Investment Executive Article

Posted: January 24th, 2011   |   Category: Blog | Promotion | Search | Social | Strategy

Leveraging Digital Tools to Get Found Online

The January 2011 edition of Investment Executive has a number of quotes from me (Bill Wittur) in reference to the use of social networks for financial consultant.

The focus of the article is using ways to ‘make it rain’ or generate leads and new accounts for your business.  Social media should be seen as a critical path for generating this kind of activity, but the Canadian regulators have been stuck in the 1980s and haven’t made a lot of progress with respect to generating a solid list of rules and regulations concerning the use of these tools.

Social media tools are no different in context than the use of telephones, fax machines and even email.

The research shows that nearly 60% of advisors are using social networks, but most of these people are doing so against company policy.  Research also shows that ad spend on social networks has been and will continue to go through the roof over the next few years:

In Canada, it’s safe to assume that this share will likely be in the $200 to $300 million range for ad spend.  It’s easy to see how financial advisors and professionals from other industries will be chomping at the bit to get their name out there to targeted and specific audiences.  Never before has the opportunity to ‘build a book’ (ie. generate a list of potential clients) been so great.

So why is it that regulators are so far behind?

In many circles, the silence can be deafening and a lack of effort on behalf of the institutions that are supposed to be leaders can be discouraging for its members, to say the least.

The reality is that there’s nothing to fear with going digital.  Yeah, everything’s out there, but that’s the point.  The transparency of digital ensures that conversations are sensible.  If they’re not, a good monitoring program will allow regulators to track anyone that’s acting unprofessionally and shut them down.

It’s the casual conversations over dinner and behind closed doors that I’d love to do away with so that the markets can operate the way they’re supposed to be:  without insider influence.

The Opportunity

There’s a very real and genuine opportunity for regulators to create their own social media network that financial advisors would own and that the investing public could have access to.

There’s nothing out there that says that in order to be social you have to use platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn, although these will prove to be powerful promotional jumping points.

‘DIY’ platforms like Ning or BuddyPress might be the route to go or

The Dark Side of Social

Never before has everything been so transparent.  For those that like to keep their skeletons in their closets, I have bad news:  it’s going to get worse.

Recently, two employees got fired in BC because of derogatory comments that they had on their Facebook page about their employer.

I’m not in the business of commenting on legal cases, but this is an unfortunate reality that we all have to work with.

Last year, I had a discussion with an elementary class about the digital media world and I reminded them of my own personal and favourite expression (paraphrased from Eay, Pray, Love):  digital media is like having a tattoo on your face.  You kind of want to be committed.

Of course, what this also means is that you don’t have to dive into the deep end.  Baby steps like having a page, posting a couple of tweets (even retweeting a few stories that you think are relevant) and organizing a LinkedIn group will not get you in trouble.

It’s not having guidelines that will cause you grief, so the first thing you should do if you lack a presence is hire social media coaches (like Bottree) to help you ‘shape’ your voice in the social environment.

For those that don’t have access to the Investment Executive article, I’ve posted some of the content below (and I wasn’t able to link to the article because they don’t have it posted online).

“Making it Rain”:  Quotes from the Investment Executive Article

NOTE:  I only reproduced the section on social media and the conclusion.

Social media is an exciting prospecting tool, and it’s getting to the point at which it’s a must-have presence for professionals, says Bill Wittur, managing director of Bottree Digital Services in London, Ontario.  “There’s almost a kind of weirdness that happens if you’re not there.”

However, there are roadblocks to advisors tapping into this rich prospecting tool.  Most financial services firms in Canada are still wary of how social networking can best conform with compliance issues.  In fact, the majority of firms forbid employees, not just advisors, to use online networking sites in any professional capacity.

There’s little research in Canada about the use of social media among advisors.  But according to a small study conducted last year by a Texas-based firm, 60% of advisors surveyed in Canada and the US use social media sites in a professional capacity – and almost two in five of these individuals are doing so against company policy.

Not all firms in Canada are opposed to advisors using social media in their rainmaking efforts.  The Internet provides untold efficiency when it comes to reaching clients and prospects, says [Neil] Taylor [vice-president of marketing with Investors Group Inc. in Winnipeg].  For example, depending on an advisor’s target market, there might be a special-interest group with an electronic meeting place through which an advisor could reach countless new prospects.  This option allows potential clients to learn a little about you – by say, joining your network or ‘meeting’ you through another network – before becoming a client.

Wittur says the overcautious stance of financial services firms remind him of the same reluctance in the past to embrace email or even fax technology.  Although he admits that advisors have to keep their professionalism top of mind when communicating online, the decision to avoid the medium altogether will mean that some advisors will be left behind.  “We have to be real about this,” he says.  “It’s the phone call or cell phones or the casual conversations at dinner … that you have to be concerned about. At least in the digital world, it’s transparent.”

Wittur also points out that there is a lead-by-example issue that is sadly lacking in the financial services industry.  “I looked up IIROC (Investment Regulatory Organization of Canada) on LinkedIn [a hugely popular professional networking site], and it had 90 followers,” he says. “My mom has more Facebook friends.”

the industry, he adds, needs to be more aggressive in clarifying issues – such as compliance – and demonstrate that it is supporting the community through online channels.

Says [Julie] Littlechild [President of Advisor Impact Inc.], “we have to accept that people are communicating in a very different way now, and social media and technology will play a role in the way we look for clients and the way clients find advisors. The question then becomes: how do we capture that opportunity?  If there are 100,000 people out there tapping ‘financial advisor’ into Google, how do we capture that interset and bring it down to think more about those kinds of online or social strategies going forward?”

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