8 MIN ARTICLE
Editor’s Note: Use of social media for business purposes is subject to home office approval. Financial professionals should seek approval from their home office before engaging in any of the social media practices outlined in this article.
For the unacquainted or casual user, social media can seem like an unruly frontier full of potential landmines. But advisors with successful practices actively use social media platforms to acquire new clients, the lifeblood of growing firms.
In Pathways to Growth: Capital Group’s 2021 Advisor Benchmark Study, our research found that advisors experiencing the highest growth made client acquisition a focus and were more likely to cite direct marketing and social media as top ways to attract new clients. In fact, these growing firms allocate 50% more of their marketing spend to social or digital media, showing that it can pay to engage with both prospective and current clients on these channels.
Many advisors, however, are reluctant to fully dive into social media in a professional context. Some work for firms with strict social media policies that make it difficult to engage, while others are stymied by misconceptions about what social can do or who it’s for. (In any case, it’s important that you check your company’s social media compliance policy when creating or refreshing your accounts.)
“One of the biggest roadblocks is that it comes across as a waste of time,” says Tahnya Parachuk, marketing communications manager at Capital Group.
If this or other concerns have kept you from making social media part of your marketing plan, here are six social media myths worth reconsidering.
Myth 1. Social media is frivolous.
Who doesn’t enjoy viral videos of cats riding Roombas or dogs howling along to pop songs? Still, amid all the (admittedly entertaining) noise, there is opportunity to not only find prospects, but also to engage with existing clients.
Social media can be an important marketing channel for acquiring new clients. An active social media persona allows you to define your practice by sharing stories about why you do what you do, and how you help the clients you serve. These types of posts can help to establish trust with prospective clients as well as build closer ties with existing ones.
In today’s workplace, where many business functions have shifted online, it’s even more important to have a robust digital presence that supports the growth of your practice. Social media is as much a part of this presence as your website and can even help improve the rank of your practice in Google search.
At heart, social media is a discovery tool — for you and clients. When current clients post about their children, pets or hobbies, those create openings for you to interact with them. Likewise, prospective clients may poke around your feeds to get a better idea of who you are, how you spend your time and what you believe in.
“If somebody referred any type of service provider — a plumber or handyman — I would always look them up,” Parachuk says. “Why wouldn’t you do the same for a financial planner who’s helping you manage your life savings?”
Next step: Set up branded social media profiles. Update existing profiles to infuse your brand message and tell your story.
Myth 2. My clients aren’t on social media.
Advisors need to be where current and prospective clients are, and more people are on social media than you think. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media adoption in 2005, just 5% of American adults used at least one of these platforms. By 2019, that number shot up to 72% of the public, and the majority were daily visitors.1
Additionally, social media is increasingly where people get their news and information. For financial professionals who are able to share content, these sites are virtual podiums that can help you create pathways to wider distribution and highlight your expertise to those who otherwise would likely not see it. As you build up followers, they might share your content within their networks, which could increase your visibility among potential referrals.
The content you share can have an added benefit if it gets picked up by an influencer, media outlet or even the website of another business. These so-called backlinks are weighed favorably when Google ranks your site in search. As your audience amplifies your content, it can indirectly improve your search rankings. Once readers visit a firm’s website, advisors have a better chance of obtaining a prospective client’s contact information for more direct outreach.
If clients and prospects are on social media, and they might be negatively surprised to not be able to find you there. So it’s important to investigate the ways your firm allows advisors to be and interact with others on social media.
“If a client is looking at three advisors, and two show up online, and you don’t, it doesn’t leave a good impression,” Parachuk says.
Next step: Connect with your clients on social media. Consider joining affinity groups where clients or prospective clients are or may be.
Myth 3. I don’t have time.
Social media does not necessarily require a huge time commitment. The key is to have a consistent presence and make the most of whatever time you have to devote to these channels. Even an hour each week dedicated to developing your profiles and connecting with clients can be meaningful. Another thing to consider is reviewing the thought leadership available on your firm’s website and looking into your firm’s compliance policy about sharing any of that material.
If you can share this thought leadership, map out a schedule that can help you to outline when and where you should post certain content. For example, you may offer tax planning insight in February or end-of-year financial planning in early November.
Another way to take advantage of social networks is to spend time scrolling through the feeds to get a sense of what’s dominating the chatter. Just allocating around 15 minutes a day can give you an opportunity to learn about what’s important to your network and provides entry points to strike up conversations with them.
As your social media strategy evolves, you can explore software that allows you to program posts for the weeks ahead and provides data on which posts get the most response.
“The more you put into your social media strategy, the more you’ll get out of it,” Parachuk says. “As you dedicate time, you’ll see the engagement as your network grows. That will be motivation to dedicate more time.”
Next step: Review your calendar and choose days and times to devote to social media. Try the LinkedIn to-do list for a few weeks to see what it yields.
Myth 4. I’m on LinkedIn. I’ve got it covered.
LinkedIn is generally considered more “professional” among the large social media platforms. Its search tools are designed to help you see the connections among your network and expand your potential client base. In many ways, having a LinkedIn profile is the minimum viable presence for most professionals, serving as a digital business card.
But if your firm’s policies allow you to post on Facebook or Instagram, those two platforms can enable you to engage in a more personal way.
For example, Instagram’s photo-first nature can help illustrate clients and prospects at different times of their lives: retirees on vacation lakeside, beaming students posing with degrees on graduation day, hospital photos commemorating the births of new children and grandchildren.
Images are powerful and can help to forge connections among you, your clients and prospects. Their strategic use can be good way for your posts to stand out. Keep in mind that images are copyrighted, but you can find royalty-free imagery or create proprietary graphics instead.
Next step: Create a folder of images for potential use in posts. Find royalty-free images using Creative Commons licenses on websites like Flickr and Unsplash.
Myth 5. I have a profile. I post. I’m done.
Creating and posting content is only one part of the social media equation. “Sharing content isn’t going to do any good if people aren’t seeing it,” Parachuk says. “How will people who don’t know you find you?”
One easy way to make sure that your intended audience sees your content is to use hashtags — which is the use of the pound sign followed by a short phrase or keyword that describes your post. For example, for content related to clients’ retirement goals, consider hashtags like #retirementplanning or #retirementgoals.
Social media users search for content they’re interested in by plugging in (or simply clicking on) hashtags to help narrow their results. By adding relevant hashtags to your posts, advisors can essentially convene a virtual gathering of people interested in a particular topic.
If you are unsure which hashtags to use, do a few searches using the candidates you are considering. “That’s a great way for advisors to get up to speed on what people are looking for and how they can tailor their content to meet that need,” she says. “The key is to not be so specific that your search becomes too narrow. And try not to use jargon; use words or phrases that regular people would use.”
Next step: Research and deploy hashtags that might amplify your posts and help direct them to your intended audience.
Myth 6. Social media is too self-absorbed
Yes, social media can seem to be a string of never-ending selfies, but real conversations are happening, too. That’s why listening to what’s being said around your posts and other content on a newsfeed is just as important. Don’t just scroll through newsfeeds absent-mindedly. Pay attention to and use reactions and commentary on your posts, or posts on related topics made by others, as chance to engage. “This ‘listening’ becomes important, because it provides context for how to jump into conversations,” Parachuk says. “Listening is what provides the opportunity to add value.”
After all, social media is a window onto what’s happening with the network of your network. Have clients’ friends tagged them in pictures of their new grandchildren? That could be an opportunity for you to ask if they are interested in content you have on financial planning for new parents with their children.
Perhaps you see chatter on a news article among users who are seeking debt or investment advice? That could be a chance to link to (legally approved) tip sheets or other insights you have on these topics, or to provide information on how to find and work with a financial professional to reach your goals.
Next step: Use social listening to find opportunities to engage in conversations with people you might not otherwise reach. Jump in and mingle (virtually) with new potential contacts.