Fears about falling out of compliance due to a social media program may be one of the reasons that some professionals have avoided the networking websites as a means of marketing themselves and building client capital. However, from one-person firms to organizations as large as Morgan Stanley, advisors are getting involved in blogs and Twitter without running into trouble when it comes to investor protection or disclosure problems.
Glen D. Gilmore - a lawyer and social media strategist - recently issued a slideshow describing "FINRA's 10 Commandments" for using social media.
The presentation highlights the need to develop a strategy before diving into social networking - be it Twitter, a blog, LinkedIn or another platform - to identify how it will integrate into your other marketing efforts. It will be important to draft a policy for any online posts that recommend specific investment products and to write rules and disclaimers that address third-party content and customer-provided content.
Be sure to retain all tweets and posts in a non-rewritable, non-erasable format to maintain compliance, Gilmore advises, by either picking a third-party vendor or setting up an archiving and approval recording system in-house.
Additionally, select a person who will be responsible for giving the final go-ahead on posts, tweets, principals' profile designs and any other content published online. Train your advisors or staff on the best ways to use social media without creating more risk for the client.
"Remember that it's okay to respond with a promise of more information or to take the conversation offline," Gilmore adds. Doing so will help you steer clear of privacy violations and allow for a one-on-one conversation with a client or audience member.
Are you starting to visualize how you can make social media a part of your business building strategy? Procrastinating on adding these networks to your marketing mix could be holding your business back from capturing the kind of clients you want.
A June 2011 survey from Fidelity Investments found that a large majority, 85 percent, of high net worth individuals already use or would like to use social media, text messaging and email. That figure stands in stark contrast to the number of financial services professionals who said the same - just 43 percent.
Think social media serves only a personal purpose? Think again; 34 percent of responding millionaires said they use the networks professionally, and approximately 66 percent indicated they would like to communicate with their advisors through electronic media.
The study also revealed that advisors are focused too much on in-person meetings, whereas high net worth individuals favor email communications and 37 percent of millionaires said they would consider having a non-local advisor, highlighting the potential opportunity advisors have outside their local market.
With some preparation, social media doesn't have to be a compliance liability and can help you capture clients in your target market. Get online and find out how other financial service professionals are utilizing the space to build their businesses.