- Todd Copilevitz
You’ve got to feel for professionals in the financial services industry. All the world is talking about the power of social media for marketing professional services, but there is a seeming mountain of regulations standing between them and an active Facebook page.
And yet who better to ride the wave of social media than a breed of individuals who have the ability to talk to people about the most sensitive issue we have, money. The problem is there’s a very tricky line that financial services professionals have to toe or risk falling into a world of trouble.
The Wall Street Journal defined the line quite nicely.
“It’s one thing for a baker to crow about his cupcakes on Facebook or for an athlete to talk trash about an opponent on Twitter. It’s something else entirely for an adviser to talk business online; there are rules, after all, that govern advisers’ public communications, to protect investors from being misled. And nuance—so crucial when discussing money and investing—can be lost in the social-media world.”
Indeed, just over two years ago FINRA recognized the need for guidance to keep members from going over the line with their social media endeavors. Regulatory notice 10-06 outlined a series of guidelines. Social media guru Glen Gilmore captures them quite nicely in his presentation on Slideshare, FINRA’s 10 Commandments of Social Media Engagement for Financial Firms. It should be considered required reading.
The crux of the regulations is that you have to watch how you talk about specific products, keep good records of discussions and make sure employees are aware of the regulations when they use social media for work.
But if you’re fixating on the ins and outs of what you can post on Facebook, or tweet about, then you’re really missing out on the sales and marketing potential of social media for the financial services industry. Instead focus on the potential for building a window into your clients’ lives.
For years now the industry has bombarded clients with questions about their lifestyle, dreams and needs. And yet we know that these barrages put clients on their heels and seldom deliver anything more than superficial view of their needs.
There’s a reason why so many brands have tried to paint their advisors as friendly people that clients will want to share a cup of coffee with, or maybe more accurately a beer, along with their true life’s ambitions. But that seldom happens.
And that’s the real opportunity for social media in financial services – not for selling, but for learning. Using Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools lets you keep tabs on not just a few, but hundreds of your clients. You’ll know when they change jobs from LinkedIn, if they’re planning a wedding on Facebook or Pinterest, even if they are having anxiety from the day’s news headlines via Twitter.
One planner noted that checking his news feed told him a client was checking in at a family reunion on Four Square. That allowed him to drop the guy an email asking how the event was going.
“It shows you’re paying attention to them, which is what our clients are screaming at us [about] all the time,” he told the Wall Street Journal. Which makes sense, because the very heart of social media is to keep us connected to our friends and family in a way not possible in the bricks and mortar world alone.
Six Ways for FAs to use Social Safely
1. Encourage your clients to connect with your profiles by providing them your links on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
2. Decide early on if you’re going to maintain separate accounts for business and personal use. If you aren’t, make sure to manage the permissions for your friends list so you’re not over sharing.
3. Listen regularly, but inject yourself cautiously. There’s a fine line from being aware and wearing out your welcome in their news feed.
4. Keep the communications casual. This is a social channel, make sure there’s nothing proprietary or inappropriate in your communications with clients.
5. Share. If you aren’t willing to share something of your life, then don’t expect to have access to their lives. Post vacation photos. Ask for tips on new restaurants.
6. Use the channel to share news and information links that clients may find helpful. Avoid editorial comment, except to point out factual information they should see.
From one perspective marketing is, after all, only a way to extend what you would otherwise accomplish with sales. So think carefully about how this now socially connected world is really an opportunity to extend the dynamics of one to one selling. That’s why an approach that integrates the ability to know your prospects more closely with your marketing efforts can empower your sales efforts in ways you never thought possible.