There are oceans of educational material out there for financial advisors on guidelines and best practices for how to be successful with social media; articles, blog posts, slideshares, whitepapers, webinars, videos, and so on (most of which is very helpful, and I would definitely recommend using as much of it as you can to your advantage). However, you can read and watch as much as you want, but oceans of material alone won’t necessarily help you make social media waves large enough to see ripples in business results—not without the proper approach (a.k.a. the “X-Factor”).
For a financial advisor, here's a good mind-set to have going into social media: “I’m not your buddy, and I’m not a big-bad-business”. That’s your mantra. Everything you do after that is about shaping your audience’s perception to position yourself between the two. Because when it comes to being effective with social media, there is a certain intangible quality—an “X-Factor”—that works only to the advantage of those who manage to keep their online relationships in the grey area between personal and professional.
The Social Media “X-Factor”: To be liked as a person, and respected as a professional, but without coming across as a "buddy" or "big-bad-business".
Being “not too personal” and “not too professional” can be a tricky thing to do, but with some solid ground rules and a few minor tweaks in your social media etiquette, you can separate yourself from the pack right from the gate.
Ways to tell your audience “I’m not your buddy, and I’m not a big-bad-business”:
Do not sell. Do not sell. Do not sell. I can’t say it enough. Social media is not your traditional advertising medium. There is no hierarchy of marketers and consumers—the playing field has leveled and it’s now a two-way stream. Everybody has equal power. Therefore, nobody wants to network with somebody that’s going to bombard them with sales pitches all day. Yes, the ultimate goal is to target prospects and eventually sign more clients. But notice I use the words “ultimate” and “eventually”. Social media is the mouth of the funnel—use it to build brand awareness, manage your brand image, engage consumers and establish trust. The latter two can be accomplished simply by resisting the temptation to sell, because the more prospects know you’re not out to sell them—that there’s no catch or fine print—the more they will listen to what you have to say (i.e. trust and engagement). Then let your advertising and other marketing vehicles put the nail in the coffin once you’ve nurtured them far enough down the funnel. Social media is the wrong tool for this; don’t try hammering a nail with a tape measure.
Show that you’re human. At the end of the day, people are people, and want to interact with other people—not robots. Social networking is your opportunity to loosen your tie, air out your personality and extend your professional interest in a laidback environment where casual is the norm. Put your hobbies and interests in your profile; talk about your family, USE APOSTROPHES AND ABBREVIATIONS (it’s OK)! Show that you’re human, but don’t forget that your audience is human too. Treat people like people, not like prospects. Ask them about their families, their hobbies and interests, respond to their posts—ask them for help! Sure there are bad eggs in this world, but nine-times-out-of-ten, people will not only want to help, but they will be flattered that you’re asking them for advice. Whether or not you’re actually in dire need of their advice is irrelevant—what you’re really doing is making people feel good and establishing an emotional connection, which is essential to building brand preference and customer loyalty. As you know, it’s just as important for prospects to like you, as it is for them to respect you.
Find a happy medium. Just to be clear, when I say social media is an opportunity to “loosen your tie and air out your personality,” I do not mean it’s an open invitation to let your inner-undergrad out for spring recess. Most prospects don’t want to hear about your relationship problems, how much last night’s episode of Jersey Shore made you “LOL”, or if you’re on the way to the emergency room because you burned your tongue on a hot pocket (believe it or not, I’ve seen all three). At the same time, most prospects also aren’t interested in tweets about what you scored on your CFP exam twelve years ago, how much money they’re losing each day by not signing with you, or if your firm is carrying on a “25 year tradition of excellence”. Not too personal, not too professional—find a balance.
*As a rule of thumb: if it’s something you would say to your best friend in a bar and not to a prospect in a meeting, or vice versa, don’t share it with your social network.
You Might Also Be Interested In:
The Art of the Invite: How Personal Messaging Increases Network Communications (Blog Post by Amy McIlwain, President, Financial Social Media)
How to Acquire and Retain Clients with Social Media: A Tutorial for Financial Advisors (On-Demand Webinar Replay)
Social Media 101 (Free Whitepaper)
Attracting Gen X & Y Clients With Social Media (On-Demand Webinar Replay)