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Financial advisors use of social media leads to significant new business : Blogs on the way

You can add another regulated industry to the legal profession which is overcoming its fear of using social media for business development.

Jennifer Hoyt Cummings (@BrokersWorld) reports in this morning’s Wall Street Journal’s Deal Journal that effectively using social media can lead to substantial new business for financial advisors.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney adviser Mark Scribner one day noticed that a business acquaintance he hadn’t spoken to in 15 years had checked out his LinkedIn profile.

Scribner called the acquaintance, mentioned LinkedIn, and within days was handling a large life insurance policy for the man’s boss. Later, the acquaintance sent him a $2.6 million 401(k) rollover account to handle.

Scribner, who manages about $65 million in client assets and joined Morgan Stanley Smith Barney last January after working for LPL Financial, would never have thought to reach out to this man if he hadn’t seen him on LinkedIn, he says.

A few minutes a day on LInkedIn and Twitter have helped Scribner big time. Look at what he shared with Cummings.

  • Twitter and LinkedIn have helped him land new clients and keep in better touch with existing ones.
  • Though Morgan Stanley has caught some flak for by only allowing advisers to choose from a library of canned Tweets, Scribner likes the preapproved tweets because they take pressure off of him. A few times he’s wanted to create his own tweets and was able to get approval for those in about a day.
  • Nearly all of his posts on Twitter, even when generated by the company, lead to a phone call from one of his clients, often just because seeing his name reminded them that they wanted to talk to him.
  • About seven years ago he tried to establish a referral relationship with a lawyer without success. He recently noticed the lawyer had started following his Twitter handle, @mscribnerMSSB, and soon after, the lawyer referred him a large estate planning case.

Over the last few years, I have talked with many financial advisors and marketing/communications agencies working for them about the use of blogs and other social media. I’ve always been told that, unlike their colleagues in the legal industry, there is no way financial advisors can use social media and blogging for business development. Regulations and the need to vet everything prevent it.

It was just this spring that I shared word with them that Morgan Stanley was the first financial company to use social media, allowing its advisers full use of LinkedIn and limited use of Twitter.

Like the legal profession a few years ago, Cummings reports more than a third of advisers think social media isn’t worth their time, citing a recent survey of financial advisers use of social media by Aite Group a research and advisory firm for the financial services industry.

Scribner is not buying it. As he told Cummings, “People are asking for it. It’s either adapt or be removed.”

As with large law firms, we’re going to see financial advisors use blogs in a big way to share their insights.

  • It’ll cost less than formatting and distributing otherwise.
  • The insight will be more timely.
  • Greater chance that their content will be included in Google News.
  • RSS feeds from blogs will allow investors, reporters, and bloggers subscribing to key words and phrases on Google Blog Search and Google News to pick up their materials without even being a subscriber.
  • Blogs will mean much greater sharing of their insight via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It’s this social sharing that serves as oxygen to the moving of information today.
  • RSS feeds will enable the busiest people who have harnessed Google Reader and other RSS readers to get their materials in the way they want it.
  • RSS feeds will enable distribution on mobile devices on apps such as Flipboard, Zite, and the like.
  • Individual investment officers and strategists, already being given author attribution in existing free online content, will have their names cited around the net on blogs, news sites, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Heck Morgan Stanley’s Global Investment Committee already sends out its Investor Insights reports through its Twitter handle, @MSSB_GIC. A blog could could easily replace or supplement the present web page format for Investor Insights.

Like the legal industry, the financial services sector has been going through a lot of upheaval. Those companies who adapt to what their customers are looking for and where the world is going will be well ahead of the game.

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