6 steps to incorporating social media technology into your financial services business

Did you know 56% of advisors do not use social media?*

The first rule of using any type of technology is, don’t panic. It may seem overwhelming, but if broken down into manageable steps, tackling a new system, project or problem can be easy to do for anyone. The largest hurdle for many within the financial service industry is compliance. How do you avoid violating internal compliance regulations as well as those set forth by the governing bodies (FINRA, SEC) when it comes to social media? The good new is, it is not as painful as it initially appears. Find out why.

When it comes to compliance within the financial services industry, some basic common sense and collaboration with your internal compliance department can make engaging with others on social media a relatively simple process.

Here are 6 quick steps to incorporate social media technology into your financial services business:

  1. Choose – There is a plethora of ways to connect with others. From Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (the largest social platforms) to Foursquare (a location based social platform) and others in between. Having all of these choices is a great opportunity for you to pick the one that will work best for you. Choose one option to get started and build from there.
  2. Plan – Once you have selected your platform, learn how to use it or refresh your knowledge. There are numerous online resources that can help you with that. Ask your friends, use your business contacts, and you will likely find more than one person who is willing to help and offer advice. Most importantly take the initiative to teach yourself. You learn by doing!
  3. Develop – Now that you have gained some new knowledge on how these technologies work, you are ready to tackle the look and feel – the design. Personalize your presence in the “about” section on your blog site or the hours of operation on your Facebook business page. Add the hot links to your website. The key is a 100% cohesive look. People remember things that are both useful and visually appealing. If you can stand out with a sleek, well-planned presence either as an individual or business, you WILL catch the attention of others. This includes a picture or logo and the proper color scheme to fit with your brand.
  4. Execute – Your job is ever evolving and social media is one of the best examples of the speed at which things can change. Now that you have the basics set in place, you need to DO something with all that you created. This is where you show your value. Content is key! Without a good message that connects with your target audience, you will not grow. Keep in mind, you must adhere to compliance guidelines for what you may or may not say or share. Make things interesting, useful, concise and fun  but definitely follow the rules.

 As you come up with content ideas, remember to be you. Let your passion shine through and people will be drawn to you. Show your personality and people will want to interact with you. Social media is a great way to add some personality to your financial services business.

Here are some content guidelines for those within the financial services industry:

–          Share: Be sure to share events, articles, videos, and anything else you think is useful, relevant and true information. If you have NOT read it, watched it or heard about it, DO NOT share it. You should be able to justify WHY you feel the information should be shared. DO NOT share information such as share stock tips or personal feelings on particular investments. Instead, share facts. For example, “The contribution limit for those under 50 years of age in 2013 for IRAs is $5,500. Make saving easy by setting up automatic withdrawals from your bank account to your investment account.”

–          Interact: Although it is important to have good interaction on your social platform of choice and not simply a constant stream of posts or tweets, you also need to be cautious of WHAT you are discussing on social media. For example, if a follower on Twitter were to ask a specific investment question via direct message or even via a tweet, you should NOT answer them with advice. Simply state you appreciate their interest and would be happy to discuss via phone or set up an in-person meeting and provide contact information for your office.

–          Disclose: Although disclosures can be lengthy and mind-numbing, some basic ones should appear in your bio, somewhere on your blog, or even at the end of an article. Your compliance department will be able to tell you what you must disclose and where based on the social platform you choose.

  1. Maintain – Be sure to have a steady stream of information, updates and interactive content ready. This is not always easy and in the real world, not always possible. The point, make it a goal. Aim to connect with the audience 3-5 times a day. Sometimes that is what it takes for people to begin to take notice and become engaged. Remember, the cohesive message and timeline is important! Also don’t forget that not everything you share has to be informative and 100% business related. For example, I will share photos of social client events during an event many times. If I do share photos of someone, I ask for permission and do keep “Permission To Release” forms around so event photos can be reused in the future.
  2. React – With all the extra effort, what are your results? Do you need to tweak your plan? This is a highly debated topic and for many with a contrarian view, a hot button. There are methods to track (usually through site analytics) how effective your strategy is. If the social platform does not offer decent analytics, you can try Google Analytics to track visits to your website or the old-fashioned approach of asking “How did you learn about us?” when customers contact you. In time, those who embrace technology, and more specifically social media, will do your advertising for you. They will work for you as a walking advertisement with their positive feedback to you and word of mouth to others.

Don’t be part of the 56% of advisors that DO NOT use social media.

*Source: Curian Capital survey of 2,088 independent financial advisors January 2013.

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Budgeting Basics – Taking A Look At Some Helpful Tips

When is the last time you reviewed bank fees? Your homeowner’s insurance? Life insurance policies? Probably not all that often and that’s okay. I am not here to berate you. What I would like to help everyone find a better balance and simply set a plan to review the basics, so let’s make this as painless as possible and stop the procrastination.

  1. Bank statements – Take a moment, look at your transactions. Are you being charged fees for your accounts? Have you tried to negotiate with the bank to reduce your fees or see what other options are available? Are you earning any interest, minimal or not, it is still needs to be factored into your final balance. Online banks usually offer better rates for many accounts due to less overhead costs and physical locations. Set aside 30 mins to do this review.
  2. Insurance – Do you have life insurance policies? What type – term, whole life, universal life, etc?  Are your policies bundled together with the same company – home, car, life? What are your deductible amounts? Many times if you bundle and are a long time customer there are discounts to be had.
  3. Cable – This one is painful. Cable companies are the enemies of many. This one requires more time and patience than other categories in my opinion.  Bundling usually helps but only bundle what you really need. Don’t add a home phone line if you know you are not going to use it. If you find you don’t work from home and only waste time on the internet, drop it, at least for a trial period to see if you can survive. If or when you sign up again you will likely be able to re-negotiate a better rate yet again.
  4. Groceries – Do you use coupons? If your answer is no, you NEED to start. The normal excuses include, “It takes too much time” or “I don’t have the patience” or “I don’t know where to find them” those are, in fact, all excuses. If you get the Sunday paper, you get coupons. You can sign up for various stores, manufacturers, and websites that will have them delivered and customized right to your email inbox! Not only will you save money but you will have the opportunity to try new products due to promotions and for less money than you normally would. It is a win-win.
  5. Utilities – Most of us already utilize all the other energy saving features such as regulating temperature via LCD panels and programming the thermostat but if you have the option to choose an energy supplier and have not shopped for the best rate you need to. This is easy and one of the best ways to save pennies a day that can really add up by the end of the year.
  6. Maintenance – Are you paying for extra services you don’t need for your home? Lawn care? Snow removal? Take a look and see if you can cut back on costs or in all honesty get up off the chair and to the tasks yourself.  You can also take a look at vehicle maintenance here as well. If you are paying someone else to do simply things like replace windshield wipers and then complain you are being nickeled and dimed to death at the mechanic’s you need to start doing it yourself. Many auto stores will install them for you as soon as you make the purchase in the store. Take advantage of these services!
  7. Taxes – Everyone gets excited over a refund, however if it is due to your withholding (total number of allowances) on your W-4 being too high it is time to contact HR and change it.  As always, I suggest you consult with your qualified tax professional (CPA).

Remember, these are just some basics to help get you motivated to review some bills, make some calls and see what improvements you can make. The point is, every little bit helps!

What A Roller Coaster Of A Week Can Teach You

Last week started out fairly normal. There was only one potential looming scenario that was on the horizon and everything else was cruising along. I am not sure about the rest of you but for me moments like that last for about 3.2 seconds. From a late night of BBQ-ing chicken because I decided that’s what I craving at 10:30pm to driving an hour+ on an unplanned trip to ending my work day early and spending the rest of the day having fun. But despite the ups and downs this is what I have:

1. Trust yourself – Your instincts exist for a reason and for many they are unbelievably accurate.

2. Display integrity – When given the choice to do the right thing when no one is looking, always do it.

3. Be truthful – No one has to know the truth at times but willingly hiding something is not helpful. Give them the necessary information to make their own decisions and judgements.

4.  Support others – If you have the opportunity to be there for someone in their time of need, do it. Even if it is difficult for you. You will be a better person because of it.

5. Seize the moment – I am in the business of planning for the future however I am very much a supporter of carpe diem. Life is too short to forgo all happiness now with only a HOPE of happiness in the future. Hope is not a plan. This circles back around to trusting your instincts. You will know when the moment when you need to stop your planning and start living, even if just for a moment.

6. Be thankful – I am so very thankful for those few people I have that are constant cheerleaders for me. Supportive in every way. Consistent. Loyal.

There was a great deal of loss this past week and I think more than anything that puts things in perspective. It is absolutely true that without sadness we can never know happiness.

Thoughts On Loyalty

It is interesting how one little moment during the day, a word, an email, a sentence in an article can get your brain moving. Whether it is positive or negative and as a chronic over-thinker as many would say, I am guilty of both extremes on the spectrum. This week a simple “ah ha” moment was the result of reviewing my Twitter feed and some emails.

Say what you will about social media but for now, it is here and in my opinion here to stay. Twitter happens to be one form I have truly embraced and use constantly, in fact, I adore it. It is the most public and efficient way to distribute information and thoughts. This can be in the form of positive or negative feedback. Consumers can praise people and companies letting others know of their loyalty to a person or brand or bash them in mere seconds for everyone to see. I happen to like this, it holds people accountable. Rewards those who continuously do a good job. I am a cheerleader for anyone who shows genuine concern and has actions to back it up. If I can see results my loyalty is fierce.

This isn’t the case with everyone. No matter how well you may perform, you may never win over everyone  in certain situations. Certain people may always side with what is cheaper, quick or even the current popular idea or item with the groups/peers they are around. Worse yet, they may choose to not follow through on a final decision and be in a constant defiant state. Maybe they fear the change or to be different but whatever the situation my 2 favorite quotes to summarize what loyalty means would be the following:

“When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not. Disagreement, at this state, stimulates me. But once a decision is made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.”

— General Colin Powell

“Talk to people in their own language. If you do it well, they’ll say, ‘God, he said exactly what I was thinking.’ And when they begin to respect you, they’ll follow you to the death.”

   — Lee J. Iacocca

Time To Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Crying. How many individuals have you encountered in the workplace who have done this? Maybe it was due to work-related issues or a personal issue that has spilled over into the job? No matter the situation, I am not a fan of the emotional breakdown in the workplace. This tends to occur with females the majority of the time and I can’t help but think, “I can’t imagine any female CEO has done this.” Or better yet, what is their viewpoint on this topic with their employees?

It isn’t as if I have no empathy for the person’s situation but rather I have more of a concern for preserving a professional appearance and the respect of their peers. I would think if this breakdown were to occur more than once co-workers are going to start to pass judgment, whether they should or not on the said emotional offender.

Fighting is no better. A heated debate on a topic or issue is far from a fight with cheap shots or passive-aggressive actions. Again, where is the professionalism? If you can’t determine what should be said in the moment you are best served by remaining silent. Either to calm down and respond later and in private or re-think the situation and realize it isn’t worth the battle.

There are better ways to deal with situations you are presented with on a daily basis and swinging wildly from one end of the emotional scale to the other when in the presence of others in a professional setting is not the ideal choice.

To me, emotional moderation which also is a sign of emotional maturity isn’t just important to survival in a professional setting but the key to professional growth.

Dear Society, We Need To Review Basic Life Rules

The news has been full of negative, sad and just a general sense of malaise lately. Is it reality? Yes. Is it necessary? Also yes. Ignorance is no way to function as a society. However, if we look at the underlying causes of such issues a few basic rules seem to apply. Whether it is a business matter or personal, we need to constantly re-visit our purpose, our input and our reactions.

  1. Action. Your action or inaction can harm others. Choose wisely.
  2. Invest. Spend less than you earn even if others around you are not.
  3. Respect. Give people the respect they deserve. It is most valuable thing you can give a person.
  4. Communicate. Most failures or successes are a result of communication.
  5. Appreciate. Show your appreciation. One of the most hated yet valuable lessons from my mom was the art of the thank you note.

Stay on course by being accountable. Keep a journal, a blog, discuss things with your best friend, spouse, significant other whatever helps you. No one is perfect, it isn’t about that. It is about being the best version of you that you can be.

Excellent points and very true. I have seen examples of this, some of which could have been avoided. Never assume you are the only one who knows best or that your learning is ever complete.

Leaders to Leader

It is unrealistic to expect that all forms of leadership are successful—because they are not. The nature of leadership is such that leaders are going to take risks and fail. An effective leader learns from failure and moves forward. However, there are failures in leadership not associated with risk taking that can undermine and paralyze an organization.

With any leadership failure, one must strive to distill the reasons and causes behind it. Such failures prevent leaders and their organizations from moving forward because the subsequent barriers and voids stifle a company’s ability to seek new opportunities. Consequently, the company will not be able to take advantage of situations that increase its competitiveness, productivity and market strength.

Everyone in the organization feels the effects of failure. Often these failures can be attributed to leaders who either are improperly trained or misapply leadership principles. In either case, they often fail by backsliding…

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