Ben D. Jones
Managing Director – Intermediary Distribution
BMO Global Asset Management
BMO Global Asset Management
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Create, curate and connect: social media for advisors
Our topic today is social media – how to use it effectively as a financial advisor, why employing social media strategy is important, and some mistakes to avoid before you send out that first tweet. We start with the concepts of social media and how to set goals for your strategy, and then dive into details with tools, tips, and techniques that you can use today to make a greater impact on social networks. Our expert guest is Sheri Fitts, founder and CEO of ShoeFitts Marketing. Sheri is a widely recognized speaker and influencer in the financial industry, as well as the author of Deconstructing Digital: Simple Ways To Connect With Your Next-Generation Financial Clients.
In this episode:
- Which social media platforms are best for financial advisors
- How the internet has changed the advising industry
- The ROI of social media
- Staying compliant while using social
- Components to a successful social media strategy
Like what you hear?
Sheri Fitts – The Internet has changed the way we buy and the way we access information, but in financial services, we’ve not changed the way we sell or how we provide information. And competition from an advisor perspective is just a click away. And depending how they’re licensed, they might be able to license and provide services throughout the United States, even. It’s so critical to have a decent digital footprint and understand the power of Google.
Ben Jones – Welcome to Better conversations. Better outcomes. presented by BMO Global Asset Management. I’m Ben Jones.
Matt Smith – And I’m Matt Smith. In each episode, we’ll explore topics relevant to today’s trusted advisors, interviewing experts and investigating the world of wealth advising from every angle. We’ll also provide actionable ideas designed to improve outcomes for advisors and their clients.
Ben Jones – To learn more, visit us at bmogam.com/betterconversations. Thanks for joining us.
Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates or subsidiaries.
Matt Smith – The Internet and social media have drastically transformed how many businesses operate over the last decade, and financial advisors are no exception. The world is connected like never before, and that creates many opportunities for advisors but also some challenges, as well. Our topic today is social media, how to use it effectively as a financial advisor, why employing social media strategy is important, and some mistakes to avoid before you send out that first tweet. We start with the concepts of social media and how to set goals for your strategy. Then we dive into the details with tools, tips and techniques that you can use today to make a greater impact on social networks.
Ben Jones – Our guest for this episode in Sheri Fitts, the founder and CEO of ShoeFitts Marketing. Sheri’s a widely recognized speaker and influencer in the financial industry as well as the author of a recent book, Deconstructing Digital: Simple Ways to Connect with Your Next Generation Financial Clients. I had the opportunity to chat with Sheri over Skype while she was at her firm’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
Sheri Fitts – I am very interested in helping clients understand, one, what they want to be when they grow up so their brand matches that. And then, from a strategy perspective, that’s what my job is, is to look at where they are now, where they want to be, and what I believe they should do to get there.
Ben Jones – I was thinking about this when I was preparing for the interview, and I think people who know me pretty well will giggle quite a bit at the idea of me conducting an interview on the topic of social media. I’m a bit of a neophyte around these tools. And so this is going to be as much of a learning experience for myself as it is for our audience.
Sheri Fitts – Actually, I think you’re in a perfect position Ben because you’re coming at it from a place of curiosity, and I really do think that that will serve your audience besides you. So I’m glad that you don’t know much. I think that’s perfect.
Ben Jones – Before we dive into the topic of social media, social selling, and social strategies for financial advisors, could you just provide us a little bit of your back story and some of the inspiration around ShoeFitts Marketing?
Sheri Fitts – Sure. I’ve been in financial services, actually, for more than 25 years now. I started actually as a graphic designer for a very large RIA firm here in Portland, Oregon. And my role quickly evolved from a designer to selling the products that I designed, and those products were participant education and communication materials, so specifically for participants in 401(k) plans. And I made the very, very intentional decision to leave corporate America. On November 1st, 2012, I gave my notice, and December 1st, 2012, I started ShoeFitts Marketing. And specifically, I do a lot of speaking and training on the intersection of marketing and branding and digital in the financial services world. And I say digital instead of social because, really, this idea of social is much broader than I think how advisors think about it. And it’s been really fabulous. It’s been a great learning experience. And I get to go to great places. I was in Austin and Calgary and Boston and Vegas. And I’m coming to visit your neck of the woods, Salt Lake City, next week.
Ben Jones – Oh, fantastic.
Sheri Fitts – I love to travel. I love to speak. And I love to inspire people to kind of start to look at their marketing and branding and digital differently.
Ben Jones – You fast forward now to today, several years later. You’re a sought-after speaker on the topic of social media as well as digital topics, and you recently wrote a book targeted to the financial advisors and financial community called Deconstructing Digital. For our audience, could you kind of break down the social media platforms that are most important to advisors?
Sheri Fitts – Sure thing. I think — so the book Deconstructing Digital, by the way, kind of is a little primer on the whole world of digital. It’s not really how to. It’s more the theory behind it and what they might do from a strategy perspective. And when I present the platform sin that particular book, I go in this order: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook. And when I do quite a bit of training around the world of kind of social selling, I specifically focus on LinkedIn. And from an advisor’s perspective, I think that LinkedIn is a great place to start, particularly right now because LinkedIn was just purchased by Microsoft, as we know. LinkedIn is really working to kind of grow their platform and get people to stick and stay on LinkedIn. So it’s easy to get traction and to get eyeballs if you do some very simple things. So I always start with LinkedIn. And then I go to Twitter, and Twitter is a tsunami. And it requires a completely different mindset and quite a bit of activity. And I know advisors who have rocked Twitter to develop a really broad following and large practices. And then, finally, I go to Facebook.
Matt Smith – We’ll spend this episode talking about the three social networks that are most important to advisors: LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. You may have experience in one or all of these platforms, but I’m sure you’ll find some new information about best practices, how to archive your social posts, and which platform you should focus on. First, Sheri talks about how advisors should think about social media, social selling and digital marketing related to their practices.
Sheri Fitts – Well, let’s start with a simple thing that changed the way we live and changed the way we buy, and that would be Google. And in our world of financial services, there’s something interesting. We have not changed the way we sell. And specifically, this idea of price or performance, definitely, those are commodities now. But proximity is really going to be a commodity as far as I’m concerned moving forward. Michael Kitces says this: The world is flat. I mean, he’s quoting another book, but it’s very, very true that your competition from an advisor perspective is just a click away. It’s so critical to have a decent digital footprint and understand the power of Google. That’s the issue, I think, is that advisors say, well, I’ve gotten all my business from referrals before. And I am all for organic growth, but into the future, how are you going to do intentional growth? What’s your practice going to look like? Who are you going to appeal to? And how are you going to appeal to them? People make judgments about your business based upon your website in less than a blink of an eye. And I guess one homework assignment I would give to your listeners, Ben, is to have them look at their Google Analytics and see their bounce rate because it could be that people are referred to you, and you have no idea because they come to your website and go, whoa, this isn’t the person for me, or this website is really old-school. This person must be old-school. Whatever, right? So Google’s changed the way we kind of look for information, and the Internet’s changed the way we buy and consume information, and in financial services, an intentional effort on digital is a critical part of the marketing mix, I would say.
Matt Smith – Intentional growth is the name of the game if you want to take your advising practice to the next level. So how do you start? What’s the endgame? Is it really worth the time investment? Before we go further, we want to emphasize that you do need to be compliant with rules, regulations and your firm’s guidelines, but many broker/dealers allow advisors to be active on social media as long as they archive their posts. Many advisors start out thinking that social media might just take away valuable time for little return. So what is the ROI?
Sheri Fitts – When I start talking about this idea of social, the very first thing I want to understand is who’s your ideal client, or as Seth Godin says, who’s your tribe? I want to know specifically who you want to reach and what worries them, what gets them jazzed about their day-to-day work. I mean, I want to know that kind of stuff. And the reason why I want to know that kind of stuff is because that is what informs your activity on these various platforms. Imagine that an advisory firm that serves parents of special needs children might be completely different online than an advisor firm that serves millennial business owners. What those two tribes worry about is completely different. So I always ask advisors to get super clear on who their tribe is. That’s the first thing. The next thing is I need your website to be a place where we can capture people. I need your website to load quickly. I need it to have some kind of avenue for people to contact you easily, sign up for your newsletter easily. Possibly, you might even have some kind of value add that you give away. I need your website to help capture people. And the reason why I want your website to do that is because your website is owned property. Your website and your e-mail list are owned property. And LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, those are all rented properties. So I don’t want you to build your business on rented properties. You can use them to build expertise and build brand awareness, but I want you to pull people off of those social platforms and onto your website. So I would go first, get clear on who you serve and why you serve them and what’s important to them. And then next, I want you to have a website. And on your website, I want you to have valuable, meaningful, relevant, ongoing content. Your website is not a brochure anymore. It’s a critical component of your sales team. And then go out and play in the social space and pull people back to that content that you’ve got on your site.
Ben Jones – So now you understand why you need social as a tool in your marketing toolbox. But what are the components of a successful social media strategy? Well, we’re going to dive deeper into that with Sheri next. But first, Sheri and I had the opportunity to discuss a broad set of digital topics, and there were many specific digital tools that she brought up during our conversation. So I wanted to make sure and share some of those highlights with you. The first is Google Analytics. It’s a free tool you can use to gain insight into data about your website visitors. Next, Buffer. It’s a web application that you can use to schedule your social media posts over the course of, say, week. Hearsay and Socialware are two other services you can use to stay compliant with social media requirements in the financial services industry. They can archive your posts or schedule out approved content over the week. I should note that we’ll put the links to all of these in the show notes at bmogam.com/betterconversations. Feedly and Flipbook are services you can use to create personalized news feeds from which you can find curated content for your social posts. And finally, BuzzSumo is a website where you can search for the most shared articles in your industry. Now, I know it just sounded like a brain dump, and I threw a lot out there, so be sure to check out the show notes where you can look further into these tools. I should note that I have adopted some of these tools since the discussion and have found them quite helpful. Now, back to the components of a successful strategy.
Sheri Fitts – There’s a few things. One, I think that — think about it broken down into three buckets: create content, curate content and connect with people. So those are the three buckets that I see that social does. Creating content: If you go to my website, there are blogs. There are podcasts. There are webinars. I don’t call them webinars, by the way, because that makes everybody want to fall asleep. I call them digital institute broadcasts, okay? So I’ve got content going on on my website. That content is free and clear and in front, and you can validate my expertise. That’s created content. Then what I do with that is I share that. I share that on LinkedIn. I share that on Twitter. I invite people to my — I bring you to my site and invite you into my home or my business. That’s my website. So that’s creating content. And you need to create original content that speaks to your expertise in your tribe because it’s social validation. And then the next time thing is curating content. And I talked a little bit about Feedly. That’s other people’s content that’s valuable that you might have an opinion on or you may disagree with or you may think, wow, isn’t this interesting. What happens if we took this idea from the banking industry, and how might we apply it to the investing industry, and what’s my opinion on that? So curating content is not just sharing something, pushing the share button, because that’s just adding to the noise. If you push the share button, tell me why to read it more. I want to know why you think this is valuable. And then last, which this is interesting Ben, this is one of the things that I’m working on doing in shifting my Twitter strategy. And to be honest, I haven’t gotten there, but connecting. So I am viewing Twitter for me, for my business, as a broadcast channel but also specifically as a way for me to connect with journalists and influencers, so I’m connecting, meaning I am reading their content. I’m talking about their content. But I am also bringing them into the conversation.
Ben Jones – Are advisors…they’ve got their strategy. They start creating, curating and connecting as part of their social media strategy. Talk to me a little bit about the resourcing and time commitment required to do social right. And I think this is something that scares off a lot of people. What is the time commitment to do it right, not just do it?
Sheri Fitts – Let’s just talk about LinkedIn for a second because I want to give advisors permission to just get an optimized LinkedIn profile and focus on intentionally connecting and building their network. And even with that information, using the advanced search function, thinking about your net, thinking about the connections within connections because you can start to see who’s connected to whom. That functionality of LinkedIn does not require that you show up and do chit-chat. So focus on the fish on the hook. Who are you meeting with tomorrow? What might you learn from their LinkedIn profile? Who do you know who knows them? Who do they know who knows you? Or start looking at your existing best clients and look into their Rolodex, your best clients’ Rolodex. So all of that can happen on LinkedIn, and you can do that just as you would prepare for your day. You can do that in 10 to 15 minutes. Then, if you want to go beyond that, certainly Buffer helps you kind of scale that a little bit from a sharing perspective and from a curating perspective. There’s certainly the need to write and create new content. And so that would take time. But it’s too bad. You know what I’m going to do? Ben, one of the things that I did was, as an example of taking people off of a rented platform because, as an example, this podcast is rented. It’s your space, not mine. I don’t own it. And so I created a webpage shoefitts.com/bmo, so BMO, shoefiits.com/bmo. And on that particular webpage, I give you an example of how I’m pulling you off the social sphere, rented property, and I’m moving you onto my own property, which is a newsletter. One of the things I’ll do on that particular page is I will also put my LinkedIn homework, which is what to do every day, every week, and every year, that people can download. So I’ll jump on over there after we get done recording and put that on there. Social can suck up a lot of your time, but in a strategic way, focusing on the fish on the hook first and then focusing on your tribe and intentional connections, you can get a lot of social done in 35-45 minutes a day.
Ben Jones – And so that’s a lot of tools. I know also you’ve offered for our audience to give them your 100 Tips to Social Selling Success. And so, again, we’ll put that link in the show notes. But that’s some great tools for those advisors that are considering or considering revamping their current approach to social.
Sheri Fitts – And, you know, and it’s true. I created this particular page, and it’s the place where you download those 100 tips. And I did it. And when you read my book, Ben I talk about this. I gave a lead magnet. So what I’m doing is I’m tossing out to your community this valuable, very desirable, helpful resource. And before you get your hands on it, I’m asking for your e-mail address and your name and a little bit more about you. There’s tons of free resources all over my website. You can put it all together, and you can actually read my book, right? But I’ve consolidating them all in a book. But I have something called a lead magnet. And what I’m doing is, now that you’re on my website, I want to convert you from a suspect to a prospect. And how I do that is put you into my newsletter list and do some e-mail marketing, which, by the way, e-mail marketing, for every dollar spent, e-mail marketing gives a $38 return.
Ben Jones – Wow, that’s — I was not familiar with that stat, so big ROI on e-mail marketing. What are some of the most common mistakes that you see advisors making with social? And then maybe you can share with us one of your big mistakes.
Sheri Fitts – Oh, goody. Okay. So, first, I think the big mistake that first I think the big mistake that advisors make in social is they forget that people could give a rat’s behind reading something that says fourth quarter economic forecast, or new blog. So advisors forget that there is power in headlines. I have another good tool throw out. It’s something called CoSchedule headline analyzer and you can take what you think your subject line is going to be for curated content or your e-mail newsletter or an article that you’re writing or whatever, plop that into the CoSchedule headline analyzer and you’ll get a grade.
Ben Jones – Okay.
Sheri Fitts – So it’s green, red, type of thing. And what that does to me I think is advisors tend to think that people want to read about target-date funds or about who knows, about a specific product. People don’t want to read about products, they want to read about how does that particular product kind of fit into my life, into what I worry about. Let’s go back to the family with special needs children. How does an advisor consult and consider those particular strategies that those families need to navigate. There’s the value, that there is — you need to share your smarts. You need to give away value. And that, as an example, in my newsletters. People love getting my newsletters, because all I’m doing is dumping value, dumping value. It builds expertise.
Ben Jones – You know it’s so funny you say that. If you think of it from the client’s eyes and we had a Matt Smith, my co-host on earlier this year talking about investor archetypes. One of the reasons they’re hiring an advisor is because they don’t want to read financial journals and white papers on glide path methodologies. That’s what they’re looking to the advisor to do, and so just because we — and I consider myself a bit of an investment nerd as well — like to read things like that doesn’t necessarily mean that our tribe or our audience also shares that same passion.
Sheri Fitts – Think about this particular podcast. So first off we’ve talked about this beforehand but I am thrilled that you’re doing a podcast. I am thrilled. I’m a fan of podcasts, I listen to podcasts, I have a podcast, and there is nothing better than people opting in to listen to value for an hour. Listen to you in their ears for an hour. People see me. I do not know who they are, and they have a deep relationship with me. So podcasting, I am bullish on podcasting, and Ben that is an example of sharing your smarts. You’re doing exactly what you should be doing in the social sphere. You’re creating content that has value, and you’re bringing it to people and therefore you get a butterfly effect or whatever that you’re saying here, Ms., Mr. advisor, this is value that we are curating for you so you don’t have to, and therefore you’re building expertise in their eyes.
Ben Jones – That’s been really interesting, the connection you create with audience. I’ve been so humbled and flattered by the number of people that have been willing to just randomly reach out to myself and our co-host Matt and just share their feedback and their thoughts as well as suggestions for topics and guests. It’s really quite amazing how willing people are to help and engage.
Sheri Fitts – When they are with you, they are with you. And when you’re clear about who your tribe is and providing value — I know I’m repeating myself, but still, I will. When you’re clear about who your tribe is and you bring them value, they will be with you. So the mistake I see with advisors is they create content that speaks to the geek in them, and not to the human being in their tribe.
Ben Jones – One thing I do want to touch on just real quick is this concept of engagement. And so, you know I know there’s a lot of people who have considered or there are tools that allow them to outsource their social media strategy. There’s firms, I even think maybe your firm at times has helped advisors with that as well, or at least taught them through your boot camps for social advisors. But talk to me a little bit about, can you outsource your social media strategy effectively. Or does it have to be done by you personally so that it’s authentic to you.
Sheri Fitts – I think that you can outsource it. I think that there’s two pieces that you can outsource. You can outsource the creating of original content, and the curating of other people’s content. What will be critical, is that the individual you work with, the first questions I want them to start asking you is why, why are you doing this, why do you want to help. Simon Sinek start with why. I want them to start asking “who’s your tribe?” If they just immediately start saying what kind of content do you want to share I’d like you to find somebody else. I want them to understand your tribe; I want them to understand your voice. So you can, yes, you can outsource creating and curating. But don’t think that there is a way for you to outsource connecting. You wouldn’t send an intern to your best client. So there is some lifting that an advisor would need to do, but if you’ve got a crew or a team that helps you with the first two then the last one is super simple and easy and back to that whole kind of fish on the hook type of thing. So I do think that it’s outsourceable. I’ve never, we’ve never really done at ShoeFitts we’ve created contented, but we’ve never curated content or connected for people. And now what I do is I just act as a social coach, so I’ll sit down and spend three hours with an advisor and go through much like the conversation that we’re having together. But there are good firms out there that will help you with those first two. The last one is tougher, the connecting I want advisors to do that themselves.
Matt Smith – Now we create a strategy for our social media that includes something from each of the three buckets. Create content, curate content, and connect with people. Again you’ll find all of the resources mentioned in this podcast on the show notes page, or at ShoeFitts.com/bmo. Now we dive into what you should be doing on social media on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
Sheri Fitts – So I think, let’s start backwards. Monthly. I want you to write a fresh, relevant blog post once a month, 350 words minimum. Super simple. I have a building your blogging muscle broadcast on my website if you need help figuring that out. But I want you to write valuable content, and I want that on your website. Then I want you to copy and paste it onto LinkedIn. It’s the only place I’ll let you duplicate content. So copy and paste I as a long post on LinkedIn once a month. Then from a weekly perspective, I want you to start to look at the fish on the hook, who are you meeting with next week or the week after. If you’re traveling someplace, as an example, I am working to book an east coast sales extravaganza. So I’m looking at who do I know in New York, or who do I know in Boston, and how might I want to meet with them. So use that advance search function. But I’m focusing on the fish on the hook.
Ben Jones – I want to talk a little bit about this, and so this is maybe a little bit of a touchy feely question, but when an advisor gets their comprehensive marketing strategy and they get this social pillar right, what does it feel like? How do they know they got it right?
Sheri Fitts – People tell me that they see me everywhere. That people call me, I have had people call me to speak at their conference and they have said to me, I’ve been stalking you for years. Now, granted that’s kind of a weird thing, but I don’t mind, I’m in marketing. That’s what marketing does. Marketing sweeps the path for sales. So those initial conversations should be easier. They should be more personal, because of your social work.
Ben Jones – So it softens the beachhead. I like that. If you could put a warning label kind of on the advice you’ve provided and the tips you’ve provided today, what would it say?
Sheri Fitts – If you’re not going to do this, don’t do it. Don’t get started, don’t set up a platform and then not do anything. Do not be inconsistent. It’s better not to have a presence than to have an inconsistent presence. The last thing I want to do is go to a website that the last update was like, June 12th, 2013. To me that reads inconsistent and inconsistency is one of the worst things that you can communicate about your business.
Ben Jones – And so final question, where can our audience follow you and your work? I know you’ve mentioned ShoeFitts.com/bmo, but where are the other places they can follow your work.
Sheri Fitts – You can find me on Twitter, and my Twitter handle is @missfitts, that’s what you get when you’re an early adopter, a great handle, missfitts, it fits perfectly. And then on LinkedIn obviously, LinkedIn.com/in/SheriFitts. And if you just Google my name you’ll find me.
Ben Jones – Fantastic. Well my guest today has been Sheri Fitts from ShoeFitts Marketing. Thanks for joining the show.
Sheri Fitts – It was fabulous. Thank you, Ben, I appreciate it.
Ben Jones – Let’s go back to the beginning. Maybe you’re doing business through referrals, or maybe you’re even happy with how your business is growing organically. But if you want to make your business grow intentionally, a strategic digital marketing and social media strategy can, as Sheri puts it, sweep the path for sales. Soften the beachhead and make those conversations easier or, dare I say, better.
Matt Smith – Thank you for listening to this episode of Better conversations. Better outcomes. And thanks to Sheri Fitts for her time and the immense amount of resources she provided in this episode. You can find a link to Sheri’s example site to sign up for her free cheat sheets in the show notes for this episode at bmogam.com/betterconversations. There you will also find links to all the tools Sheri mentioned.
Ben Jones – Join the conversation. Let us know what you do to create your social media strategies by e-mailing us at email@example.com. Thanks to our production team at BMO, which includes Pat Bordak, Gayle Gibson, and Matt Perry. And thanks for the team at Freedom Podcasting, especially Jonah Geil-Neufeld and Annie Fassler.
Ben Jones – Thanks for listening to Better conversations. Better outcomes. This podcast is presented by BMO Global Asset Management. To learn more about BMO can do for you, go to bmogam.com/better conversations.
Matt Smith – We hope you found something of value in today’s episode, and if you did we encourage you to subscribe to the show and leave us a rating and review on iTunes. And of course the greatest compliment of all is if you tell your friends and co-workers to tune in. Until next time, I’m Matt Smith.
Ben Jones – And I’m Ben Jones. From all of us at BMO Global Asset Management, hoping you have a productive and wonderful week.
Disclosure – The views expressed here are those of the participants and not those of BMO Global Asset Management, its affiliates, or subsidiaries. This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry, or security. This presentation may contain forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements, as actual results could vary. This presentation is for general information purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment product or service. Individual investors should consult with an investment professional about their personal situation. Past performance is not indicative of future results. BMO Asset Management Corp is the investment advisor to the BMO funds. BMO Investment Distributors LLC is the distributor. Member FINRA SIPC. BMO Asset Management Corp and BMO Investment Distributors are affiliated companies. Further information can be found at www.bmo.com.