Willie Sutton was quite possibly the best-known and most infamous bank robber of the 20th century. He spent half his adult life robbing banks and the other half in jail. There’s a story—more likely folklore—that when a reporter asked why he robbed banks, Willie supposedly looked the reporter in the eye and said:

“Because that’s where the money is.”

Putting aside the criminal nature of Willie’s profession, we all use similar logic when making many of our own decisions. We choose a venue because it’s popular with our ideal market, a content form that a particular audience reads and activities that prospective customers are proven to attend.

We go, do and act based on what best suits our objectives.

That’s why, when it comes to reaching investors, 90% of financial advisors are on social media and particularly LinkedIn. It’s where their clients and prospects are. According to a LinkedIn/Cogent Research report, more than 90% of high net worth (HNW) investors are on social media, and almost three-quarters use LinkedIn.

What’s more, 60% of millennials and 40% of all investors view social media as a critical financial investment resource.

But simply being where investors are isn’t enough to turn your social media efforts into a competitive advantage. You need to know how to leverage these social platforms. That’s why if you’re still using LinkedIn primarily as your online resume, then it’s time to level up.

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that firms that fully apply social technologies and platforms may raise productivity as much as 25% by enhancing communication, boosting collaboration, enabling knowledge sharing—even across the firm. Furthermore, between increased productivity, digital lead generation, savings on market research and reduced customer service costs, consumer financial services could gain as much as $423 billion.

And that’s not all. Top producers report that leveraging social media shortens selling cycles, helps galvanize strong relationships, allows for more interaction with clients and raises digital search results. More than 90% of top producers surveyed say social media helps them acquire new clients, increase their AUM by 10% or more—roughly 3X the gains of the average advisor.

Sharing your resume is just the tip of your potential. When you leverage LinkedIn, you can gain greater visibility, position yourself as a thought leader or expert in your field, network with both advisors and investors and generate viable leads. And when you know how to effectively systematize your efforts, you enjoy the benefits while spending as little as an hour a day online.

Tip #1: Don’t Let Fears of Regulatory Compliance Stop You

Before we get into the steps you can take to leverage social media, let’s address the elephant in the room—compliance. In fact, fears of falling afoul of compliance probably keep some of your competition more than a little reluctant to jump too aggressively into social media.

In truth, compliance if easier than you think. If you work with your compliance officer, registered principal or representative and get the training you need, compliance issues need not scare you away from social media or digital marketing in general.

Here are some steps you can follow:

  • Know Your Company Policies—Talk with your compliance director. There may be a policy manual you need to follow. The firm may have rules for how you set up your profile, including which email address you use and the boilerplate company statement and/or description you display. Your agency may also require company signoff before you begin actively building your platform and outreach strategy and/or the use of a content filtering tool that will prevent the use of phrases or keywords likely to trigger a regulatory violation.
  • Know Your Industry Regulatory Authority—Whether you’re under the authority of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), FSA, SEC or IIROC in Canada, there are some basic rules:
    • Static content (posts, profiles and website copy) must be pre-approved by a registered principal or representative of the firm.
    • Dynamic content (comments, Tweets, forum discussions) must be monitored but do not require prior approval.
    • Maintain a record and your archive content. Most primary platforms make this easy, or you can use a social media archiving tool.
    • Be fair and balanced in your posts; don’t leave out information just because it doesn’t suit your objective… that’s misleading.
  • Don’t Pitch; Provide Value—If you trying to pitch products or making recommendations on social media, you could trigger NASD Rule 2310. If a recommendation isn’t suitable for every investor that could possibly see your post on social media, it’s not appropriate content. The best approach is to build your relationship by providing value—useful articles, news and ideas. You want to position yourself as a go-to expert or thought leader. Then include links that move interested parties to one of your approved channels where a sales message is acceptable. You want the value you provide to drive people to your website, and ultimately to want to communicate by email and phone.

Tip #2: Make LinkedIn Your Primary Base for Social Activity

If you’re going to dominate in social media, you need to focus on a primary platform. You may want to use Facebook to build campaigns for inviting people to tax strategy or retirement planning seminars. But when you’re trying to build relationships with likely investors, LinkedIn is where you need to be. It’s the social platform for professionals.

In 2019, LinkedIn has more than 575 million users worldwide, and 133 million based in the United States. Almost half (about 260 million) are active on a monthly basis, and 40% of them go onto LinkedIn every day.

LinkedIn users range from college students to CEOs, from entrepreneurs to corporate decision makers. These are people who want and need investment advice—44% are taking home $75,000 or more annually. There tend to be only slightly more men (57%) than women on LinkedIn. Millennials represent 38% of the user base and that number is growing. What’s more, 11 million millennials on LinkedIn already hold leadership and decision-making positions.

Tip #3: Discover the Dirty Little Secrets of LinkedIn that Make the Difference

While Hubspot has identified LinkedIn as the top social media lead generator and 277% more effective than Facebook and Twitter, there’s even more valuable insight that many of your colleagues are apt to miss.

The first is that LinkedIn users are professionals. They don’t hang out on LinkedIn. They use it like the resource that it is for information, news and communication updates. On average, they spend 17 minutes a month on the platform.

Your best strategy is to post often, and keep your message short. If you are sharing other people’s content, post a short blurb that summarizes, makes a critical point, or alert readers to a key bit of information. Remember you’re providing value.

The same is true with your own original posts. If you post full articles on LinkedIn, open with a brief summary. Or post long-form content on your website’s blog and provide a short, compelling message with a link on LinkedIn.

Second, HNW investors are spending as much as three hours online every day, in addition to the time they spend on LinkedIn. According to a LinkedIn and Greenwich Associates survey, high net worth individuals (HNWI) are relying on social media for more of their news, insight and updates than the average investor.

More HNWIs want a dynamic, hands-on relationship through social media—whether through email, shared content or original posts. They report that they look to technology to provide real-time market news (53%), timely news updates (75%), direct communication about investment recommendations (78%) and interactive conversations and outreach about portfolio and any asset movement (56%).

Finally, the third secret has to do with the number of content impressions per week on LinkedIn…and who’s enjoying the benefits of those impressions. LinkedIn generates about 9 billion impressions/week. But only about 3 million users are regularly generating that content—whether through shares or original posts.

That means that just 1% of active LinkedIn users are receiving the visibility and clicks from those 9 billion impressions. That’s a huge competitive advantage just waiting for you to collect.

Tip #4: Identify Your Content Topic by Evaluating Your Strengths

What do you have to bring to the table? Do you have an area of professional expertise? Maybe it’s a specific asset class or industry where you can offer the most informed content. Or perhaps you want to focus on helping younger professionals get started early and on the right foot.

It’s critical that the area you identify as your strength (and that becomes the focus of your content) match up with your ideal audience. Otherwise, your messaging will be at cross purposes with the audience you are trying to attract.

Be honest; at the same time, don’t sell yourself short. You don’t have to be a recognized industry influencer, top performer or financial advisor to the stars to generate a following. Between 2012 and 2017, only 6% (669 of the top 10,000 posts) have been written by LinkedIn influencers.

If you have something useful to say, don’t hesitate to put it out there. You’ll gain experience communicating and gradually you’ll build a reputation. Who knows, you may become a recognized influencer in the future.

Tip #5: Be Authentic in Your Brand and Message

While you always need to be professional, the more transparent and authentic you present, the greater your ability to connect. When you are yourself, you don’t have to worry about remembering to get into a persona. Besides when the image is fake, people can sniff you out pretty quickly.

The best place to start is with a professional profile photo. Don’t post a snapshot a friend took of you on vacation.

To quote Hinge Marketing’s “evergreen” rules for social media success: Be human and be helpful. Translated, that means when you are yourself and focus on providing value, you’ll connect with your ideal market online.

Your first step, however, is to define your ideal audience by age, wealth and industry. This will keep you on message and help you select the right content to share.

Create a high-performing profile that defines your brand and telegraphs what you can do for the visitor. People make value judgments based on your profile. At the same time, they want to know how your skills and expertise can benefit them. Most of all they are looking for real.

You should consider making a small amount (no more than 10%) of your content more personal. It helps reinforce your authenticity. Subjects can range from notes about professional events you attend to an outing at the dog park with Fido. The key is to always keep your topics within reason and professional.

Tip #6: Keep It Fresh with a Non-Linear, Multi-Channel Approach

You want to engage at multiple levels to reach the most people. Some like to read quick posts, others want links and some prefer long-form content. Offer people a rich buffet of content, and avoid click bait and fake news. You only want your brand and reputation to be associated with content that is on par with your professional standards.

While your original content gives you the opportunity to build your reputation, sharing the best of other people’s content helps you stay engaged when you don’t have time to post original content.

And don’t lose sight of your objective. You want the chance to engage individuals by email, phone and ultimately in person. You’re using high tech to drive high touch, and that’s fine with your audience. Even 60% of millennial HNW investors find value in face-to-face meetings.

Tip #7: Don’t Guess; Get the Training You Need to Be Successful

When it comes to using social media to market your services, learn to do it right. If you’re unsure how to use social media effectively, get training through a professional organization, online educational resource or by working with a consultant. Don’t rely on your 13-year-old child to teach you how to be LinkedIn savvy.

And if your agency has been slow to adapt social media, move forward slowly. Maybe just one or two people should be approved for social media outreach. As you learn from their experiences, bring multiple voices and perspectives representing your firm online. You’ll gain the attention of a wider range of people.

Ultimately, you want to become a social organization. Build an agency-wide policy for both regulatory compliance and effectiveness.

Finally, as you identify what works for you and the firm, document every step and define your process to optimize your high-performance outreach. And systematize as many elements and components of the process as possible. This way, as you grow and scale, you can bring new employees up to speed quickly and even outsource to a third party without degrading the results.

Make social media a cornerstone of your business-building success… not some checked item on a list of to-dos.

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