How financial advisors can leverage social media and digital marketing in a regulated industry

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How financial advisors can leverage social media and digital marketing in a regulated industry

Regulations and compliance are no joke, especially for specific industries. Learn how Financial Advisors can leverage social media and digital marketing to get results that matter.

Sign up below to get your FREE copy of our "Social Media Guide For Savvy Financial Advisors"

In It You’ll Learn:

  • Key rules and regulations  
  • How to find your people online (best channels to leverage)
  • How to build a successful social media presence
  • How to track your success

Social media is a place to connect with customers and prospects; we can easily share our expertise and generate interest in products or services. It has changed how we can interact with customers and our ability to connect in two-way conversation, increased our access to valuable insights and the ability reach new audiences at a fraction of the speed and cost.

Why Savvy Financial Advisors love social media:

  • More efficient than traditional networking
  • More frequent communication with clients
  • Helps build stronger client relationships
  • Cost-effective way to reach the clients you want

But not everyone believes that social media is valuable and it typically comes down to four myths:

  • Myth #1: No one cares if we're on social media
  • Myth #2: There's no ROI
  • Myth #3: There are too many rules in our industry
  • Myth #4: It's too late

Myth #1: No One Cares if we're on social media.

"Kat: no one wants to hear from us; they don't care if we're on Facebook or Twitter."

If this were true, others in the field wouldn't have fans and followers online, let alone participate in engagement that leads to new business. Have you taken a minute to do a bit of competitor research?

According to a survey released in 2017, of those advisors surveyed 86% were using social media to acquire new business and "the average amount of assets gained that advisors attribute to social media is just under $5 million." (Putnam)

Here's another piece of information that's particularly interesting. In a survey released by TD Bank, they uncovered that 83% of millennials who received inheritance felt confident that they could manage it on their own. However, 46% of people who have inherited, wish they had sought advice.

This seems like an opportunity to me. We already know that most people live in their phones and that 94% of Canadians who use the internet have at least one social media account. A simple Twitter search shows that people are actively looking for Financial Advisors in that social channel. With laser focus on a specific audience (e.g.: millennials) the right content (e.g.: quality information and advice) appropriate social channel set up (e.g.: be where your ideal people are) you can achieve valuable business outcomes.

The reality is that nobody cares about sales messages that are typically being shared online, nor do they want to be sold to. People visit social channels to interact, find new things and search for cool stuff.  The key is rememberer that relationship-building on Social Media is no different than building relationships offline. If you share something valuable or interesting, you can keep others engaged. If you only share stuff that's self-serving, people ignore you. Think of it this way: do you show up to an initial prospect meeting asking for a sale? No.

If you're already active on social media but not getting results you want, the problem could be a few things: (1) you're not consistent, (2) you're not sharing valuable stuff or (3) you're not in the right spot.

Try this:

Myth #2: There is no ROI

"There is no real business value in social media for us."

What is the ROI of a clean office? An expensive suit? Okay, so it's actually kind of hard to calculate the ROI of some things we do in business, even though we know that there is value.

But let's focus on marketing. Make a list of all the marketing strategies you participate in (direct mail, trade shows, events, magazine ads, newspapers, sponsorships etc.) How much do you spend on them? How much time does it take? What about resources? Are you achieving business outcomes as a result of these endeavours?

To put a full-page, full-colour ad in a popular trade magazine will run you $5000 (plus the cost of artwork) and will reach approximately 20,000 subscribers. However, just because there are 20k subscribers doesn't mean that they'll see your ad, or take notice. Whereas on the social side, with the same budget you can create multiple ads (targeted to your key audience) and maintain an active campaign for seven (7) weeks reaching as many as 300,000 people who are your ideal audience (Facebook serves your ad up in the timeline or wherever and only counts it as an impression if it is seen.)  As long as your ads are relevant (right message, right people, right time) you will achieve business outcomes that matter.

Many times we employ traditional marketing practices without considering whether they're still valuable or produce meaningful results for us. But customer journeys are evolving, so it's important to evolve our businesses to keep up.

Typical customer journey  (via search engine): 

The searcher will see a variety of information on the SERPs (search engine results page.) This will include images, video, locations as well as social channels relevant to the search. 

Beyond the fluffy stuff, here are some key business benefits of social media:

  • Search Engine Marketing. The use of search engines has increased exponentially. In Canada alone, there are nearly 10,000 searches a month for a Financial Advisor. I don't know about you, but it seems logical to want to turn up in those search results.
  • Social proof. Even if your current clients recommend you to their friends, those friends are still going to research you online. It is in your best interest to make sure that they find good stuff. They'll look at your website and they'll look at your social channels, as well as reviews.
  • Amplification and Reach. You can't scale a great conversation you have offline, even if it would benefit others. Think about how many times your clients ask the same questions. Imagine having the ability to share those answers on a larger scale. There is efficiency because you'll potentially cut down on the number of times you will have to answer it and you build awareness.
  • Control Marketing Spend. It costs significantly less to test ads in the social space than offline. If you're set on direct mail marketing, you can test your artwork and messaging online first and then focus on the pieces that get you results.

How To Effectively Use Social Media so you can track ROI

  • Connect To Business Objectives
  • Determine Marketing/Social Media Goals
  • Identify Audience (Who are they? Where are they?)
  • Determine Metrics/KPIs (Leads, referrals, CVR etc.)
  • Choose Channels/Tactics (Contests, Content, UGC)
  • Choose Tracking Method (UTM, Bit.ly)
  • Analyze (Use GA and Native Analytics to determine if it's working)

If you're active on social media and you're having a hard time proving ROI, the problem could be a few things: (1) you haven't actually identified a goal, (2) you haven't developed a plan to support your goal(s) or (3) you haven't put anything in place so you can measure properly.

Try this:

Myth #3: There are too many rules. 

"Good grief Kat! There are too many rules in our industry and we're not really allowed to leverage social media."

Social Media is like any other form of communication. Legislation and regulatory frameworks apply; rules that pertain to ethics, advertising, record-keeping should be followed to avoid compliance issues. However, no matter which industry you belong to, Canadian advertisers must follow provisions laid out in The Canadian Code of Ad Standards If you take a minute to look, you'll see similarities to those laid out by regulators.

Code of Ad Standards Provisions:

Industry Regulators:

Federal:

Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC)
Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC)Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC)
Canadian Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC)
Canadian Council of Insurance Regulators (CCIR)
Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI)

Provincial:

Alberta Finance
Alberta Securities Commission
Autorité des marchés financiers
British Columbia Security Commission
Financial and Consumer Affairs Authority Saskatchewan 
Nova Scotia Securities Commission
Financial and Consumer Services Commission New Brunswick
Ontario Securities Commission
Prince Edward Island Securities Commission
The Manitoba Securities Commission

Self-Regulated:

Mutual Fund Dealer Association (MFDA)
Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC)

For Example:

The MFDA is very clear on their sales communications and advertising rules. An advertisement to them means TV, radio, billboards, internet, newspaper - and anywhere else you can publish information to promote a business or individual. Sales communications include records, video tapes [lol], market letters, research reports and other published material (except for material created specifically to present to client or prospective client.)

Similarly to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, as a member of MFDA you cannot knowingly allow your name or business to be included in sales communications or advertising that:

  • contains untrue statement(s) or omits material fact(s)
  • is false or misleading (includes using visuals like photographs, sketches, drawings, logos or graphs which gives a bogus impression)
  • highlights unjustified promise of specific results
  • uses skewed or unrepresentative statistics to exaggerate conclusions
  • contains any opinion or forecast of future events which is not clearly identified as such
  • fails to fairly present the potential risks to the client
  • is detrimental to the interests of the public, the Corporation or its Members; or
  • doesn't comply with legislation or policies of regulatory authorities

[Source: MFDA Rules]

Try This:

  • Have a clear plan in place for ads vs. educational content (*Know when you require approval or not.)
  • Keep good records.
  • Don't share specific advice, instead take the conversation offline.
  • Think, before you think, before you post

Myth #4: It's too late. 

"Oh Kat, I've been doing this a long time. It's too late for me to get started."

At a conference last year I was asked "How do we encourage the younger generation, that use social media to focus on ‘expert advice’ rather than seeking out opinions that match their personal opinions?"

The answer is that you show up where your people are and you engage with them in a way that benefits them. Not you.

Even if you have one foot out the door and you're getting ready to sell your book of business, you should be thinking about what will attract buyers. You know what makes you look more appealing? Forward-thinking.

Recently I asked a room full of business professionals if they had a website. Not surprisingly, nearly every arm in the room shot up. When I asked why, very few knew why or what their website did for them. We invest in certain tools without having a reason just because it is accepted as a normal part of business. But a website can be a complete waste of resources if you're not measuring its impact on your business. Ask yourself if you are adapting to what your key audience wants and expects.

If you're feeling left behind or that it's too late, the problem could be one of the following: (1) you haven't actually read this blog, (2) you just don't care or (3) you just want an excuse not to use social.

Try This:

 Getting Started [EXAMPLE] 

Jon is a Financial Advisor. With limited resources, he really wants to take advantage of social media and digital marketing. He has spent time figuring out his goals (brand awareness and lead generation) the channels his key audience are on (LinkedIn and Facebook) and now he's ready to start engaging. But he's worried about getting in trouble with regulators.

First he needs to put a plan in place with cornerstone content. His cornerstone content may have a mix of sales messaging, so it's important that he obtain proper approval ahead of time. (The MFDA requires that all content be approved, with the exception of interactive content.) His content should follow the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the time it's really good stuff that his audience is interested in and 20% of the time is about the business and "the ask."

 TIP: Content shouldn't be a bunch of boring corporate stuff. If you're not sure, start publishing content and watch what happens (both big data and small data will give you insights into your audience. Pay attention!)  

Jon also needs to remember that when he posts content, he's responsible for engaging and monitoring feedback. If someone leaves a comment, review or endorsement that is misleading or inappropriate, he must take steps to remove it. If he has clients reach out to him via a social channel, he's responsible for keeping good records as well as maintaining client confidentiality.  If he collects personal information via social channels, he's responsible for protecting it. (Which is why it's important to remind clients that sharing information via channels is typical not safe.)

Finally, Jon must actually track what happens online. He's identified that brand awareness and lead generation are important outcomes for his business. If he dedicates a certain amount of time and resources to his social media + digital marketing program, he should be tracking to figure out if it's helping or not!

Learning how to leverage social media and digital marketing can be overwhelming, but it doesn't come without rewards. If we take a deeper look, we learn that increased visibility and credibility, brand awareness and ability to personalize are all things that make them stand out. And while some advisors are busy refusing to believe that social media is important to their businesses, others are adapting and connecting with the right people, at the right time with the right message.

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Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay is a Marketing Strategist, Writer + Speaker known for her no-nonsense approach to pretty much everything. Using data and insights, she helps organizations market more effectively to get results that matter. She's also a high-scoring instructor at Mount Royal University, where she teaches Social Media Analytics and Google Analytics + Marketing Measurement. She holds certifications from Google, as well as Facebook and is currently working toward a specialization in Marketing Analytics. When she’s not busy juggling kids, volunteering + work, she’s busy planning her retirement to Cape Breton.