Starting a social conversation

Social media provides financial advisers with an ideal way to build credibility within the industry and engage with new and existing clients

In the age of digital transformation, the need to incorporate social media into a business strategy has never been more pertinent, although for some, starting the conversation can be a stumbling block.

The personal nature of financial advice, however, actually makes social media a natural fit for financial service professionals, says Greg Bright, director at Shed Social, a business which specialises in developing social media strategies for the financial services sector.

“It provides a fast and effective way for financial professionals to find, maintain and build networks among both new and old clients as well as industry contacts,” Mr Bright says.

Corey Wastle, financial adviser and co-founder of Melbourne-based advice firm Verse Wealth, notes that “the way businesses engage with their network and their clients is undergoing maybe one of the biggest shifts that we’ve seen”.

Social media, says Mr Wastle, is one of the best mechanisms an adviser can use to engage with their network.

“The effort you put into social media has a compounding effect, the same way as investing does,” he says.

If an adviser builds the right strategy, establishes a professional presence, and engages with their clients and business partners, there will be long-term benefits, Mr Wastle says.

Develop an effective strategy
To build an effective social media strategy, it is crucial to understand your audience and your aim. Seeking professional help is imperative if social media is to be an effective business tool, according to Mr Wastle.

“You can’t just jump onto a social platform; you need to respect every platform and behave in a very native way on each platform. There are systematic ways to go about getting results.

“Get professional advice on how to build a presence on the platforms that are going to be appropriate for your business,” he says.

Mr Bright adds that “financial advisers, of all people, should understand that professional help is always a good thing – especially if you are starting from scratch”.

Social media is also an effective way to promote a particular service or product.

“This can be done through online advertisements, content placement or – best of all – direct and tailored contact across a number of platforms,” Mr Bright says.

When creating a strategy, it is important to remember that social media channels are not all the same and each has its own benefits, he says.

“Twitter, for instance, has an immediacy [that Facebook and LinkedIn do not] and can have a much greater ‘kick-along’ impact through re-tweets.

“Facebook is definitely [the] more personal of the main three and therefore users need to be careful not to disrupt that personal trust,” Mr Bright says.

Michael Harrison, who develops growth strategies for professional services businesses at Strategies Plus, recommends that advisers take their time to master one platform.

“I think you are better off to decide which one suits you and your market and try to learn it well,” he says.

Mr Harrison advocates the use of LinkedIn and sees it as the optimal platform for business interaction. “In my experience, LinkedIn is the only tool that is really effective for business,” he says.

Build your credibility
Social media is a perfect way for a financial adviser to establish themselves as a professional and credible voice within the industry.

Mr Bright says this can be done “via commentary on industry issues or publishing pieces that will boost your profile as a thought leader in your field of expertise”.

According to Mr Harrison, the first step in building credibility is to produce original content and to post it on a platform such as LinkedIn.

“You need to publish some of your own material and not just recycle other people’s,” he says.

Mr Wastle, as co-founder of a newly-established financial advice firm, says he runs a structured campaign through LinkedIn to establish himself, and his firm, as a go-to expert within the industry.

“Anything that positions you as a professional, trustworthy, or ‘in the know’ in a certain area of expertise, you start to build trust and credibility in the eyes of your business partners,” he says.

While the benefits of producing content are hard to quantify, Mr Wastle is positive that business partners and clients will be picked up over time.

Enhance relationships
When it comes to relationships, the word ‘social’ is considerably more important than the word ‘media’, according to Mr Wastle.
“You use social media to engage with the people you want to engage with,” he says, adding that the more “touch points” that can be built into the client’s experience with their adviser, the stronger the relationship will be.

“It’s an opportunity to be giving them hundreds, if not thousands, of touch points throughout the year with content that they value,” he says.

According to Mr Wastle, if you become ‘front of mind’ with a client, the more likely they are to advocate your services. Moreover, advisers need to understand that their clients have leverage – particularly within their social network.

“If they want to, they can promote your business,” Mr Wastle says. “So if you can deliver a client experience that is worth sharing, or worth remarking about, that can be incredibly powerful.”

“Financial planning is a social interaction and we need to understand that,” adds Mr Harrison.

In the same way that advisers build credibility within the industry, the best way to enhance relationships is to provide interesting and original content. Client feedback on posted content is also useful, according to Mr Bright.

“For instance, social media is a great way to research the needs of clients and trends in the market, say, via discussions on LinkedIn and Facebook or by utilising and tracking analytics,” Mr Bright says.

“That feedback gives you a good idea of what your audience or peers might think on important issues. Even if it is not good, you will be the first to know and have an opportunity to respond or shift your focus.”

A key strength of social media is that it allows advisers to interact with clients, respond to industry trends, and better understand what clients want.

Head out of the sand
Using social media as a business tool represents a huge opportunity for financial advice professionals.

As Mr Bright points out, because many financial advisers have not yet adopted social media, those who have will have a significant advantage.

“There is increasingly more opportunity for financial advisers when they do connect online,” he says.

In fact, those who fail to start developing a social media presence will be disadvantaged in the long run, warns Mr Wastle.

“Don’t defer any longer: get professional advice on how to build a presence on the platforms that are going to be appropriate for your business, and start spreading your message,” he says. “If you’re going to put your head in the sand, you’re going to become obsolete.” 

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