Business | 03/24/2017
How to Establish ‘Rules of Engagement’ for Your Firm’s Social Media Presence
We run social media accounts for several clients and if we’ve learned one thing, it’s this: before you step out into the world of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or whatever, you need to establish ground rules for yourself and anyone else that will be running your accounts.
Social media channels can be a great place for interacting with clients and prospects alike. When your social media profiles are running smoothly, you’ll find it easier to answer questions, meet new leads, and spread the word about your firm and your blog.
If you’re not using social media to promote your firm and content, consider this: 22% of the world’s population uses Facebook (not to mention 79% of Americans), nearly 1 in 3 internet users with a college degree are on Twitter, 59% of Americans on social media think customer service through social media makes it easier to get questions answered, and pizza is the most Instagrammed food.
That last one might not be relevant, but isn’t pizza great?
Bottom line: When financial advisors use social media well, it can boost their overall marketing strategy considerably. When they don’t, it can be an expensive, potentially career-ending disaster.
But don’t let that scare you away. Using social media for your firm can be a snap if you first establish firm rules of engagement in these four areas:
Audits are the worst. They take up time and energy that you should be spending on serving and earning more clients. Social media is one of the easiest ways to raise red flags with the SEC as it’s one of your more public outlets. You’ll want to watch out for the following:
This one should go without saying. Just keep in mind that social media is just like anything else you say or write to a client or prospect. Don’t promise success and don’t say you can get any better results than anyone else.
This one’s also kind of obvious, but it has some finer points. In the SEC’s article, “Guidance on the Testimonial Rule and Social Media,” they point out where testimonials are okay and where they’re not.
Basically, if you control the social media page or ever publish your content there, you don’t want to post testimonials. But if you don’t control the site, then it’s fine.
In other words, you could get in trouble if any testimonial about your firm is posted on your Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin or other self-run social media sites, even if the clients post it themselves.
But you have no control over a site like Yelp, Google Reviews, or Angie’s List, so they’re allowed to post reviews of your firm. The trouble comes when you take those reviews and then repost them on your own website or social media channels. That’s a definite no-no.
Numbers Out of Context
When I first started out in the financial marketing world, I assumed anything that was acceptable in a blog post was acceptable on social media. I would read through client articles and pull quotes from them to post on FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Often, these articles held little statistical nuggets that I found fascinating. I would post these little nuggets directly to social media for the whole world to see.
I received a few panicked phone calls from clients telling me to pull down posts with numbers immediately. It only took a couple times for this lesson to stick: don’t post any statistics that are in any way related to market performance. They can very easily be taken out of context and viewed by someone as promissory.
Of course, you should still include meaty statistics in your blog posts, and you should use engaging quotes from your posts on social media. Just leave out the statistics.
2. Approval Process
Giving anyone (including yourself) total freedom to post anything on your social media accounts whenever they want is not a great idea. You’ll want to implement an approval process.
At Mineral, we developed a social post template that makes it easy to share social post ideas with your team. We have it in two forms: Google Sheets and Excel.
We prefer using a Google Sheet because it’s easier to collaborate and you don’t have to email the file back and forth. I set up a “View Only” version of our sheet that you can check out for yourself. If you want your own, in the File menu, just click “Make a Copy.” You can find that document here.
Many of our clients prefer to stick with Microsoft, so we also set up an Excel version you can download here.
Note: I left a couple of our articles and posts in there so you can see how it works. It includes an automatic character count column next to every post so you can make sure you don’t go over Twitter’s limits.
But a social post template alone won’t solve all of your approval problems. You need to decide what the chain of command looks like from post creation to approval to publication.
Here’s what ours looks like:
Creating posts should fall to your creative team (or, if you don’t have one, a team member who is more creative and/or social media-savvy). If you’re not posting creative, engaging content, then you might as well not post at all.
But final approval should be reserved for the people who will ultimately be held responsible if a bad post goes up. If I write something terrible and post it to Mineral’s social accounts, Mineral could lose clients and their public profile could be permanently damaged.
For that reason, Jud and Kim (our CEO and president, respectively) reserve the right to final approval. It’s their necks (and business) on the line.
Maybe you don’t have the time or interest to approve every piece of content that goes out the door. That’s okay, but you need to realize that you’re basically handing over the reins of your firm’s public image to someone else. Make sure you hire a professional you can trust.
3. Personal Profiles
Ever heard of Dan Grilo? Probably not, and chances are you won’t hear of him again, at least not for a very long time in the financial world. During a speech by Trump in early March, Grilo posted something stupid about the wife of a fallen Navy SEAL and landed himself in some very hot water.
As Twitter is wont to do, people immediately started posting all of Grilo’s information so others could start trolling him. This included the phone number, address, and other info about his workplace: Liberty Advisor Group in Chicago.
Dan used his own personal account – he didn’t post anything from Liberty’s profile – but people still began associating Liberty with Grilo’s tweet. In the end, he was fired and Liberty issued an apology. Keep in mind – his comments were in no way connected with Liberty’s social media profiles.
That’s why it’s a good idea to set up some suggested guidelines for what people should avoid talking about on their private social media channels. You could make the guidelines required, but I’m not sure that’s necessary. Just use Mr. Grilo as an example.
You could encourage your employees to avoid a lot of areas, but the big three are inflammatory political statements, market predictions, and offensive language (and insulting spouses of fallen soldiers, but that should’ve gone without saying).
Social media is a two-way street. You can talk to everyone and they can talk right back. And that’s a good thing!
Too many advisors fill up their Buffer account with their latest articles and then ignore people who respond to their posts. That’s the easiest and quickest way to lose followers. When people engage with you, make sure you’re engaging back at them.
The problem this presents is that you have to act a little faster in order to keep the engagement flowing. You might not feel like you have time to send all your responses through the approval workflow.
In such a case, you have two options: one of the final approval people has to handle all interactions, or you need to slow down the engagement and send all responses through the approval workflow.
This could be done easily and quickly in Slack (we have a #social channel where we kick ideas around for posts and responses), or by physically talking to the people in your social chain of command.
Make sure you have notifications being sent to a phone, computer, or Slack (using social integrations). When someone tweets at you or asks you a question on Facebook, don’t just let it sit there. It makes it seem like you’re ignoring people.
Bonus Rule: Keep Records of Everything
As FINRA wisely cautions, keep records of everything you do on social media. They say to do it for “business communications,” which I would interpret as meaning “any posts, messages, and communications sent from a corporate account, in addition to any communications sent from personal profiles used primarily for promotion of your business.”
Social media is fertile ground for advisor prospects. Who knows? Your next $1M+ client could find you because of a simple retweet. Just make sure you think about these four areas before you post your next piece of social media gold.
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