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By Marie Swift

Advisor use of social media has been a hot topic on conference tracks for the past 3-4 years. Here's how things have changed - and where you should be focusing your attention now.

Advisor use of social media has been a hot topic on conference tracks for the past 3-4 years. I've happily played a role since the industry started asking questions such as:

• Is this worth our time and attention?
• How can we meet FINRA and SEC regulations?
• What are the most useful tools?
• How do I get started?
• Ok, I get it. Where can I get help?

There has been a flurry of information and advice over the years and, at this point its safe to say, we've pretty much figured it out. I have to admit I was somewhat of a skeptic when in 2009 the good folks at FPA asked me to create a Web 2.0 Boot Camp where FPA members would have a hands-on experience setting up a blog, perfecting their LinkedIn profiles, creating audio and video clips (and uploading them to their blog), and cross-pollinating via their newly established Twitter accounts. In between educational modules, we had a blast running around to various workstations, using FlipCams to capture video and a microcassette to capture voice.

It was a lofty goal, but the six onsite coaches and I did, in just one day, successfully get the 30 newbies all set up with branded blogs and Twitter pages, robust LinkedIn profiles and multimedia to begin the population process. During that first boot camp, I have to admit that, while we went in armed with a good amount of knowledge, we also figured stuff out on the fly.


One of my star pupils was advisor Andy Millard. Andy created his first blog while at that first FPA Social Media Boot Camp (www.andymillard.blogspot.com). He has since integrated his blog into his website (www.low-stress-investing.com) but the basic premise remains the same: Andy uses a mixture of written commentary and video to communicate in a personal and powerful way.

Andy continues to tell me his clients love the videos and commentary he posts on the blog. While he also repurposes the blog content and pushes it out to his "house list" in the form of a nice, fancy-formatted email (e.g., Constant Contact or Mail Chimp) so that the people on his traditional e-mail communications list are sure to get the information, he is slowly training them to subscribe to the blog as an RSS feed.

Andy has been doing a great job producing his own videos since the initial one at the FPA conference where we simply used a FlipCam and simulated a live interview experience. Today, he's mastered the art of scripting and story boarding. He's figured out how to add moving graphics and music. In fact, my very most favorite recent video clip produced by Andy and his right-hand gal Juliet Botescu was featured December 18, 2012 in a WSJ.com article titled Holiday Videos Help Connect with Clients, Prospects (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324407504578187183177551700.html) -- you really need to see the video (http://www.low-stress-investing.com/blog/holiday-greetings-millard-company) as it exemplifies all that is good about social media (sharing online) and new media communications (anything digital, especially if its multimedia, like the video Andy produced for his clients at Christmas time).


Financial adviser Andrew Millard with client service manager Juliet Botescu (L) and marketing and events manager Michele Deudne (R) in their Christmas video.

Need a few tips for creating a good video for your business? Check this out (90 second informational video clip): http://www.fmgsuite.com/market-in-motion/live-interview-with-marie-swift-video/


Fast-forward four years to the 2013 TD Ameritrade Conference where I served as a subject matter expert in the wildly popular Social Media Lab. While they could have been out strolling the boardwalk on those warm, sunny days January 30-February 2, advisors instead swarmed like busy bees around the workstations and informational kiosks that were carefully arranged along with "soft seating" (white leather couches with glittery purple throw pillows), tall glass-and-chrome tables, and outdoor coaching stations where those who signed up in advance spent 15-30 minutes getting one-on-one advice from a social media expert.

In a room next door, short educational sessions punctuated the day - some so popular that advisors spilled out the doorway and into the hall as they craned their heads to see the slides and hear what was being said. A professional makeup artist was on hand in the "photo room" to ensure that those who stopped by to have a new professional headshot taken, compliments of TD, would look their best.

TD asked me to "man" the "Acquire New Clients" kiosk and simply be available to answer advisors questions, provide advice and demonstrate in real time anything I could using the built-in monitor and keyboard. My one early morning shift on day one was kinda slow. But my four-hour shift on day two was so busy, with a non-stop flow of advisors leaning in and around me to hear and see what I was sharing, I actually walked away hoarse from vocal cord fatigue.


TD Ameritrade Institutional is now in its 3rd year of providing a concerted effort to not only help advisors with their own social media and online presence but to also create a social media strategy for TD as a corporate entity. This year was their biggest and most successful effort yet.

I've been happy to consult with TD and to serve as a subject matter expert over the years. In the first year, we simply conducted a "double decker" session where TD and I mapped out short spurts of instruction, a panel of advisors sharing what they were doing, interactive exercises and a lecture from a compliance expert.

Last year, TD put together their first Social Media Lab, where people could stop by and get advice from Marketing 2.0 experts, film a complimentary video clip talking about their mission as an advisor, and sign up for one-on-one LinkedIn profile reviews. The live, mini-presentations were tough to hear in the open lobby area, but the presenters, myself included, soldiered on in an effort to teach and share.

This year, TD's Social Media Lab was sleek and relaxed in the set up, but fun and busy as people filtered in and began to hit the stations and converse. TD was smart to engage a number of "celebrity tweeters" such as Kristin Luke, Stephanie Sammons, Mike Byrnes, Blaine Warren and yours truly (all of whom have good followings on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) as well as advisors who have been early adopters of social media to "tweet up a storm" using the conference hashtag, #TDAI2013, and a special handle, @TDA4Advisors. TD even offered a prize - a $500 Apple gift card, the winner of which was chosen in a random drawing - for those who tweeted using the designated tags. Where was the winner announced? On Twitter under the #TDAI2013 hashtag, of course.

TD's conference team had big flat screen monitors set in strategic locations around the show room floor to display the conference-related tweets using a free service called Visible Tweets (try it, it's cool - www.VisibleTweets.com).


While I still believe and continue to hear from advisors thatLinkedIn is the very best of the Big 3 social media tools, at least when it comes to generating business oriented conversations, I've been hearing more and more about Facebook and Twitter and how advisors feel that those two additional social sites have improved their online presence and helped to improve client trust.

One advisor told me that an 86-year-old client had been interacting with his content on Facebook for a while. When they met again for their annual review, she said she felt like she finally knew him. Who says older people don't embrace social media?

My standard advice still holds: Advisors who want to connect with their peers and expand their businesses should first create blogs and LinkedIn profiles, then master the compliance rules needed to run those accounts effectively. But the foundation of a good online presence is, of course, a professional and engaging website - which I believe should serve as your "home base" online. After these basics have been put in place, advisors might want to add a Twitter and a Facebook account, tying everything together using a social media dashboard such as HootSuite, Sprout Social or TweetDeck.

The numbers are compelling, as 61% of advisors using a LinkedIn account said they have acquired a client through it (Hubspot 2011 survey of 611 advisors). 47% of advisors using a blog said they had acquired a client through it. And the search engine benefits can't be beat. In fact, Rick Kahler (www.KahlerFinancial.com) told me over a year ago that he no longer markets in the traditional ways we've come to know in the past - he "simply" creates and publishes good content online and serves as a resource for journalists, who also publish their content online. Rick's practice is growing and he's even gotten million dollar clients as a result of his smart online presence.


When we think back 10 years ago, the thought was: "What is the use of a Web site? Is it really worth all the trouble?" Now we look back and see that a good Web site is indispensable. When we look back in another 5 years, I believe we'll see that interaction online (a.k.a., social networking via social media sites) will be the norm. It's the way the way we'll communicate and connect, and mobile will be a big part of the expectation for doing business.

So if you are sitting on the sidelines, now is the time to get with the program. Advisors should use industry keywords throughout their LinkedIn profiles and include working URLs, so the profiles will always appear high on Internet searches. And don't discount Twitter. Twitter has become a very important tool for TD and other organizations such as FPA, NAPFA and even media outlets such as Financial-Planning.com, AdvisorOne.com and RIABiz.com, in building relationships with financial advisors. Communities of interest continue to emerge. Tweet-ups regularly occur.

And while advisors may be unsure of how to use Twitter for connecting with clients, many of the early adopters have found it to be a valuable tool for listening to peers and industry thought leaders. Some have started to find their own voice and post meaningful content. Others such as Jim Ludwick and Anna Sergunina of Mainstreet Planning say they use Twitter to create a kind of "reading service" - a way to point their clients and followers to relevant information using a condensed (intentionally shortened) link and a simple personal comment about why the content they are pointing to is important; they even showcase their Twitter feeds on the homepage of their website (www.mainstreetplanning.com).

Marie Swift having a friendly conversation with Greg Solomon, an advisor who came to ask for help and advice. They tweeted this picture of the two of them together to their respective Twitter networks using the #TDAI2013 hashtag.]

I've been hearing this more and more when I meet people at industry conferences like: "Hey - are you Marie Swift. I follow you on (wait for it) ... Twitter. It's so nice to finally meet you - I feel like I know you from following you online and seeing you speak."

And my favorite, enthusiastically blurted out by fellow consultant Mike Byrnes in the TD Social Media Lab this year: "Hey, guess what everybody! TDAI2013 is trending on Twitter!" (By the way, I sat in on Mike's presentation at the FSI One Voice conference, which was coincidentally held just one hotel down-the-road from the TD conference in San Diego just 2 days before the TD conference began ... I'll recap the highlights of Mike's presentation in a future contribution.)

Meanwhile, see you around the Twittersphere - and if that's not your cup of tea, I'm sure will bump into one another on LinkedIn, Facebook or an industry discussion board. And when we finally meet in person, we'll feel like we already know each other. (Hint: think about how you can accomplish the same thing with your clients and other spheres that influence your business).


Marie Swift (www.MarieSwift.com) has been working with independent advisors and allied institutions as a marketing communications consultant for over twenty years. Find her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or just Google her for kicks. For a list of future conference appearances, visit www.ImpactCommunications.org/eventscalendar.html

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