LinkedIn, but missing out

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Only 1 in 13 investment advisors successfully connects with new clients on the network.

LinkedIn, the social platform most favored by businesses, celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this year. As of today, the site boasts more than a quarter billion registered members globally — including more than 84 million in the U.S. alone — and reportedly adds two new users every second. Clearly the network represents a wide-open channel for developing business relationships online.

Are RIAs maximizing the potential of LinkedIn to expand referral marketing? All signs point to no.

Though advisors have warmed to social media, current levels of engagement suggest they’d be wise to turn up the heat. A recent survey by LinkedIn revealed that 52 percent of investors are in favor of interacting with their financial advisor via social media but that just 4 percent are making the connection. The network also says that Financial Services is second only to Info/Technology as the largest industry represented on its platform. Yet, LinkedIn is apparently where investor-advisor relationships come to die.

Despite the paltry success rate, better than 90 percent of advisors are indeed on LinkedIn — which says that their presence on the site is not yet substantial or engaging enough to win attention and connections. RIAs are sharp to recognize that LinkedIn is powerful for increasing visibility and SEO, effective for broadcasting company news, and useful for recruiting new advisors. But it’s not enough to have a static profile or copy and paste your firm’s weekly tweet as a status update.

Consider these actions for a more robust LinkedIn presence.

Express your value. Your profile should be crafted to describe the value you bring to target clients. Don’t fall into the trap of using LinkedIn as a simple online CV. Each Background item in your profile can be recast to show how the experience helped make you a more effective advisor.

Personalize invitations. Boilerplate invitations (“Please add me to your LinkedIn network”) are a generic overture. Personalize invitations so your connections know you’re genuinely interested.

Embed calls to action. Utilize LinkedIn as the proactive tool it can be. To engage members of your network, include calls to action — articles to read, questions to answer, links for more information — within status updates, in your Summary, and in responses.

Inspire group interaction. Grow your referral network not only by invitations to individuals but by initiating meaningful discussions with affinity groups. Not satisfied with the groups on LinkedIn? Create your own, customizing members-only and open groups to reflect issues that matter to existing clients, prospects, and referral sources.

Expose yourself. Let’s clarify that one. Since referral networks thrive on connections that stretch beyond the bounds of professional credentials, make sure that your LinkedIn profile accounts for all facets of your life. Include charity activities, memberships (both recreational and professional), past education, community groups, and other potential associations. Customize your settings to be viewable to everyone.

Keep this graphic handy as you continue to lock down your LinkedIn strategy:

LinkedInInfoG

LinkedIn doesn’t have to supplant other referral strategies, and it’s no stand-in for a face-to-face meeting and a warm handshake. But it’s arguably the best bet for updating and upgrading your firm’s marketing effort. The question facing RIAs now is whether they will seize on LinkedIn opportunities or allow them to evaporate into the digital ether.