As most have already heard, in February of this year LinkedIn, the business-oriented social networking site, hit a membership milestone, eclipsing 200 million members. The attendant press coverage surrounding this achievement caused me to reflect on the financial industry’s relationship with social media marketing and the growth in the acceptance of this valuable marketing communications tool.

It was January 2010 and my firm was conducting a seminar on the “ABC’s of Social Media Marketing” for a group of financial advisors.  At the time, we were touting the importance of social networking and the relevancy of some of the key social networking sites based upon the sheer number of members, participants and or level of activity that they had at the time:

• LinkedIn – 60 million members
• Twitter – 165 million users
• YouTube – 2 billion views per day

Three short years later, the growth of these social networking sites has been nothing short of remarkable and clearly reinforces the viability of this media channel:
• LinkedIn – 200 million members
• Twitter -  520 million+ users
• YouTube – 4 billion+ views per day

If you’re one of the approximately 80 percent of advisors who have “some” involvement with social media … congratulations!  You made the right choice to incorporate this important communications channel in your practice development mix. Having been proven right, we would suggest that “now” is the opportune time to expand your social networking activities to make them a more integral part of your advisor marketing effort.  Why, you might ask?  Because in the words of American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.”

The growth of social networking sites and the launch of new social sharing portals such as Instagram and Pinterest have dramatically enhanced a financial advisor’s marketing capabilities. Social media marketing has made it easier and more cost-efficient for advisors’ to extend their message reach, connect with clients, prospects, peers and influentials and to monitor the thoughts, concerns and needs of the growing number of  investors who are socially active.
A 2012 survey of North American investors conducted by Cogent Research found that a large number of investors surveyed with investible assets of $100,000 or more use social networking sites.  Of note, nearly three-quarters of this group identified LinkedIn as the social networking site they “used most” for investment research.  Why you might ask?  Because they “trusted” LinkedIn and found the financial content to be a useful addition to the ability to connect with peers and post updates on their businesses. Thus it should be no surprise that more than one-half of high-net-worth investors indicated that they were open to receiving financial content via social networking sites and that they would be open to “real-time” interaction with an advisor on those sites.

The ability to interact with or engage key stakeholders is one of the primary benefits of social networking and why financial advisors should get more involved. Connecting with clients on LinkedIn or Twitter, for example, yields residual benefits. The first is that LinkedIn, in particular, is an excellent tool for actively managing the firm’s referral marketing program. Once a client is part of an advisor’s network, shared access is granted to each individual’s respective connections. This makes it incredibly easy for an advisor to review a client’s connections, identifying those individuals for whom they would appreciate an introduction and or referral. Equally as important, there will be times when a client will be able to ask the same of their advisor.  Second, being “connected” can make it easier to share information on investment management news or topics of interest to clients and prospects alike in a timely and cost-efficient manner. 

On the topic of “sharing” or distributing information, the relevancy of the content to the target audience is critical to the success of an advisor’s social networking program. Whether in the form of custom-branded content or articles sourced from trusted third-party providers, it must be informative, targeted and engaging if advisors expect their stakeholders to consume it and to pass it along to others. This is one reason that we believe that custom-branded content should be considered a “strategic pillar” in the development of a firm’s marketing program. One of the important benefits of sharing content with clients, prospects, alliance partners and peers is that if the content resonates with the recipient, they will likely share it with others, thus extending an advisors message reach and sphere of influence.

As a society, we are more “connected” now than we ever have been. According to ComScore, social networking was the most popular content category on the Web, accounting for 1 out of every 5 minutes consumers spent online (October 2011).  Further, more and more consumers are turning to tablets and smart phones to access the Internet, and this obviously includes their interaction with social networking sites. Thus it should come as no surprise that consumers are increasingly attracted to sites, blogs, posts and online content in general with strong visuals, clean imagery and informative graphics. 

If an advisor is looking to break through the clutter and boost engagement with their stakeholders, it would be wise to incorporate impactful, relevant images into the firm’s Web site, blog, social networking profiles and the content which it publishes. This will allow the firm to leverage this important trend and will serve to complement the organization’s investor communications program.

Cliff Campeau is a partner with Evolutionize LLC and a regular blogger on financial services marketing best practices. Evolutionize specializes in providing independent financial services firms with a suite of proven practice development solutions, including Web site development, inbound and outbound marketing tools and compliant social media marketing program support. Campeau can be reached at