In an article in the July 2011 editon of Financial Advisor Magazine, David Lawrence discusses the value to firms for using social media. “For many advisors, the questions remain about how to integrate social media successfully into their practices. Can every financial practice benefit, for instance, from a Facebook page? Is Twitter really necessary? And perhaps most important, how can they be used efficiently without giving a financial advisor or staff extra work?
The answers lie in what sort of financial practice the advisor has, what the demographics of the clientele are and to what extent these tools can be efficiently integrated with the other technology already in use at the firm.
For example, if a financial advisory firm has created a Web site for its practice but never tried to discover who is visiting the site, what’s being looked at (through page counts) or how often people are returning, then the firm will have no idea whether what it has posted is resonating with clients or the public. Running statistics on a client base and/or surveying clients to determine their interests could be two ways to begin the process of understanding what content should be on the Web site. Once this is determined, adjusting the content to match these wants and/or needs can have a remarkable effect on the site statistics.
The same is true for a Facebook page. Though different in character from a traditional Web site, it is still a communication medium, and the content, posts and other information should be carefully reviewed to determine its effect on the visitors to that Facebook page. Without this sort of feedback, the advisor will have no clue about whether the effort of creating the Facebook page was successful.
And quite frankly, setting up such venues without consideration of an overall strategy for the firm is a mistake. Consideration should be given in any messaging medium to have clear, consistent messaging that reflects the firm’s long-term strategic goals. If your Web site suggests that you focus on wealth management and your Facebook page emphasizes your role as primarily an insurance firm, it is inconsistent messaging that will confuse visitors rather than clarify who you are and what you do.
Consistency in communication is the key. Web sites, social media sites, printed material, newspaper ads, radio advertising and other forms of communication with the public should have a consistent theme that reflects the message you wish to convey to that public. And while not all of these venues may be appropriate for advertising, all can be used for some form of messaging and communication.
Facebook can be used for more than just simple messaging. One of the many features of Facebook that can be leveraged in a practice is the creation of groups. Creating a group is easy and there are three levels, private, open and secret. With private, anyone can see the group, but only selected “friends” can post to it. (‘Friends’ could be your clients, for example.) Many advisors are using groups to create a kind of private blog for their clients. However, care must be taken not to violate the rules on what constitutes improper ads or misleading claims with such a feature.
Events can also be created. This is a feature in Facebook that could be used to announce fund-raising activities or to organize a client appreciation dinner or another event. The feature is free, and if your clients use the site, it is an inexpensive way to draw attention in a new and compelling way (photos can be added). Facebook is certainly not the only tool in the social media world. But it is currently very popular and well known. Thus, it is probably more likely to be used by your clients than a lesser-known site.
And yes, Facebook offers ads. Perhaps the most tempting aspect is the possibility of accessing the more than 600 million users. Yet this is the area that concerns the regulatory agencies the most. As with any communication medium, Facebook and other social media sites have many great potential benefits for financial advisors, but care must be taken in adopting its use in a financial practice to ensure that it complies with the rules and that it enhances the overall image of the firm. In the end, the use of social media should be integrated with all other communication forms in an efficient manner for it to complement an overall communication strategy.”