Originally published in RIA Biz Magazine (8/11)
by Maria Marsala, Coach to Financial Advisors
As a financial professional, you spend a lot of time looking for new customers. Your daily routine is consumed by a numbers game where more prospects translate to more clients. The allure of social media is great. But how do you simultaneously navigate social media sites like LinkedIn and compliance regulations—and still make social media work for you?
If your compliance department approves a social networking website, it’s most likely LinkedIn. Widely used by professionals, the site claims that the majority of its users are decision-makers. The tremendous volume of activity generated by LinkedIn’s 100 million members attracts the attention of search engines. Often, a search will produce a professional’s LinkedIn profile before his or her website.
Many firms have been experimenting with the use of Twitter and LinkedIn. Undoubtedly, more firms will develop social media policies to remain competitive.
As more freedoms are granted for social media use, you’ll want to be ready. Follow the tips below to start or improve your LinkedIn profile.
Tip #1 – Start with Compliance
The adage, “ask forgiveness, not permission”, does not apply to the financial sector. Contact your compliance department to learn its social media protocol. However, use a collaborative approach to making requests; don’t ask, “Can I . . .?” but rather, “How can I . . .?” If your firm doesn’t have a written social networking usage document, get involved with creating one. Volunteer as a test case.
Tip #2 – Benefit from a Company Profile
You can have only one individual LinkedIn profile. Company profiles are important. Make sure your marketing manager knows about this feature so that the company profile can be set up properly. You will find instructions in LinkedIn’s Companies section. When correctly used, this feature ties individual employees’ profiles together and makes it easy for others to find and follow your company on LinkedIn.
Tip #3 – Be an Early Bird
Try to remember: progress versus perfection. Establishing a LinkedIn profile that includes your name and title is better than not having any profile at all! Now that compliance departments are beginning to allow social media participation, being an early user in your profession is a competitive advantage. Start your profile and include as much information as your company allows.
Tip #4 – Create a Search-Friendly Profile
Start your profile by creating a file of keywords. To do this, open a spreadsheet or create a table with three columns. In the first column, list features of your services or products. In the second column, list the benefits of your services or products. In the third column, list the attributes of your ideal client, which can include geographics, demographics, technographics, and psychographics. Then, ask your clients why they hired you, what they like best about your services, and why they would refer you to others. Add those words to the appropriate columns in your keyword document. Choose five of the most important words in each category and sprinkle those words or concepts throughout your profile.
Including keywords in the “Summary” and “Experience” sections of your profile increases your chances of being found by search engines. By the way, if you are an RIA or other independent, you can use this keyword process to create other marketing materials for your firm.
Tip #5 – Complete Your Profile
Read the LinkedIn Blog (Home/More/Learning Center) or work through the instructions in the Tools at the bottom of the page and you’ll learn that profiles completed 100% are weighted more heavily and rank higher in LinkedIn’s internal search feature. Even if your profile is the only thing that your company allows, fill in as much as you can within compliance guidelines for maximum “find” potential.
Tip #6 – Stand Out
The Summary section is an underutilized area of many LinkedIn profiles. Use this section to appeal to your particular client niche and to describe your services. This area gives you the opportunity to differentiate your business. If you are an independent professional working for a company, your Experience section should resemble your resume. If you own your firm, consider making this area more personal with the use of the word “I”.
Tip #7 – Be a Resource to Your Contacts
Visit the Learning Center monthly. You’ll find it under the More tab. You’ll be more informed—and your profile will reflect that. Subscribe to the RSS feed at the Blog and you’ll be first to learn about new features. As a service to your LinkedIn connections, email them informative links through the Inbox (Compose Message button on the left) and help them gain more visibility, too! If your company has a blog, ask permission to use LinkedIn’s Blog application and connect to it. Helpful content attracts connections and helps to differentiate you and your company.
Tip #8 – Follow the Rules
Following the rules is important. The area for your first name and last name may include your credentials, but may not include your title, email address, or any other information. I learned this lesson the hard way when my subscription was frozen for a few days. Discussing this with a representative revealed that I agreed to this policy as a condition of creating an account.
Tip #9 – Be Social
Join Groups started by your company, financial magazines, or financial associations in order to connect with current clients, referrals, and prospects that might find you during their Internet travels.
Tip #10 – Delegate
Do you still have doubts about whether LinkedIn is a good use of your time? Designate one of your team members to manage an account or hire a writing professional to create your profile. This person can also research applications and groups that might interest you.
It’s clearly a competitive advantage to prepare an Internet strategy as more firms devise policies and procedures for social networking sites. Following the guidelines determined by FINRA, the SEC, and your company’s social networking policy, using LinkedIn can help grow your practice or business. There will undoubtedly be new social networking freedoms granted to financial professionals. With each new development, you can simply modify your social media presence and stay one step ahead of your competition.
See how this advice was used to create a profile. Visit http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/mariamarsala
WHAT TIPS OR QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE IN REGARDS TO LINKEDIN?
Tell us… use the comment boxes.
© 2011 Maria Marsala founded Elevating Your Business to provide focus and accountability to financial professionals seeking to substantially grow their business. Elevating Your Business provides step-by-step business planning, management, and marketing advising services. Social networking is one of many marketing strategies planners can use to grow their practice. Maria is a former retrail trader from Wall Street and was an early adopter of LinkedIn, joining in as member number 399,261 (currently 100 million members). Have you looked at the efficiency of your firm’s best practices lately? Download our Business Evaluator at http://www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com