This is where I'm supposed to write some pithy introduction. I'll spare you that. Here's a list of nine things that might help you with marketing and technology.
To boost your online presence, try commenting on blog posts of relevant sites and including a link to your site with a free report on that topic or link to a YouTube video where you talk about the topic. For example, the do-it-yourself personal finance Web site, Mint.com, has a community with blogs and videos where you can comment. To boost your online presence, it's good practice to comment and link back to your Web site or other content that you've produced, such as a video or post on your blog. So if you're a 401(k) expert, you might find the 401(k) blog on Mint and post a link to a video speaking about 401(k)s. To older advisors, putting yourself out there this way is a sharp departure from the days when marketing wealth management was a very low-key endeavor. But the Web salutes transparency, and your comments become part of your online social profile, which essentially gets graded for credibility by Google, Facebook and other social hubs. So you want to be genuine. Don't make comments totally self-serving. Only comment on a post if you have something that can help those interested in the video, article or thread. Most blogs allow a moderator to approve comments before they go live. Ideally, you'll focus on creating your own videos to reply to posts in your area of expertise.
Free video sites like YouTube, which is owned by Google, along with Vimeo and SlideShare, make it really easy to use video to improve your online presence. Every advisor should be using video to engage prospects on the Web. Creating your own studio is not all that difficult, and if you can get good at making videos of yourself speaking into a camera, you can transform your marketing and online presence. Video is such a powerful medium. People learn in different ways, and some like the written word, while others prefer mind maps. A blend is best. But video is a key ingredient in the mix. A financial advisor speaking into a camera about his passion for helping his clients produces powerful testimony. Here's a place with tips for creating your own studio.
We all know what Google Place listings look like. But how do firms come to show up there? To be listed, you must register your business on Google Places. Even if you don't plan on spending a dime on search engine optimization, registering on Google Places gives you a chance at showing up in local listings, and it's free. Listing your business literally puts you on the map, and you are now a place reported to Google Maps. Registering as a Google Place is a first step in validating you are a real business. From there, Google's filtering system starts collecting data about you and your online profile.
Your blog, personal and company social profiles on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter, along with videos, pictures and comments you've made to blogs are all factored into algorithms that assess your credibility and trustworthiness. You gain credibility on Google's system by compelling others to link to you. If The New York Times links to your Web site once a week when you are quoted in its article or write them, Google knows that's better than a link from the local weekly's classified ad section. The beauty of Google's system is its purity, its devotion to the numbers. (That's why they called it Google.) Google's value is in its indexing information reliably and it must pursue that goal fairly to retain credibility. It must accurately reflect the information it indexes, including information about you. The tyranny of truth and openness of the Web must be kept in mind, but poses little problem for honest advisors and has many benefits. It starts with registering, which will help people find you when they have an appointment or want to send you a gift. Google is just one of many sites that determine your online presence, but it is a key beginning step in getting recognized on the Web. Basically, the more helpful you are to others, the more credibility you get, and the same popularity that makes Justin Beiber a star can also make you an online success as a financial advisor.
On the negative side, listing on Google Places means your firm can be reviewed, and below your business's profile, your profile on Google Places contains reviews by consumers and links to "Related Places," which are usually your direct competitors. If you have clients who hate you, they could haunt you online. If you've been in business for more than a few years, you may have clients who walked away unhappy, through no fault of yours. If one or two people post a negative comment on your Google Place page, it's understandable. If you'll get too many of those, find another job. Advisors who have a long history of giving great service to clients will be the ones who can get the biggest benefits from using natural search engine optimization techniques that start with registering at Google Places.
4. Social Re-Engineering.
Social engineering is the biggest threat to security systems. Firewalls, third-party monitoring, encryption and other defensive tactics aim to make a vendor so hard to attack that its data is not worth the effort. Rich targets are larger companies. But most advisor technology vendors are usually not such rich targets when compared with banks and credit card companies. Advisor vendors can usually make it such a hassle to hack their systems that no hacker would bother.
The bigger risk is a socially engineered attack. For example, I recently received an e-mail for Antivirus 2011. After checking it out, however, I learned that no such company exists. I could almost as easily clicked on the link for a "free scan of my system," which would have loaded malware on my computer that looks for my passwords. I'm a pretty sophisticated computer user and I almost clicked on the link and downloaded the software! It was that slick, that professional. That's one example of social engineering.
The Internet essentially makes us all New Yorkers-a bunch of people who want to trust each other but first need to know you're not a creep. If you don't have basic street smarts in the virtual jungle, then you'll get screwed. Advisors need that perspective in their personal digital lives and must educate clients along these lines. Give your clients the information they need to avoid becoming victims of social engineering attacks.
If making it a hassle to break in to a Web site is your goal, requiring longer passwords is a means to reaching it. We all know that using non-alphanumeric characters in passwords makes them stronger, better able to withstand dictionary attacks in which a hacker uses brute-force computing power to guess your password based on words in the dictionary. So you don't want to use a word from the dictionary as your password. Now comes word of research showing that ten-character passwords are recommended. The New York Times recently quoted a computer security analyst saying that a hacker who programs a dictionary attack to make 100 billion guesses a second at your password-a realistic assumption-would need 19.24 years to break an encrypted ten-character password.
Steve Gibson, a security expert and chief executive of the Gibson Research Corporation, told the Times it would take just 2.43 months to go through every nine-character combination. Remembering a string of ten non-alphanumeric characters is difficult. So here's how to do it. Use the first letter of each word in a memorable phrase or favorite song to make a long password memorable. For example, I might derive a password from my favorite baseball player of all time, Mickey Mantle's, uniform number (7) and use the lyrics from "She Loves You," by the Beatles, "With a love like that, you know you should be glad" to inspire a password like "Walt,ykysbG7." That's easy to remember, and it's 13 characters.
Since your browser is your most used app, you above all want to avoid wasting any time monkeying with it. So I've long used Internet Explorer. It's not fancy, but it works. IE's reliable. About six months ago, however, I switched to Firefox 4.0. It's been a good experience. You may want to switch. Firefox integrates my home computer with my smart phone.
When I open Firefox's mobile browser on my Android, it displays the recent browsing history from my laptop. That's handy. When you use Firefox on your home computer to run a search on Google for the address of a restaurant, that search shows up on your mobile phone browser. If you're in your car, you can open Firefox on your phone and the restaurant search is a click away, along with other searches you did today. That's practical. That makes my life simpler.
Not to be a braggart, but my browser bookmarks are really displayed handsomely. Here's why you want to be just like me. It's showing the example in Firefox but this set up also works in IE and Google Chrome. The beauty of it is that only "favicons" are displayed as bookmarks. No text description is displayed.
By default, browsers show you text as well as a favicon in bookmarks toolbars. The text gets in the way. You can remember each site from its favicon and don't need the text reminder. Omitting text from bookmarks enables you to fit about five times as many favorite Web destinations on your bookmarks toolbar. Each browser has slightly different methods for omitting text from the bookmarks toolbar. Searching your browser's "Help" section for "bookmarks toolbar" should lead you to instructions for changing settings on your bookmarks toolbar.