More and more financial advisors are adopting social media to help build their business. SmartBrief recently chatted with Melissa Socci, senior vice president of brand and analytics for LPL Financial, to get her insight on best practices for advisors as they delve into social media. The following is an edited transcript of that conversation.
LPL was a relatively early adopter of social media within the finance space. What lessons did you learn early on about getting advisors to embrace social media?
Our advisors have been able to use social media for about 4 years now and we continue to work with them to help them understand it. These are numbers people so they want to know what the hard ROI numbers are. They want success stories about what has worked from Day One right up until now.
Social media is part of a larger mix of an advisor’s marketing plan. It is not a plan in and of itself. Where an advisor is in the life cycle of their business and what their objectives and goals are really matter, so we help advisors use social media to meet those goals. We don’t push everyone to use social media. It may be right for some advisors and not others. We think it is an important part of where the world is going, but we are not here to drive advisors to use social media if it doesn’t align with their goals. Most advisors want to grow their business and increase client engagement, so social media is one way to do that.
We can’t offer enough education and encouragement to our advisors. That’s one of the biggest lessons we learned. We are investing in that education and training with an initiative we will be launching later this year that takes a tied approach: offering the basics for advisors who are new to social media and deeper strategies for advisors who are already engaged with social media. That’s important because the landscape changes all the time. What you knew about social media last year has completely changed this year. We want to help advisors stay ahead of the curve and give them best practices so they can use social media to meet their business goals.
What kind of social media uptake are you seeing among your advisors?
Right now, a little more than 40% of our affiliated advisors are on social media. LinkedIn is No. 1, Facebook is No. 2, then Twitter. We see Twitter gaining traction very quickly.
Any unique stories about how advisors are using social media?
The most unique way advisors use social media is to listen. Our advisors say LinkedIn is a great way to keep up with their clients’ lives. They learn about life events that may affect a client’s portfolio.
We also have an advisor that uses social media to follow sectors and products he is interested in for his clients. He thinks it keeps him ahead of the curve because he gets information a split-second faster than any other reporting source he can find.
What are some best practices with regard to the kind of content advisors should be distributing via social media?
We recommend an 80/20 structure where 80% of an advisor’s content should be posts that are interesting, informative, and relevant to the audience and the remaining 20% is where the promotion of the advisor’s brand happens. Audiences want to be engaged, not sold to, so we encourage our advisors to be more social and tone down the sales pitch. We suggest sharing content that draws the attention of their target audience by tapping into their interests and needs. When talking about brand, we also encourage our advisors to integrate a persuasive call-to-action that inspires their audience to learn more about the advisor’s company so it possibly leads to conversion in the future.
How does LPL decide what kind of content to provide for advisors and how do you distribute it?
We have an advisor panel that we look to for feedback on many different things. We do a lot of listening to keep up on what is being talked about on social media. We have teams in the field listening to the questions we are hearing from advisors and our research team is invaluable at staying up-to-date with commentary on the market. All of those things help us decide what content produce. We also review what white papers, testimonials and conference content resonate with advisors and then use a “hub-and-spoke” model to amplify that content for the company.
We offer a content portal that advisors can pull from. We have RSS-feeds and our social media portal that advisors can pull content from and we curate it at all times to make sure we are staying relevant with what the market wants.
How does an airline term like “hub-and-spoke” relate to social media content distribution?
Social media is not just one person’s job; it is the whole company’s job. We aren’t doing social media marketing; we are marketing in a social media age. It the organization’s responsibility to deliver relevant content that is digestible for social. When we create content, we look at it with many lenses. For example, if we are creating a white paper, all of our designers and marketing managers need to look at it and say, ‘OK, there’s a great chart in here. How can we re-purpose that chart for social? Can we create that chart in an infographic?’
It’s really a content strategy: How do we start looking at content in a broader way. It’s not one-size-fits-all. Now it’s multiple snippets of a core piece that has many lives on various platforms and networks. We also weigh how we can curate that content to make sure it is relevant to the audience we have.
Marketing has changed. Everyone has to evolve with the way we communicate and social is just one of those pieces.
How is LPL’s senior management engaged in social media?
We are new adopters with regard to having a corporate Twitter presence. Our corporate social media presence really took off last year and our senior management is most heavily engaged on Twitter. We brought in Victor Fetter, the former CIO at Dell. Dell is obviously a leader in technology and Victor had a very strong voice there. Now he has ported that voice and personality into LPL. He led by example and everyone was pretty fast to follow. Our CEO Mark Casady has picked up very quickly and found his voice. He has been a huge advocate for social at LPL and across the industry. Our CMO Joan Khoury also Tweets on the brand and experiences she is having. We’ve had some really great adoption of social media within our C-suite. They have fun with it. They not only support LPL but also find their human voice on Twitter. Their following has grown by leaps and bounds. They are a really big part of our brand strategy.