Basic Adviser Strategies for Social Media: Carving out a Niche
“It’s just software that facilitates our ability to communicate with each other. It’s about ways to connect with people, and ways to be social.”
At the 2014 CFA Institute Wealth Management Conference, Michael Kitces of Pinnacle Advisory Group began his presentation with a simple assertion: “Social Media” is just a new term for the basic networking activities that financial advisers have been doing for their entire careers.
The CFA Institute Wealth Management Conference is an annual event covering tools and strategies important to private wealth management, including financial planning, practice management, and client relationship management. The CFA Institute Wealth Management 2018 Conference will be held in Los Angeles, California, on 28–29 March.
The strength of social media, according to Kitces, is that its broader scope allows advisers to identify and build trust with an audience of potential clients in ways that would not be possible with traditional referral marketing and networking activities. Not only can advisers use social media to focus on a specific client niche, but it’s also a better idea than trying to compete with larger firms that put more resources into serving a general audience for financial services information. Kitces, who has previously written about the need for financial advisers to carve out a niche for themselves, warned that that on the Internet, “niches thrive, generalists don’t survive.”
“You can build a niche, you can build a focus, you can demonstrate an expertise in working with a particular group for almost anyone,” Kitces said. As an example, he cited an adviser who serves the financial needs of bass fishermen. “He’s been in that community since he was young. He’s known everybody in that space all of his life. . . . He’s built a business working with all of his heroes. That’s actually how he states it.”
Financial advisers from outside that community might not identify bass fishermen as an underserved market — it turns out that tournament winners end up with millions of dollars in prize money that they need to invest — but advisers can build an audience by drawing from their own interests and engaging with the online communities that that are built around them.
Once advisers have identified their ideal communities, they need to find the most effective ways to connect through social media platforms. “Just showing up on social media is not really going to get you much results,” Kitces warned. “If you want it to grow and be successful for your business, it has to be part of a broader strategy.” He went on to discuss ways that different platforms can fit into an adviser’s strategy. You can watch this video of his presentation and read platform-specific recommendations below.
Kitces suggested that advisers play to their strengths when developing their presence on social media, using “whatever communication style is most comfortable for you. . . . People aren’t going to trust you if you’re clearly uncomfortable with what you’re doing.” Different platforms have their own advantages.
LinkedIn is good for advisers who want to reach professionals or people who are currently employed, but not a great way to reach retirees. Kitces noted that “an astonishing number of advisers say they’re getting business from LinkedIn,” although he warned that these could be cases in which a LinkedIn listing was the only point of contact for advisers with no other web presence. The network is a good way for advisers to show up in search results, and it has become “a kind of minimum credibility mark,” according to Kitces. (For more help building your LinkedIn profile, see “Four Strategies for Building Your Professional Brand on LinkedIn.”)
Kitces cited the quick conversations that happen in real time and spontaneous engagements as Twitter’s key strengths. The network’s immediacy makes Twitter “one of the most powerful platforms for relationship building,” and the large number of journalists using Twitter make it a good place for financial experts to establish credibility and demonstrate value by engaging with the media. (For more on running a successful Twitter account, see also: “The Financial Adviser’s Guide to Twitter.”)
Most of the opportunity in Facebook comes from its large number of users, although the network itself is more informal, “like a Super Bowl party.” Kitces discussed recent demographic shifts that have been occurring within Facebook’s audience, naming Baby Boomers as the fastest growing demographic in Facebook’s user base, while the number of teenagers on the site has been declining. Kitces also pointed to oXYGen Financial, which focuses on financial services for Gen X and Gen Y clients, as a firm that is using the network successfully.
Due to its status as the second-biggest search engine on the Internet, YouTube offers a powerful opportunity to connect with clients. However, Kitces warned that it is an approach that is better suited for advisers who are comfortable appearing in front of a camera. For an example of an adviser who is effectively using YouTube to reach an audience, Kitces named Jeff Rose of GoodFinancialCents.
Website, Blog, and Content Hub
An adviser’s website is now the first point of contact with potential clients, and Kitces underscored the strength of a blog as a way to create an anchor for all of the content that advisers create on other media platforms. A blog can serve the same purpose as a newsletter, although blogs have an advantage over newsletters because they show up in search results. Kitces cited Brittney Castro of Financially Wise Women as an adviser who has successfully created a content hub to serve a specific audience.
During his presentation, Kitces noted that advisors also need to have a social media compliance policy in place for their firms, saying that there were several tools available that can automate the process.
The remaining challenge for advisers is to find time in their schedule for social media activity. Kitces had a suggest for that: “Start by taking all the networking meetings that you’re not actually getting business from, cross them off your calendar. You’ve now freed up some time.”
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