One way to deepen existing client relationships and connect with more prospects is to use social media. While LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other applications will help your practice evolve, social media also presents several compelling challenges, especially when it comes to compliance.
If your firm is planning to use social media, you’ll want to create and maintain a social media policy. Keep in mind that this policy is not meant to restrict activity for tweeting and posting, but instead to establish parameters to meet these challenges and satisfy compliance requirements.
Four Steps to Your Policy
Your social media policy should outline what outcome you hope to achieve from social media and how you will achieve it. Here are four areas to consider:
- Vision. Your vision will detail how you and your team perceive social media, respond to engagement and think creatively for ongoing communications and initiatives. Consider it the extension of the culture of your business – the reason why you come to work and why clients stay with you.
- Planning. Having conceptualized and defined how you want to use social media, your plan should identify the platforms you will participate in, such as a blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others. During this stage, you should also determine who will manage these platforms. Will it be comprised of internal staff, external parties or both
- Purpose. Financial planners choose to use social media in different ways. How will you define your experience? Consider the following when determining how to engage:
- Do you want to use social media as a customer service channel?
- Do you want to share educational tips, often delivered in client letters, conference calls and meetings, via social media?
- Are you interested in leveraging the business development nature of social media? If so, you might focus on expanding your network of connections on LinkedIn.
- Do you want to be known as a thought leader in your area of expertise? If so, developing credible content such as articles, videos and podcasts might be a good way to get your name out.
Certainly, it would sound natural to respond with, “I’d imagine we’d do all of those things at some point.” That is a safe assumption; however, in getting started, opting for a focused starting point helps you shape that voice and cultivate a rhythm to your use of social media.
- Goals. By the time you are ready to set goals, your social media vision has taken on a clear shape for you and your team. Like that financial plan, you can now start to envision mile markers and longer term goals you would like to achieve. Don’t neglect to consider how you could measure your progress of these goals, ensuring you factor analytics into your strategy.
Social media policy is the ticket to entry to the use of social media. Start there and you will be more prepared to move ahead. In the meantime, here are a few areas to address:
- When selecting a compliance solution for social media – think about ease of use. Choose a provider who can accommodate this with simplicity and meet your needs.
- Recognize that content that gets shared widely and publicly may fall into the advertising and marketing materials classification. Understand who regulates you – FINRA, SEC, states – and know how advertising content is treated.
- Keep in mind that testimonials are prohibited. We may not like it – and we know they are very valuable for word of mouth referrals, but when they are written, they are like ads. Just steer clear until the regulatory bodies change their minds.
- If in doubt about what part of social media is static content (blog posts, articles, profile backgrounds and bios) versus interactive (tweets, status updates), have your content compliance-reviewed before you use it.
And, speaking of compliance, you’ll want to get some very clear direction from your compliance provider for social media. Some are stricter than others, so check to make sure you are following the rules. And, above all, have fun!
PFP members and PFS credential holders can listen to a podcast on this topic.
Blane Warrene, MobileGuard. Recognized as an industry leader in financial services marketing, compliance and technology, Blane has worked in progressive roles for broker dealers, investment advisors and asset managers.
Social media strategy image courtesy of Shutterstock