When small advisory firms start branding themselves, somehow images of trees, lighthouses and colonial homes start appearing on their web sites along with the requisite buzzwords: client-centric, holistic, legacy, trust.
It’s an understandable effort, but there is a sense that using social media simply to highlight a re-hashed mission statement isn’t necessarily going to cut it for some advisors. The more progressive ones in the industry are attempting to break from the pack, adopting video and podcasts, and even more fringe social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, to market themselves beyond the clip art and clichés.
Take the St. Louis, MO.-based Larson Financial Group (http://larsonfinancial.com) . The firm primarily targets physicians and dentists as its clients, growing to 23 offices with 500 clients across the country in the last seven years.
To get beyond the yawn-inducing marketing tactics, Larson started producing videos for its web site and hosting them on YouTube just over a year ago. There are nine to date on subjects from tax planning to investment strategies — and the short films are the most popular section of their site, says Reed Smith, Larson’s head of marketing.
“People don’t want to read an article,” says Smith. “They’d rather just watch the videos on our home page.”
It’s hard to avoid the videos on the front page of Brittney Castro’s site . Sure she has a tree planted right at the top, but so too are nine videos with titles including, “Debt Reduction: It’s a Mindset Thing.” Posting a new video each week, the Los Angeles-based Castro knows they’re bringing in prospects. They also help potential clients feel they’ve met her — before they even pick up the phone.
“I wanted people to get to know me a bit more,” says Castro, about why she continues to focus on this arm of her marketing strategy. “The videos add a personal touch.”
John Pollock believes so strongly in video  he posts one a day, keeping them as short as a minute or less, and optimizing them to give him an advantage for search engines — and clearly prospectsto find him.
“People are watching them,” says the Allen, TX.-based financial and tax advisor. “Then when they come in they’re already sold.”
Some financial advisors feel perfectly fine building a site and letting it marinate on the Web, hoping prospects will read through canned tag lines before picking up the phone. But with top investment houses dipping their toes into digital media, independents are unwise to ignore tools that can liven their online calling cards. Alongside videos, another new favorite is Pinterest — hardly the glut of cute cat and food images many associate with the social network. Pinterest is slowly making inroads among pioneering financial advisors who are experimenting with visual content to attract prospects.
At Larson Financial Group, the firm launched a Pinterest account  about a year ago. While Smith says they don’t have strong numbers yet to prove the site is working, the firm is still investing time to build its boards of “Awards!,” “Books Worth Reading,” and “Doctor’s Eyes Only.”
Jeff Cutter of Cutter Financial Group just launched his Pinterest account  in June, because he says he has to be aggressive and experiment, particularly if he wants to stand out from other advisors today. And he’s already signed a client who found him from the site.
“Anything we do is about branding,” says Cutter, based in Falmouth, MA. “If you’re going to be on social media and not treat it from how you brand yourself, then you won’t get any type of results.”
While Cutter has a consultant manages much of his social media, Cutter’s on his Pinterest account often, building his first board, “Retirement Bucket List,” himself. He’s a convert to growing his brand by looking beyond the played icons and catch phrases that litter many advisory firms’ sites. After all, he’s seen the results.
“A client who contacts me from a seminar is one that’s much different from one who has already been on Twitter or Pinterest,” he says. “They already know more about me.”