Of course, it’s important to first define ‘great results’ – the assumption being that Social Media is a marketing activity designed to attract new clients.

“Why else would you use Social Media then?” asked one attendee at a recent workshop.  It’s a fair question, so here are the best results that IFAs and advisers tend to see from their use of Social Media:

  1. They get many more visits to their website
  2. They are able to improve their search engine rankings
  3. Prospects can build a better picture of an adviser by seeing beyond just what he or she put on their website
  4. They are able to reinforce themselves as authoritative and credible in (say) pensions, investment and other areas of personal financial planning
  5. They strengthen their reputation for trustworthiness
  6. They have a great way to engage with professional connections and centres of influence
  7. They raise their profile in their local community
  8. Press and media come to them for expert opinion, which gives them additional visibility online and which enhances the perception of them as having expertise in personal finance
  9. They are able to engage with clients beyond meetings, newsletters and reviews – including being able to cement recently made relationships with new clients
  10. They are first to spot opportunities to help individuals and companies that need their help
  11. They are quick to discover local events where they can raise their profile
  12. They find new opportunities to network with other people
  13. They are able to improve their knowledge by listening to other experts and thought leaders
  14. They are able to learn best practice from other advisers around the world
  15. They are able to get new ideas and make improvements to their business by listening to business development experts
  16. They are able to give their business a human face beyond traditional face-to-face relationships
  17. They are able to add another level of ‘wow’ to their customer service proposition
  18. They are able to build Community around their clients
  19. They are able to educate people on personal finance
  20. They are able to attract people to join their newsletter list
  21. They are able to decrease their marketing costs
  22. They are able to promote specific initiatives that go beyond the giving of financial advice – e.g. education, local sponsorship, public speaking etc.
  23. They are able to humanise a topic (financial advice/planning) which disenfranchises some people and which others distrust
  24. They are able to build ‘buzz’ around their business
  25. They improve brand equity
  26. They are able to significantly expand the reach of their promotions when hosting seminars and events
  27. They are able to give clients another way to talk to them
  28. They attract Internet-savvy staff to their practice
  29. They improve staff motivation and engagement
  30. They enrich their client experiences
  31. They gain greater insights into the things clients care about – beyond what they’ve been told in a fact find meeting
  32. They are able to observe their competitors
  33. They look busy, vibrant and active
  34. They are able to reinforce the ‘tone of voice’ of their business – e.g. fun, serious, professional etc.
  35. They are able to find and listen to niche markets where they have expertise
  36. People who are referred to an IFA by an existing client have another way to ‘check you out’
  37. They add a new service and communication methodology to their proposition
  38. They attract new clients

Now, to the sceptic IFA or financial adviser, if I was getting even five or six of these results I would be thinking that Social Media is time well spent.  But I hope you noticed that I left until last the result which the overwhelming majority of advisers think is the reason for using Social Media – to attract new clients.

In reality, most financial advisers will only attract a small number of new clients directly from their Social Media activities, though there are exceptions.  One financial planner told me that in 2015 he attracted clients that paid him £100,000 in fees purely through his use of LinkedIn.  Others have told me that they attracted new clients through LinkedIn the very first time they used online networking techniques which I teach.

In both these examples, the IFAs concerned followed a process and a routine which I explain at my workshops and in consulting sessions.

The truth about Social Media for financial advisers is that it is a tool to support your business processes – to do some things more efficiently, some things much faster, to complement other activities and to do some things with greater efficiency and adeptness.  In short, it helps you to do many of the things you do in your business – better.

For that reason, financial advisers should look at their Social Media profiles as assets of their business – particularly LinkedIn.  And like any asset or tool that you use in your business, when you learn how to use it properly, only then will you see real benefits.  For example, providers of back office or CRM systems will tell you that proper training is essential if you are to get the best out of the systems.  Sounds like common-sense, but the same goes for using LinkedIn – take some time to get properly trained, and when you do you will see the site in a completely different light.

So we’ve defined ‘great results’ and what’s noticeable about the advisers who succeed with Social Media is that they have a clear sense of what they want to achieve with it and then focus on that.  In other words they have a plan.

Over the last six months we’ve asked five hundred financial advice firms if they have a ‘written down’ Social Media plan and to our amazement not one single one of them had.

However when you find advice firms that are using Social Media and seeing success with it, the majority have a plan – or at the very least a clear view of what they want to achieve by using it.  And “Attract new clients” is almost never the primary goal.

“Doing what they already do, but better” is a key goal of the most successful financial advice firms around the world and Social Media is just one tool which helps them to be better.  And when people and businesses invest in themselves, they invariable attract more clients – and better ones at that.

So the first thing they have in common is:

They want to be better at what they do as a financial advice business – greater professionalism, more robust processes, and better customer service and so on.

The second thing is that they know why they are using Social Media, and they have a clear plan for how they will use it.  For most financial advice firms, Social Media will be one of the most powerful tools they will ever find to attract more website visits.  One financial planning firm I work with saw website visits increase by 2,400% in just seven days – with ‘increasing website visits’ being at the centre of their plan.

The third thing they have in common, is that having committed to using Social Media as a tool within their business, they use it a lot.  In fact they use it a lot more than advisory businesses that are less successful.

Let’s look at some numbers from the US.

According to a 2015 survey in the United States by WealthVest, advisers generating in excess of $1m in annual revenue use Social Media Marketing over 40% more than their lower performing peers.

It’s worth adding quickly that these figures come from the US, where the financial advice industry has been considerably more cautious about Social Media – far more so than in the UK.

The report goes on to say that among advisers who characterised their use of Social Media as ‘extensive’, more than 70% reported an increase in assets under management or revenue due to Social Media Marketing.  Even among the ‘dabblers’, 40% reported an increase due to Social Media. 

The story was similar when advisers were asked about the impact of Social Media on their ability to attract clients.  Overall about two out of ten financial professionals reported that Social Media had helped expand their client base by 10% or more during 2014.  Whilst amongst ‘extensive’ users, six in ten reported a similar increase in clients.

When engaging clients through Social Media, 66% of high-income earning advisers said their primary goals were to improve their professional brands, while 53% said they wanted to share relevant news and content with clients.  Forty-seven percent said Social Media also helped them generate new prospects and leads, while 44% said it helped them network with professional peers.  Forty-four percent also said it helps them access expert commentary and news, while 16% said it helps them to reduce marketing expenses.

So to sum up those outcomes:

  • Increase the size of their client base
  • Increase in assets under management or revenue
  • Improve their professional brands
  • Share relevant news and content with clients
  • Generate new prospects and leads
  • Network with professional peers
  • Access expert commentary and news
  • Reduce marketing expenses

At any level, these are extremely positive outcomes, and can in themselves form the basis of a compelling Social Media strategy for financial advisers both amongst large and small firms.  Whilst good results were seen across all advisers, what’s interesting to note is that the best results were achieved by:

  • advisers generating in excess of $1m in annual revenue
  • advisers who described their use of Social Media as ‘extensive’

‘Immediate’ results within the first twelve months

Almost one-third of million-dollar advisers saw results immediately after engaging clients and prospects via Social Media, and 56% realised benefits within the first 12 months.  That’s a significantly better result than experienced by the group as a whole, where just 20% of all financial representatives who participated in the survey reported immediate results - although 58% realised positive outcomes within the first year.

In summary, the study suggests that the more active a financial adviser is with Social Media, the greater the benefit is to his or her practice in terms of attracting new clients, increasing assets under management and improving revenue streams

Not surprisingly, the majority (70%) of high-income earners participating in the survey intend to further increase their Social Media activity in the future. 

I think it’s also important to highlight that financial advisers in the US were a lot slower off the mark to use Social Media than their colleagues in the UK, and even now Compliance is a lot tougher than in the UK.  So we’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

‘Success’ with Social Media is how you the adviser define it; what I’ve done is to highlight that ‘attracting new clients’ is a by-product of working to make your business better for you and for your existing clients.  Social Media merely helps support those business development initiatives.

I’ve talked about the importance of advisers having a clear plan, and that hardly any actually have one.  And of those that know they need to have one, most don’t know where to start.

So on 20th October, you have a chance to put that right, because at our workshop in London (which I’m leading) we will literally write your plan there and then.

We’ll give you the tools, focus and motivation you need, and at the end of the day you will leave with a plan that is bespoke to your business and which you can put in place straight away.  And you’ll wish you had done it years earlier!

You should sign up here: http://www.ifalife.com/articles.asp?AID=1796

Social Media is not something extra that you do in your business because someone told you it could attract new clients.  If you want a better business with happier clients, you should look at your Social Media profiles as part of your business assets, and you should look at the use of Social Media as part of what you do to create and build a better business.

Philip Calvert is founder of LifeTalk.  He speaks and trains financial advisers internationally and specialises in helping businesses in regulated industries to see greater return from their use of Social Media.

Follow Philip on Twitter:  twitter.com/philipcalvertConnect with him on LinkedIn:  linkedin.com/in/socialmediaspeaker