Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is rolling out LinkedIn and Twitter to its full 17,000-member financial advisor force with the aim of helping to make time spent in front of the computer more effective than cold calling client prospects.

The rollout of those platforms follows a successful pilot including 600 of the firm’s advisors. Of those participating advisors who used the social media platforms on a daily basis, 40% were able to attract new clients through their efforts, said Lauren Boyman, executive director of digital strategy, social media and content at Morgan Stanley.

“There was an understanding that social was here and here to stay, and it was a new tool and a different way of networking,” Boyman said of the pilot participants. “Once that buzz kind of gets out there in the branches, there’s a recognition from other [financial advisors] as well as other managers in the field that this is something that others should take part in.”

Morgan Stanley is at the forefront in allowing its financial advisors to use social media. Other firms have begun to adapt to the new medium. Bank of America Merrill Lynch has a corporate Twitter feed, but its advisors are not on the platform. Wells Fargo has also pushed out its own corporate Twitter feed and Facebook page, and will begin piloting Facebook to its financial advisors later this year. Regional firm Wedbush Securities began allowing its financial force to start using social media in January.

Morgan Stanley’s full social media roll out was never a question of if, but when, according to Boyman, and is happening now after the firm made sure it can appropriately monitor the content and that its technology is working.

Advisors who have used the platforms have come to think of LinkedIn as a tool for networking and finding clients, while Twitter allows them to have a more direct marketing campaign, Boyman said.

The firm offers a library of pre-approved content that its advisors can choose from. That content addresses topics including reports on market moves; the firm’s research on investment strategy; wealth management topics such as retirement, women and wealth and divorce; and general lifestyle content. Wealth management themes tend to do particularly well, Boyman said, and is frequently retweeted on Twitter.

Advisors seeking more help with the platforms can turn to Morgan Stanley’s business development organization that can teach them to use the sites and a call center where they can direct their questions. For more in-depth assistance, they can solicit additional coaching from technology vendor Socialware.

The key to success on social media for financial advisors is to be systematic and develop regular habits, Boyman said. That includes regularly scheduling time to check the sites, such as checking LinkedIn for ten minutes while they’re having breakfast. Advisors can also use the platforms to expand their marketing by tweeting about upcoming seminars and having participants do the same.

“They just have to change the way they think about the time that they’re spending marketing themselves,” Boyman said. “That time spent in front of their computer is actually time really well spent as opposed to doing other more traditional marketing tactics that may or may not get them results.”

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