In my last few years in the financial services industry, before leaving just over a year ago, the impact and potential value of social media was gaining both prominence and necessity of participation.
When our company established an ongoing internet presence in the late nineties, this was our official baptism as consultants to exposure in early social media. Shortly after this, we were allocated space for a consultant page wherein we could put basic profile information, and a slight degree of approved marketing. This was a time where one could get away with a more static appearance, being there as part of the big corporate picture.
Needless to say, in this new century and millennium, the mushrooming of internet-based social media options has created new opportunities for communication, but also procedural flags for those of us looking at involvement to help us professionally.
The administrative flag was made quite ‘visible’ three years ago at a fall conference in Ottawa. One of the seminars specifically concerned our use of the big three (at least for our purposes) namely LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. While the company sanctioned our presence on social media, particularly LinkedIn, there were a number of compliance caveats. Most prominent of these were that any postings on Linked-In needed to have approved wording if beyond our basic profile, and with all three we had to have our immediate level manager connected as a contact. The latter meant that managers had to police the content posted by their consultants. Therefore, it put the onus on us consultants to work within approvable parameters.
The content flag has been amorphous since the eruption of social media. Probably the foremost issue is to what extent they can be used for marketing as opposed to touchy, feely relationship building.
According to an article in the October 2014 ‘Insurance & Investment Journal’, the basic message is that many financial advisors are failing in using social media because of a focus on marketing rather than the relationship ladder.
The article makes two important points: that Facebook and Twitter are not really networks for professionals (although I knew one or two younger consultants in the business who would disagree); and that LinkedIn not only is the medium of choice for professionals across the board, but also that it is meant for taking time and energy to build relationships, not for marketing. Participants need to see such media as “a technological extension of their business network”, so that ultimately selling a product or service becomes “essentially leveraging relationships”.
There are also a couple of tips provided regarding LinkedIn: the value of having someone recommend you on LinkedIn is much higher (due to its perceived independent veracity) than on a personal website; plus, one should be prepared to spend time on the media every day, with content to share.
What this really illustrates is the importance of time management and delegation if feasible to succeed as a financial planner.
I can assure, based on personal experience, that there were already many other administrative and compliance issues to deal with in trying to market to prospects and service clients, before the tangent of social media came along.
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