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Advisors Must Shift LinkedIn to the Top of Their Social Media Strategy

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Advisors who want to connect with their peers and expand their businesses should create blogs and LinkedIn profiles, then master the compliance rules needed to run those accounts effectively, said speakers at the Women Advisors Forum in New York on Thursday

The numbers are compelling, as 61% of advisors using a LinkedIn account said they have acquired a client through it, says Marie Swift, president and CEO of Impact Communications, citing a Hubspot 2011 survey of 611 advisors. Also, 47% of advisors using a blog said they had acquired a client through it.

“When we think back 10 years ago, the thought was: ‘What is the use of a Web site?’” says Swift, who is also a regular blogger for Financial Planning. “When we look back, social media will be the norm. It’s the way the way we’ll communicate and connect.”

Advisors should use industry keywords throughout their LinkedIn profiles and include working URLs, so the profiles will always appear high on Internet searches Swift says.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is pilot testing social media protocols, says Valentina Chtchedrine, the company's vice president of digital strategy and experience. LinkedIn is the hands-down preferred mode of social networking for advisors, she says. It is a gathering place for professionals, so it offers plenty of resources to gather client leads and do so with lots of personal privacy.

LinkedIn allows users to search for firms and personal connections based on zip codes. The site displays results according to which users are in the advisor’s network, Chtchedrine says.

The firm is finding that Twitter is a useful information-gathering tool, as opposed to one where advisors volunteer a lot of information, she says.

Facebook, the overwhelmingly popular social networking tool, can be useful for business purposes if advisors use it correctly, Swift says. Business Facebook accounts should use photos and be rich in other visual media, but advisors should always be circumspect about what they share on those Web sites.

The established social networking sites are just the beginning for advisors who want to ramp up social media strategies, Google+ is gaining traction among advisors because users can sort their contacts into groups and tailor content to those groups, Chtchedrine says.

There are also several popular applications to augment existing social media and networking profiles. Instagram, now in talks for a $1 billion acquisition deal with Facebook, allows users to easy photo sharing. Also, Pinterest allows users to share videos, photos and other content centered on areas of interest.

Advisors should also make their LinkedIn profiles more dynamic by including slideshows, voice-over narrated PowerPoint presentations, and videos.

Building effective social media profiles might seem overwhelming, but it can be done, said the speakers. Advisors can tackle the task by familiarizing themselves with the features and developing strategies for how to use them.

Women are known as natural communicators, but social media sites should be reigned in from sharing too much for compliance reasons, according to the speakers. On LinkedIn, for instance, regulators consider profiles as advertisements. Recommendations are seen as testimonials, making them subject to SEC prohibitions on testimonials in advertising.

LinkedIn has functions that allow users to filter recommendations before they go live, so they can finesse out any language that would raise red flags with regulators, according to Swift. If recommendations come in that cannot be used, Swift suggests keeping them in an electronic journal and reviewing them later as affirmations.

There are also third-party firms available to help. The Faulkner Media Group, which provides digital marketing tools, and Emerald Connect, which provides digital marketing tools to financial services professionals, provide compliance-approved content. Advisors can also ask their broker-dealers, custodians and newsletter providers for guidance.

Advisors should avoid the temptation to always post the same message across several platforms at once using aggregator sites like HootSuite, says Swift.

Above all, be judicious about how much is spent on social media sites, the speakers said.

“Choose where you are going to spend your time,” Swift says. “Whatever you decide is your strategy, budget your time and stick to that, because it can be time consuming.” 

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