Social media has become extremely popular over the past decade. In fact, more than 500,000 users sign-up for Facebook every day with nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults active at least once per month on the network. While the financial services sector has been slow to adopt social media, new regulatory guidance has cleared the way for advisors to leverage these powerful mediums to attract new clients and keep existing clients engaged with their practice.

Let's take a look at some digital marketing tips that advisors may want to consider in order to maximize the effectiveness of their social media campaigns. (For more, see: Do's and Don'ts of Digital Marketing.)

Start With LinkedIn

With over 433 million users, LinkedIn has rapidly become the most popular social media network for financial advisors. In addition to having a wealthier demographic than other social media networks, LinkedIn makes it easier to take advantage of second- and third-degree connections to attract referrals and glean insights. These attributes make it an excellent starting point for financial advisors looking to use social media in their practice.

Financial advisors should start by creating a high-quality profile that includes a professional image, compelling headline, and as many details as possible. After investing some time in a profile, advisors should build connections with classmates, colleagues, and clients. Many advisors have also started asking clients for introductions to five or ten of their friends that might find value in their services—a simple act that can dramatically build networks.

The next step is to leverage LinkedIn to build relationships and land new clients. If an advisor has a blog, it’s a good idea to share content that may benefit his or her connections, such as how to roll over a 401(k) or how much to save for retirement. Readers looking for more information may then reach out, engage, and eventually hire the advisor. It’s also a good idea to check for relevant connections to new clients before meeting them in order to build rapport. (For more, see: LinkedIn/Microsoft Deal: What Advisors Should Know.)

Don’t Spread Too Thin

There are many different social networks that are commonly used these days, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and others. While some of these networks are natural places to make connections, others are primarily used for entertainment rather than business. Financial advisors should stick to social networks that have the greatest potential to deliver real value to their business, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and perhaps Twitter.

Advisors should also carefully consider how much time they have to devote to keeping social media updated. It’s much better to properly maintain a single account than to haphazardly manage three separate accounts. According to social media manager Buffer, LinkedIn should be updated once per day, Facebook should be updated five to 10 times per week, and Twitter should be updated at least five times per day in order to effectively build an audience.

A good approach for getting started is to focus on one social media network until you see some traction and then move on to other networks. Often times, starting all of the major social media networks at once will only result in burnout and a failure to realize any benefits at all. (For related reading, see: LinkedIn: How Advisors Can Use It to Grow.)

Be Purposeful

Many businesses treat social media as an afterthought, but these days, clients are looking for more engagement than ever before. This means that financial advisors should be purposeful when engaging with their audience and have a well-defined sense of what success is. For example, a good social media management process might look something like this:

  • Brainstorm topics for a blog post based on feedback from clients and/or questions that come up in client meetings.
  • Come up with a list of several catchy titles for a topic and test them on colleagues.
  • Write a detailed 800- to 1,000-word blog post covering the topic that goes into greater detail than most other online content.
  • Identify an image or two that will break up the content and can be used in social media to make the post stand out from the crowd.
  • Post on social media networks and tag specific hashtags, groups, or people that may be especially interested.
  • Respond to any feedback from the social media postings.

Advisors should also have a well-defined metric for success. If the goal is to build website traffic, they should install Google Analytics and carefully measure the success of their posts over time and then optimize for success. If the goal is to collect e-mails, they should have a compelling opt-in offer and engage the e-mail list with a weekly newsletter or other content. It’s important to define what constitutes a return on investment for the social media effort.

The Bottom Line

Social media has become extremely popular over the past decade—even in the slow-to-adopt financial services industry. Advisors should begin by building a presence on LinkedIn and then slowly expand into other social media networks as they gain traction. It’s also very important to have a well-defined definition of success and carefully measure these efforts over time to avoid falling into the traps that keep many businesses from realizing any benefits. (For related reading, see: Implementing a Small Business Social Media Strategy.)