RIAs recount how they reap new clients using LinkedIn and Twitter, stealing a march on shackled wirehouse advisors
A whopping 90% of the mass-affluent investor pool is online and 44% of them are actively looking for an advisor
Brooke’s Note: If you’re like me and have doubts about social media, this is the kind of article that may make you think twice. I sent two tweets (beyond our auto-tweets of new articles) this week and intend to send more. No snickering, Pat Allen. See: Why RIAs would rather go to Twitter than talk to a wholesaler.
H. Jude Boudreaux spends just 30 minutes a day on social media sites but in the last two years, he’s gotten eight new clients who found out about him from social websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter.
That’s a big deal for a small firm. Boudreaux started Upperline Financial Planning LLC in New Orleans in 2010 and that brings his total of clients to 40.
Boudreaux, 35, doesn’t want to spend money on marketing and has found his niche interacting with people on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. See: What three highly wired financial advisors have to teach us about social media.
“I think you have to do things from a marketing standpoint that you enjoy, and I enjoy it here and I’m comfortable and it works for me,” he says. “If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t do it, but I enjoy it. Social media is a fantastic way to market yourself to new people.” See: 6 ways that RIAs can hone their expertise in social media by acting more like journalists.
A recent study from LinkedIn confirms what Boudreaux has discovered on his own: Investors are finding and selecting advisors by using social-media sites. The study shows that nearly nine in 10 mass affluent — defined as individuals with $100,000 to $1 million in investible assets — say they’re highly engaged with financial companies and that 44% of them engage with financial companies on social media.
The study shows that mass-affluent and even uber-wealthy individuals are using social-media sites to investigate financial firms and ultimately to make a final decision on which firm to choose.
In fact, LinkedIn executives say RIAs were the first to embrace social-media sites, and many of them who have been active for the past few years have started to see their efforts pay off. The online study in March canvassed 500 U.S. mass-affluent investors whose investible assets range from $100,000 to $1 million show that many of these investors use social-media sites to research advisors. See: Top 10 tips for the 'social’ financial professional when creating your LinkedIn profile.
The study found that nearly 2 in 5 mass affluent investors use social media for financial education or research, says Jennifer Grazel, LinkedIn’s lead executive for financial services. She feels there’s clearly a growing appetite for investors to use social media as part of their decision-making process, but she says RIAs have a head start over other financial services arenas such as brokers.
“RIAs were the first adopters,” she says. “What’s unique when you think about an RIA is sites like LinkedIn are completely tailored to them.” See: Early adopters of social media, RIAs are growing disenchanted with its power to drum up new business.
Five minutes here and there
While some wirehouse advisors worry about joining social-media sites because of compliance concerns, many RIAs feel confident in posting, and this has given them a jump on marketing compared with wirehouses advisors and others who just recently have gotten the go-ahead on some of these sites. See: Lost in limbo: How and why compliance officers can seem to thwart RIA marketing efforts.
Boudreaux feels he can effectively market his firm throughout the day when he’s got a few minutes to tweet, or post something on LinkedIn. He makes a point of networking with people in and around his city of New Orleans.
“There are other ways to market yourself, but for me I do it in bite-sized chunks, five minutes here,” he says. “I’ve developed a presence on Twitter. It’s something that I enjoy and I’ve invested some time in, and it’s a matter of keeping a presence going and being smart about how you do it.” See: Lost in limbo: How and why compliance officers can seem to thwart RIA marketing efforts.
He uses LinkedIn and Twitter as well as Facebook, but says he feels each site has different purposes. He feels LinkedIn is great as a Rolodex of sorts for people to learn more information about others and Twitter is much more interactive, and to gain a voice on Twitter, advisors need to show off their personality
He thinks some advisors shy away from Twitter because they don’t want to share much about themselves. “I think people are afraid to have a voice, and you need to be willing to share who you are,” he says.
Cathy Curtis, of Curtis Financial Planning in Oakland, Calif., has used LinkedIn and Twitter for many years and says she too shows off her personality on Twitter. And, in recent months she’s gotten three prospective clients through social-media sites.
She posts a numbers of articles and comments on LinkedIn, and her postings even caught the attention of LinkedIn executives. She works hard to build a niche of clients who are mostly women in the San Francisco Bay area. About 65% of her 45 clients are women. See: One Santa Fe woman’s female-centric approach to advice is attracting clients to her iconoclastic RIA.
“I’m probably the most active on Twitter. You have to be active on Twitter or people will forget about you. Whereas, with LinkedIn, I’m always there, and my goal is to have prospective women clients find me on LinkedIn.”
Grazel says she learned of Curtis because she was one of the first advisors to actively embrace LinkedIn and was one of the most active.
Curtis says her early success on social media sites has given her a mini-celebrity status letting her give speeches at industry conferences. “It was great to be an early adopter,” she says. She has just 45 clients on her own but her firm recently merged with
with ClearRock Capital, LLC, a Boise, Idaho, RIA with $350 million in assets.
Alan Moore, 26, just founded his own RIA in October 2012 after working with Rick Kahler of Kahler Financial Group in Rapid City, South Dakota. Moore says when he struck out on his own he had many questions about starting a new business and the social- media sites have helped him build industry connections. He’s able to reach out to other advisors on Twitter with a question about something like technology or rebalancing and have an answer in minutes.
“I know more than 50 planners, many of whom I’ve never met in person, and I get a lot of my industry news from Twitter,” Moore says. See: Most provocative tweets of the RIA week.
Moore, who started Serenity Financial Consulting LLC with locations in Milwaukee and Bozeman, Mont., and has 25 clients, concedes that he isn’t a “power networker.”
“I don’t cold call and I don’t even warm call,” he said. “If I answer a question someone asks on Twitter or LinkedIn, then I move on. I market to people who are looking for an advisor, and I don’t have the time or energy to convince people that they need my services.”
Yet Moore feels he’s gained a presence in the industry simply because of his ongoing social-media activity. “I’ve only been around three years, but half of the NAPFA advisors know me because I’m able to network on social media sites.”
He’s gotten a handful of new clients from social-media sites but admits it’s hard to know exactly which site attracted the prospects because many of them comment about his blogs. He tweets about his blog, mentions it on Facebook and also posts it on LinkedIn.
“Clients don’t remember how they found out about me — if it was Facebook, LinkedIn or something else. I do know that my blog content has brought folks to learn about me.” See: Advisor Tested: How LinkedIn can truly build your business and not just feed your ego.
The majority of his work consists of hourly financial planning.
Not one new client
Moore’s previous boss, Kahler, has had a different experience with social media. He says he has not gained one new client from social media despite the fact that he’s logged in more than 6,000 tweets in the past few years.
“That said, 50% of my clients say they found me on the Internet,” he says. “This comes from searches, NAPFA referrals, my blog and maybe some social media. It’s hard to fully ascertain exactly where. But I’ve not had anyone say they started following me on Twitter and was so impressed with my rankings that they want to become a client.”
Still, he finds it’s helpful to be on social media. “In part, it’s how a growing number of my clients stay in touch with me and my current thinking.”
Makes sense. I wish somebody would also write about how to write a Twitter profile. Often you almost can’t tell who the heck the person is or they have some syrup about making people’s lives better or finding all things interesting related xyz. A turnoff. A fumble at the one yard line.
Your piece on content would be a good start.
Good points. My counter to you is that there is enough data here for RIA heuristics and extrapolation to take place while we await Gartner’s “data.”
One point that hit home with me in this article was that some people really have fun with social media. And if you have fun with something then it may not be subtracted from work time and the joy will be contagious and will lead to success.
Also, with data, I can’t help but to think of the maxim: Figures don’t lie but liars do figure.
Define productive Elmer? developing new relationships with prospects? deepening existing relationships with current clients (e.g. making them better referral sources), building your brand in a local/regional market, using these sites to effectively distribute company news/events/milestones?
You ask for data, you got it. Don’t add misinformation on social media users be just “young women”. Wow, so we’re ruling out women now and only targeting older men? Women don’t count in investment decisions? Yikes. How about 200 million users and financial services is the 2nd most utilized vertical on LinkedIn.
This from a 30 second Google search:
You might enjoy my blog post about “Getting Started on Twitter”...
I wrote it after a few friends asked for my advice on the subject. :)
Elmer Rich III
OK, well let’s take the medical profession, or engineering and other critical professions.
Is fun/joy a business or professional basis for allocation of resources? Would we prefer medical care, or bridge building, based on “figures” or anecdotal stories?
Of course, the majority of people do go with professional and medical services based on stories and avoidance of facts and research, e.g., holistic medicine, etc.. But we don’t build bridges like that anymore.
Most professions are based on helping clients take actions that don’t just feel good and are hard to do, uncomfortable and are based on hard to understand facts.
If social media is cheap and easy to do, understand and use – what is the likely value?
Elmer Rich III
It would be useful, for all professionals, to have independent stats on ROI for any social media. Anecdotal evidence, stories/“case studies” is not enough for professionals to dedicate limited resources – mainly time.
Always better to make decision on data rather than stories. Of course, the stories shared are always positive. Research actually suggest “worst practices” studies are productive.
Trial and error with anything online can be very expensive and risky for a reputation. Also, remember it is “social” media not “sales” or “personal” media. Reputation management is a growing service area – for us.
Of course! Go for it.
And yes…you clearly don’t follow our advisory board member @ReformedBroker. I think he probably hits 100 on a typical day. ;)
I have two confessions to make, one professional, one medical.
I have fun doing RIABiz.
When I catch a cold (as I just did), I take chicken soup advice as seriously as what doctors say.
To Mr. Kahler’s claim, if he is promoting his blog, web site, etc. via his Twitter profile it is very much a lead generator for his firm. It’s one of the better distribution platforms out there for content. Take a more holistic look at your analytics and your Twitter profile’s SEO ranking to know the opportunity costs of not being active on social media as well.
Kevin and Pat,
I have a question. Are there proven ways to get the right people to follow you on Twitter? I recall starting out and hating the idea of tweeting to oblivion.
@Brooke, the starter would be to follow key people and the engage them in conversation/ask them good questions. Re-tweeting their posts will help as well. Likely the best way you can start is create a custom profile, with your picture and an interesting bio. Search relevant keywords in your field and follow those people’s pages you know will be a fit. That’s a good starting point.
Elmer Rich III
There is also, BTW, research on optimizing followership on social media. We have never seen any for B2B, professional, predominantly male or older adult users, however. Most social media users are young women.
There is good research that Twitter users are not representative of the general population thus Twitter users poorly predict B2C things like movie success, political results, etc.
There is far less research on whether somed is productive. The few studies we have seen,show it is not for very basic B2C tasks like selling more things to women gift buyers during the holidays (A Nielsen study), etc. These facts and data are conspicuously ignored by marketers, of course.
I like it, Aaron.
Would you be willing to have it posted here, with a few of your points explained in greater detail? Sort of a tweeting guide for non-canaries.
Are there really people who tweet 50 times a day!
Susan Iverson, CFP
I’m curious as to how other CFPs are using Facebook to market…
For now, I’ll tweet or re-tweet. I’m blogging and posting to LinkedIn. But, for me, Facebook is an enigma wrapped in a mystery… Is it me or is it just a bunch of people with too much time on their hands posting about their daily meals or travels and kids? How am I supposed to join the conversation (authentically) or start a conversation when no one seems to be doing “business” there.
Is anyone using FB for business purposes?
Lisa (and Brooke) — What a great case study to my earlier piece and Brooke’s follow up regarding social media and advisors. Many continue to treat social media marketing like the peas and carrots on their plate they don’t want to eat. More examples like these will start the “herd mentality” that exists in this space and it won’t be a big secret much longer. What these advisors are also doing at the same time (besides great interaction w/ clients/prospects) is further building their brands and creating a transparent public image that makes them approachable. And for the advisors who don’t like social media marketing? Find someone that does and can run things for you — LinkedIn just turned 10 years old, these platforms are not going away and can save you time and money in the future.
I always think the best way to start with Twitter is to just read others – follow a bunch of people and then get in some conversations – essentially what Pat and Kevin have said. Watching a news story unfold on Twitter is so fascinating. But the problem I always have, and I’ve mentioned it to just about everyone – is the consistency issue. I’ll be Tweeting and interacting for a few good weeks and then things get crazy and I’m not as consistent. Ultimately, just like getting called into the principal’s office an advisor or source will “call me out” and say something like “Why isn’t Lisa Shidler tweeting or responding to Tweet messages.” Unfortunately, the public scrutiny is quite helpful get jumps me back into the Twitter game. When I have time, I really do enjoy Twitter too!
Elmer Rich III
Well, let’s unpack this. Let’s define productive simply as a return of income that is greater than the cost of doing the social media, time cost as well. Let’s also say over a six month period.
The abstract concepts like “building the brand” are fine if they translate into qualified prospects. Right?
Well, if there is independent data proving the B2B, let along financial advisor, income producing productivity of any social media tool in 30 secs — there would be no debate! But there is not. I would suggest a 30 day search of research would turn up any more, or less, evidence.
Some of the largest B2C marketers in the world are still trying to prove ANY social media produces sales. B2B applications are way behind those efforts and financial services like banks even further back and advisory work even further behind.
Do we have any sort of fact base for even discussing this? In some professionally planned nd executed cases we see reputation boosting – but we do this for a living.
How can an advisor be effective with ad hoc or inconsistent attempts? If advisors should do their own social media marketing, should they also create their own software and accounting practices? Be their own attorneys?
If this is a legitimate professional tool – why wouldn’t it demand professional skills, and experience. Why would it be DIY? An advisor’s public and online reputation is one of the more tangible business equity assets why engage in it like a hobby?
If the intellectual capital, solutions, POV’s processes and skills of a firms and it’s professionals isn’t digitized today – effectively — no one will ever know about it or be able to search and find it electronically. Should digitizing the intellectual capital of a firm be done for “fun?”
These are straightforward balance sheet and income statement business questions.
Brooke sent a few tweets this week? Finally, the tipping point!
Advisors have been right over the last few years to be skeptical about how social media (infamous for its ability to drain hours and days out of work lives) could contribute to their businesses. Credit Cathy Curtis and other early adopters for experimenting and then being open about what they’ve learned.
There is a model that can be followed. It requires commitment, consistency and a lot of thought but it’s good to see results being reported across the board. All has not been figured out. Practice and sharing evolving best practices is the only way to get close to perfect (itself a shifting target).
Props to you too, Brooke, for keeping at it with the coverage. You are no pushover and that’s how it should be. (No snickering, I promise.)