Ken Coombs, a certified financial planner (CFP) at Manulife Securities Inc. in London, Ont., began using social media to attract new clients about three years ago.
The 41-year-old says social media was a big part of his life well before he began using it for work. He had relied upon platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get news and keep in touch with loved ones for years, so the move to connect with clients online was an intuitive one.
“If I’m looking for something, the first place I go is to Google,” Mr. Coombs says. “I knew that I needed to have some kind of presence [on social media to improve my Google rankings],” he says.
Mr. Coombs uses Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram to showcase both his expertise and his personality, highlight his credibility and financial prowess through informational posts, and underscore his relatability for clients through photos of his family and personal life.
“For people who don’t know me, how do I get them to know who I am?” he says of his social media strategy. “It’s me saying, ‘I’m a real person too.’”
Mr. Coombs is part of a growing faction of financial advisors flocking to social media to build up their businesses. According to a recent Greenwich Associates study, 54 per cent of advisors have increased their use of Twitter in the past six to 12 months, while 50 per cent say the same of LinkedIn.
Of the 1,124 financial advisors surveyed worldwide for the report, 64 per cent told Greenwich Associates that using social media has “improved their business” in some way.
Although marketing through social media has been on the rise long before the COVID-19 pandemic, its use has skyrocketed since March. Two out of three advisors surveyed for the report said they’ve spent more time discussing market movements with clients since COVID-19 – and most of these conversations have happened online.
“Clients treat their financial advisors as trusted experts, particularly in times of stress,” the report says.
As such, communicating via social media has proven more important than ever for advisors amid the major turmoil stemming from the pandemic.
Even so, some advisors told Greenwich Associates they’re hesitant to hop on the social media bandwagon. For many, it feels like yet another technical skill to master – and it’s one that won’t reap equal results for those who serve older generations of clients primarily.
“[Some advisors] don’t know how to create a post on LinkedIn. They don’t have a specific Twitter account. They just aren’t technically adept at putting that together,” says Dan Connell, managing director at Greenwich Associates in New York and co-author of the report. “If you’ve never done it before, you’re uncomfortable with it.”
Mr. Coombs says advisors should avoid adopting this mentality.
“It’s not too late to get started. It’s never too late,” he says. “You’ve just got to pick the right platforms and put the right content on them.”
Mr. Coombs got his footing on social media through informal A/B testing techniques; he experiments with different styles of posts and keeps track of what works and what doesn’t.
Kevin Cork, CFP at the Absolute Group in Calgary uses tools like HootSuite and If This Then That to make the process of posting on social media more efficient.
He says his goal with social media is not to gain new clients, but to reinforce his value to his existing ones. He often refers back to his LinkedIn posts in conversations and e-mail threads with clients, underscoring his knowledge on the subject and offering clients a resource they can turn to well after the end of a meeting.
“I will e-mail them and say, ‘I was talking to you about this subject last week. Here are some posts I’ve done recently that address these specific things,’” he says.
Similarly, Mr. Coombs says he uses his social media posts as a resource for his clients; he often writes explainer-style pieces breaking down complex ideas into simple, jargon-free terms.
Although the platforms require different posting styles and reach different demographics, he stresses the importance of being useful, accessible and personable across all channels.
“Our industry is full of acronyms and terms that people don’t know unless you actually work in it,” he says. “Back in the beginning of the pandemic, people were talking about dollar-cost-averaging. What does that even mean? So, I wrote a post. ‘This is what that means.’ And I put it all into plain English.”