through Hearsay’s social media tool for compliance approval before they’re published. But independent RIAs associated with Raymond James manage their own compliance review process.
Please discuss do’s and don’ts for advisors on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Twitter, for instance, is a forthright way to promote oneself, such as: “I’m on the way to give a speech about so-and-so at such-and-such convention.” Do you recommend that?
Yes, it can be appropriate. Invite your clients and colleagues to follow you. If you’re publishing a lot of thought leadership on Twitter, you may share that information and say, “I’m going to be publishing content on “X” topic; please follow me if you’re interested in learning more.”
What else is Twitter good for?
It’s a great way to highlight something that’s on the advisor’s website. That’s one of the key perspectives about the effective use of social media: trying to direct traffic back to the website, which is the real hub of the advisor’s digital brand.
Who are the types of tweeters that financial advisors should follow?
Influencers and news sources. Retweeting their content is a great way to leverage or curate content. Follow someone that you want to follow you.
Should advisors follow a large number of people and companies?
Certainly finding the right thought leaders and news sources to follow is important. But having a high volume of followers is not necessarily key to reaching the right people.
What else do you recommend when it comes to the tweets themselves?
They should reflect current events or something in the future, less emphasis on the past because of the currency of that platform.
How often should advisors tweet?
We encourage posting frequently with a goal of one item a day at minimum. It’s OK to republish a tweet. You can republish it a couple of times periodically to avoid its being lost in the Twitter feeds because of the speed at which they travel.
What are some don’ts for using Twitter?
Unless you’re able to regularly share content on thought leadership, for example, it’s probably not the right platform to be on — again, because you’ll be lost.
What’s a sufficient amount of followers to have?
I think you need a reasonable number in order to spend time and energy posting content. There’s an opportunity to gain momentum and grow the number of connections exponentially.
Any other don’ts?
Don’t ask for retweets of your tweets. People retweet things they think will resonate with their audience. Retweeting, or other kinds of planned sharing, [signify] a [fairly] high level of endorsement.
So asking for retweets isn’t appropriate.
Now, on to the do’s for LinkedIn. What are some?
That’s typically the social media platform most advisors begin with and the one they’re most comfortable with. Definitely spend time building out a professional profile. LinkedIn is one of the most highly ranked social media platforms that surface [in search listings] when someone Googles your name. It’s an important place to post business-oriented content. We recommend posting three to five times a week.
If an advisor sees what seems like a good prospect on LinkedIn, should they try to get in touch?
LinkedIn is one of the best tools for gaining insights into prospective clients, whether the advisors reach out to someone direct through the site or use it as a research tool and then make contact in a more personal way. We often see the most successful advisors doing that, perhaps through a connection that can introduce them or by sending a personalized communication to the prospect.
There are various levels of LinkedIn accounts, some that have a cost attached. Do you encourage advisors to step up or stick with the basic one?
More advisors are choosing to sign up for a premium account if they really want to have a depth of information-gathering. We don’t offer premium accounts through the corporation, [but] I think there are at least several hundred advisors [at RJ] that are using some type of premium LinkedIn account for prospecting or insight-gathering at their own expense.
Any advice on the type of headshot — facial expression and attire — that financial advisors should post on LinkedIn?
Often they use a professional photo. Personalizing it so that your brand is consistent across the entire digital [landscape] is important. If you’re presenting yourself on your website in a relaxed way, it’s appropriate to have your LinkedIn photo be consistent with that. But I wouldn’t go too casual on LinkedIn because it’s a business platform. If advisors have a unique brand they’ve created at Raymond James, we’ll help them carry over a related logo or image to social media.
Any other LinkedIn don’ts?
Don’t republish content there because LinkedIn tends to keep content that’s been published, so it [will be] duplicated.
Moving on to Facebook. What are some do’s? Invite clients to “Like” your page. It’s a nice way to connect with them. Many times clients aren’t aware that an advisor has a business Facebook page. So [telling them] that you have one means you can talk to them about how you’re sharing content or, for example, invitations to your events or special activities.
What’s another do for Facebook?
We encourage advisors to use Facebook to personalize their practice. There are some exceptions to that, such as advisors who have institutional clients or, in some cases, when there are privacy concerns with ultra-high net worth clients.
What sort of content do you suggest for Facebook?
Highlighting events and community involvement are examples. We recommend that advisors include lifestyle content — and definitely photos. We encourage them to post content five times a week but no more than once a day.
Any Facebook don’ts?
Technical commentary isn’t the right thing to publish there, and we don’t typically recommend that they republish content on Facebook.
What are the Five Stages of Client Engagement via social media?
Scrolling is the first. That’s where prospects are skimming past posts, perhaps not reading them, but they’ll be aware of your brand and business.
Stage 2 is where they stop to read those posts, and their perception of your brand is heightened.
Stage 3: They’re now more directly interacting with your brand, clicking through the posts and maybe viewing more in-depth content.
Stage 4: They’re beginning to endorse you, in a way, by “Liking” content that you’ve published and acknowledging they’ve found it valuable.
Stage 5, the highest form of endorsement or interaction, is when they feel the content is valuable enough to share on their own page to their network of connections. So they’re really becoming advocates for your brand and the content you’re sharing.
What happens after Stage 5? What’s the advisor’s next step?
If people are sharing content and “Liking” it, the hope is that they’ve already viewed your website. We’re encouraging advisors to share information posted to their websites often. So reaching out for a more formal introduction now would certainly be appropriate.
Do your financial advisors assign a staff member to take care of posts and manage social media for them, or do they handle it themselves?
Some use social media very independently: They write their own content, post it and make their own connections. Others that [head] a team, particularly a large team, select a member that appears to have a little more interest in social media and is more savvy about it, and delegate some aspect of using it to them.
Raymond James obviously thinks that social media is important for advisors and that it’s far from being a nuisance.
It’s [always] beneficial to reach clients or potential clients where they are, so our advisors are learning to use this new channel. More and more clients are in the generation that has grown up using social media. So if you’re not on it, you’ll miss the opportunity to communicate with a lot of people.
Jane Wollman Rusoff is a New York-based freelance writer and was a contributing editor of Research magazine. She is the founder of Family Star Productions. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @jrusoff2.
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