How can social media help advisors' businesses? Over time, those not using it are at a competitive disadvantage.  

The following information is intended to be in a language that advisors understand, accompanied with examples of how to leverage the benefits.  Most importantly, it looks at how social media delivers a positive return on investment.

Here are ten ways advisors can benefit from social media and achieve a positive ROI.

1.    It is inexpensive.  With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube all free to use, how could one not have a positive return on investment? The truth is, while they are free to use, it does take time to be active, which means a portion of salaries are going to these activities.  There's also a potential opportunity cost if time spent on social media takes advisors and their staff away from more profitable activities. On the other hand, social media might actually deliver a cost savings, replacing some other marketing tactics that are more expensive and less successful.

How to put this in practice:  Most advisors who have used advertising admit it is expensive and rarely delivers results.  In many ways, social media has the same purpose, but can drive more leads, at a much lower cost. (Keep reading for more details.)

2.    It is educational.  Social media helps advisors learn about their industry, their competitors and clients.  With social media, advisors do not have to look for the news, it comes to them.  Plus, it comes to their computer or smart phone in the blink of an eye.

How to put this in practice:  Many think Twitter is waste of time, that it is a world of 140-character messages that are virtually meaningless.  Images of college students tweeting, "I have nothing to wear" or "I'm so drunk at the bar" pop into advisors' heads.  But those kind of messages aren't the only ones on Twitter, as every major news outlet and industry leader likely has at least one account.  Twitter also provides an easy way to see what competitors are saying.

3.    It is viral.  Advisors often get referrals from clients and others who recommend them.  It's also a great way to facilitate discussions, which just so happens to be one of social media's best features.  

How to put this into practice: Social media allows people to spread their ideas faster, and this often results in viral marketing, when one person shares something with their contacts, then their networks shares it, and so on. Every social media tool allows for some type of forwarding.  For example, clients might share a link to an advisor's article to all their connections in their LinkedIn networks.  Other features for sharing are called socialable buttons.  Often one can find these icons at the bottom of an online article.  (Take a look at <> for examples.)  Yahoo! Buzz is one tool, where a reader might buzz something up.  As it gets more votes, it draws more attention, increasing its viral effect. Advisors may also want to consider leading discussions on sites such as LinkingIn to increase exposure and build credibility.

4.    It is searchable.  The more active advisors are in social media, the more words they use.  These relevant titles, sentences and phrases are likely what your prospects are looking for when they are searching for answers for a topic or even an advisor.

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