Six Ways To Develop Your Social Networking Strategy

Amy Buttell Erie Pennsylvania 20 April 2011

Six Ways To Develop Your Social Networking Strategy

Social networking is the premier networking destination for financial advisors. With so many established and new options, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Four Square and Tumblr, it’s hard to know where to start.

If you’re not there, or if you are there but not fully committed either because you aren’t sold on its value or hold back due to compliance concerns, think again. Social networking has the potential to be a powerful part of any well-thought out marketing strategy, and a chance to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

What social networking does, says Pat Allen, a veteran marketing manager and chief executive of Rock the Boat Marketing, a financial services marketing firm based in Chicago, Illinois, is help you cut to the chase.

“It makes you more knowable when potential clients can look you up online and see what you’re doing and what you’re about,” she adds. “It shows that you’re available, you’re accessible and that you’re paying attention.”

There’s no doubt that social networking is in its infancy and how it evolves in the future may have little or no connection to what’s happening today. But if you can get in on the ground floor and establish your brand, it will be easier to go with the flow of whatever happens.

Case study

To use a case study, Cathy Curtis, who runs Oakland, California-based Curtis Financial Planning, started with social networking a couple of years ago without a plan, but now has a strategy and brand that evolves around her women-centric financial planning practice.

“I fell into social networking because I knew I needed to find a way in this big world as I started to build my practice,” she says. “I took a couple of classes on how to build a Facebook page and use LinkedIn and Twitter and started focusing my energy on building a social network around my work with women, and I’ve had some success.”

As an example of the kind of awareness this can build, Curtis now has a well-established blog, which she pushes out through her Facebook page and LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Furthermore, her Facebook page is “liked” by 957 people, she has more than 500 connections on LinkedIn, and nearly 4,000 followers on Twitter.

On Curtis’ experience with social media, Allen notes that what is important is that she is not directly promoting herself, but has conveyed her personality and what makes her unique through the medium, and in this way attracts followers.

Essentially, figure out what makes you unique – your own personal and professional value proposition – and make that the centerpiece of a social networking marketing strategy, and part of your overall marketing strategy. As Curtis says, “Don’t market to everyone; my best advice would be to decide who you are talking to and who your market is before you start, because that makes it easier to know what to talk about.”


Here are some thoughts on how to do that:

1. Leverage your marketing plan. A social networking strategy is part and parcel of an overall marketing communications plan. It’s much easier to shape a social networking strategy around your brand if you already know what that brand is. Allen advises. Consider your target market and what those individuals want to read and learn about and construct your profile and posts around those issues.

2. Build a structure. Just like Rome, a social networking presence isn’t built in a day, Curtis notes. It takes time, work, energy and experience to construct a social networking presence that commands followers and attention. Curtis recommends starting with regular blogging. “If I could change anything about how I initially approached social networking, I would have started blogging earlier,” she says.

Blogging platforms such as Wordpress and Blogger are fairly easy to integrate into your current site. Regular blogging about what you find interesting and think will interest clients and prospective clients, will help you figure out how to present yourself via social networking and what differentiates you from the thousands of other advisors who are there, she adds.

3. Get started. You can also start out by dipping your toe into the social network pool by setting up a personal page in Facebook, if you’re not there already, says Stephanie Sammons, founder of the Wired Advisor, a blogging and social media platform for financial advisors. Just stick to posting personal stuff; don’t cross the line into the professional. Once you’re comfortable with the medium and know what your compliance department will let you do – and not do – you can move on into a professional Facebook page, LinkedIn, Twitter and beyond.

So much of social networking is about connecting, says Curtis. So do it – connect on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter with colleagues, old friends from high school and college, neighbors and anyone who you know who’s there. You never know where that connection will lead.

4. Commit to marketing. Many advisors don’t relish the challenge of marketing, but in this business, it’s vital, says Curtis. So you might as well embrace it.

And as Allen notes, marketing online is much more than having a website. There are so many websites out there that, “it’s a minority of people who will ever see your website. So you’ve got to make an effort to contribute and be seen elsewhere.”

That’s where social networking comes in. You get noticed and get attention when you connect with others, comment on what they’re saying and post your own observations, not just related to your business, but about what interests you.

5. Listen. Listening to what’s happening in social networking with your connections is more important than talking, Allen says: “So much of social networking is about having a conversation and you can’t do that if you’re not there and you’re not listening, you’re not paying attention, to what other people are saying and to what’s happening.”

When you’re listening, contributing to conversations based on your interest and expertise, especially on Facebook and Twitter, your sphere of influence is growing and you’re attracting more and more followers without really trying, Allen adds.

6. Contribute. As when you meet someone in person and have a verbal conversation with them, social networking is fundamentally about having a conversation as you build relationships, Allen stresses. You don’t get far in real world networking or in social networking by just talking about yourself.

“The whole social networking thing is about the lively art of conversation,’ says Allen. “How can you surprise and delight, how you can be unpredictable.” Curtis agrees. She’s a passionate foodie and some of that comes through in her profile, as do her other hobbies and interests, along with her business mission of educating women about finances. She’s herself on social networks, and anyone who wants to succeed would be wise to follow her example.

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