By Mike Byrnes

Advisors are finding that social media is more helpful than just sharing silly things like what you ate for dinner last night.

At the a FPA retreat, three panelists said they stumbled upon social media in different ways and have become believers of its power to communicate on a large scale.

Finding A Use For Social Media
Carl Richards, founder of Prasada Capital Management, joked, "I got started because I had an opinion and found nobody in my house would listen to me."  Richards is known for drawing sketches that capture complex investor behavior. When it came to using social media, he admitted he had "no grand plan."  It started with his sketches to help clients understand his advice and it evolved into the New York Times asking him to do a drawing each week. "Chances are that as crazy your ideas are, there is someone out there that will agree with them," he said.

Richard Kahler, a fee-only advisor and faculty member at Golden Gate University who has almost 100,000 views on YouTube, said he has always been a writer.  "It seemed intuitive that I start blogging," Kahler said.  He said his firm shifted communications online, saving a lot on postage.  Then he discovered something interesting: During the market crash, there was a direct correlation between clients who did not panic and those who opened the firm's e-mails, which helped him realize the value of online communications.

Tim Maurer, vice president of the Financial Consulate, originally didn't think much of Twitter and other online networks: "I didn't see the value in social media.  I thought it was how people cheated on their spouses by finding old lovers."  His public relations contact finally told him, "You have to do this" to market his book.

Maurer had a client who said, 'The writings are good, but it would be better if I could see your face."  His firm then experimented with putting videos online.  "Within a month, we got picked up by the Wall Street Journal for using this technology."  He viewed that as ironic since "I was a late adopter."  

Social Media Insights
"We ask every client if they would like to connect [online]," Kahler said.  "With Facebook, we have all ages.  It is more tilted to 30 somethings, but we have clients in their 50's and 60's, too."

"Be very clear about your goals," Richards said.  However, he said it's hard to measure expectations with online activities.  With "Nick Murray math," you have an idea of how many calls you need to make to get a certain amount of leads and how many of those individuals you can convert into clients, he explained.  With social media, there are no preset formulas, he said.

Maurer thinks social media is an extension of himself and his firm.  He feels strongly that social media is a great tool to use in a relationship-driven industry.