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Social media for dummies, oops, financial advisors

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Just how much social media does a financial adviser need?

It’s a question that intrigues many other professionals too, as they come to terms with new realities of engagement with their clients, and an even larger number of potential ones. For financial advisors, the journey is trickier, considering the regulatory and other landmines that dot the liberal, and sometimes irresponsible, social media paths.

It’s no wonder then that the universe of advisers, although intrigued by the benefits of social media, is “still pretty far from fully embracing it,” according to Claudio O. Pannunzio, president and founder of the U.S. based i-Impact Group, a public relations firm specializing in finance.

“For those who have realized that it’s not a passing fad but an agent of change, that has radically transformed the way we communicate, social media has morphed into a mainstream tool to successfully attract new clients and grow their businesses,” Pannunzio, who recently conducted specialised social media workshops in Australia, told Anthill. “The universal challenge lies in understanding the medium and integrating it seamlessly into their business activities,” he added.

Pannunzio goes around the world laying out ways for advisers and other financial folks to navigate social media, besides leveraging their business potential. He urges advisers to look upon social media as a world-changing innovation – one that, like the wheel or the telegraph, removes significant barriers, rather than as an ephemeral phenomenon. As much as he points out the social media’s zero cost of promoting their business, he urges them to “share their insights and knowledge” without obsessing about what they will get in return.

“Honest, engaging and valuable input will not go unnoticed. Eventually, it will command respect and consideration and lead people to seek an advisor’s service and guidance,” he asserts.

Similarly, it’s not all about numbers. More likes on Facebook, or more followers on twitter, or a wider network on LinkedIn may not be enough. “Social media followers become a valuable asset only when they convert into brand evangelists,” says Pannunzio.

“The goal of a social media strategy for financial advisers is to position yourself with your target audiences as an expert, trusted source, providing them with valuable information, actionable ideas and tips that motivate,” said Pannunzio.

Pannunzio also offers the following seven golden social media rules:

1. Connecting:

Like good old networking, social media is all about connections. So build a solid network and leverage its power.

2. Listening:

Identify online sites clients and prospects most frequently use to gather investment information. Observe their interaction and check out the chatter before jumping into action.

3. Expert source positioning:

Clients and prospects use social media to search for information and help. So share knowledge and expertise, and position yourself as a trusted expert.

4. Active engagement:

Top-of-mind recall is imperative in order to win referrals. So make your presence felt with frequent posts, or by sharing others’ posts, articles and resources.

5. Creating brand evangelists:

Don’t obsess with metrics. Advisors who believe that by merely accumulating a significant number of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and Facebook likes will spark a flow of leads or new business, are in for a major disappointment.  Social media followers become a valuable asset only when they convert into brand evangelists — individuals who value an advisor’s expertise and knowledge and willingly sing praises of them, with their family, friends and online connections.

6. Social media strategy:

There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, prior to deploying a social media strategy. One of the most important is the need to put in place a sound social media policy that provides a blueprint for interaction and establishes clear rules to ensure proper adherence to compliance. These include, among others, rules and procedures for all users; understanding of responsibilities when engaging in online communication; promoting and maintaining compliance within all FINRA, SEC and other applicable rules.

7. Be social:

Share a lot more than mere finance tips with your friends on social media. Share other content such as hobbies, interests, community and philanthropic involvements in order to establish a truly personal bond.

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