Tongue-tied Advisors

You’ve got the social media platform up and running and the compliance process in place. Now, if only you had something to say.

For some financial advisors, it’s not only the fear of running afoul of regulators that keep them from hitting the “send” button on their first tweet, blog post or status update. It’s the fear of the new.

Even if they have their firms’ permission to tweet, a technology platform up and compliance guidelines in place, the fear that they will “do it wrong” keeps many from participating.

That's usually the point where Kelly Lucas and her firm, BBR Marketing, steps in. She helps her clients – many in the financial advisory space – create that first blog piece, Facebook update or Tweet. Her job, in essence, is to push nervous advisors into the deep end of the social media pool to prove that they really know how to swim.

"This is so highly regulated that they're scared to hit a button," says the Atlanta-based marketing and social media manager. “But social media can be conversational. You just have to make sure it's within the guidelines."

For financial advisors those guidelines aren’t well defined. Regulators issue notices that can change quickly; consider the recent guidance that equates "liking" something on Facebook as a testimonial of approval — a big no-no for advisors.

The fear can tongue-tie even a normally loquacious advisor. Many firms handle it by crafting canned content. These are pre-written posts and tweets, approved by compliance officers and usable anytime and anywhere by a rep. Yet these lifeless bits of “content” are exactly the kind of marketing messages that followers, friends and users will never deign to read. Nothing can drain the life out of your social media networks than marketing copy, however carefully disguised you think it is.

Instead, a conversational tone is key. Which is why some marketing firms are now expanding from crafting Web site and blog posts out of a firm’s existing content to actually ghostwriting tweets, Facebook updates and Linked In status blurbs — all meant to offer business users some social media mentoring.

"It's not about getting quoted in newspapers as much anymore but about managing a social media presence," says Barry Schwartz, the founding partner of ACA Compliance Group in Boca Raton, Fl. "This exposure opens the door to people not accessing advertising through traditional television and print."

At least one of ACA’s advisor clients uses a marketing group to craft artful — and compliance approved — social media messages. Here is how it works: The advisory firm’s founder writes a short article – perhaps a blog post or column – on some timely topic of interest to clients. That article is then developed by Ydop, a web marketing agency in Lancaster, Pa. It turns the article into short bite-sized chunks, which are then vetted through Schwartz and his team for compliance approval.

Daniel Klotz, Ydop's director of digital marketing calls it "atomizing" the content, making sure the blurbs are repurposed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even social bookmarking sites including Reddit and StumbleUpon.

"They put effort to write a good blog post and we want to get the most mileage out of it," says Klotz.

Typically after a blog post comes in, Klotz and the Ydop crew will build two kinds of tweets or posts — one to promote the blog post with a link, and then another where they'll craft a sentence, making the blurb more conversational. To them the posts should all act as crumbs in the forest leading a prospect first to the blog post, and then to an advisor's site.

"What we've seen is that it's about six months from a prospect never hearing about you, to coming in for their first appointment," says Klotz.

Ydop's bespoke services start at about $1,500 a month, but there are cheaper alternatives. Andrew Gluck of Advisor Products offers access to a digital file cabinet of content about the economy, for example. These can be posted as links through tweets, Facebook or even a blog for just $300 a year. A more expensive version will also push tweets and posts out on a schedule.

To BBR's Lucas, the most important thing is that reps find the most comfortable way to get into the social media rhythm and not worry about perfection. Working with a social media marketing firm can help ease the process.

"Most clients don't get that social media can just be conversational," she says. "It’s not 'Oh I just had some coffee today.' It's starting an interaction and building an image around your brand and your company. Even posting, ‘Here's an interesting article,’ can be a conversation starter because then other people might jump in."

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