By Michael Byrnes
The integration of social media into the financial services industry turned out to be one of the hottest topics at the Charles Schwab Impact Conference in San Francisco last week.

"As an industry overall, we are late to this game," said Kathleen Pritchard, director and head of Advisor Business Development at Legg Mason Global Asset Management. In a presentation on how to leverage the Internet in marketing, she said that the fervor with which businesses are engaging in social media is reminiscent of the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.

"Social media has literally transformed the world," Pritchard said.  "If you want to be relevant, you have to make decisions on how to engage in social media."  

There are three ways to use social media
1.    Make connections.
2.    Create or use content.
3.    Share opinions.

"People are researching online first.  It is your footprint," Pritchard said.  "It is not one-and-done marketing.  Someone has to be responsible for making the Web site dynamic."  

That means paying for quality Web site vendor services, stocking the site with photos taken by a professional and updating the Web site on a regular basis, she said.  "Do this at least monthly.  Keep it fresh," she added.

Pritchard recommends walking clients through the Web site and providing them with the ability to make referrals on every page.  She suggested doing a home visit and bookmarking the site on their home computers-a task that could be carried out by a junior staff member.

Google Yourself

Advisors should strive to be at the top of search lists generated by sites such as Google, Pritchard said. She said advisors should try to get their name out on the Internet, but cautioned against being too aggressive. "It is not to be a place to rant and rave about everything," she noted. Advisors need to be careful about what type of information they release on the Internet, noting that all political contributions are Web searchable.  "Clients might disagree with your political views," she said.

Social networks are not just for kids, she noted.  "Baby boomers are hitting social media in waves.  If clients are there, you need to be there," Pritchard said.