Should Financial Advisors Self-Brand on Social Media or Create a Company Brand?
Today I’m going to tackle one of the most common questions I get asked by advisors when they’re building their social media profile.
Should I focus on enhancing my company’s social presence, or my own?
It’s a valid question, especially because so many of the advisors are owners and founders of their company. Their business is more than a business; it’s an extension of who they are.
There’s only so much time any one person has in a day, and there’s only so much social content that can be created. As a result, many advisors feel like they don’t have the ability to run both a personal and a corporate account well, and they have to prioritize one account over the other.
In an attempt to cover all their bases and ensure that both types of profiles regularly post updates, some firms have taken an approach that I can best describe as...horrifically bad marketing.
Here’s what it looks like: The company publishes a blog to their website. The company account posts a tweet to promote the blog. Then the advisor’s account tweets the same post. If the firm has other employees, all of their accounts join the party and subsequently send that same tweet from their accounts.
When this strategy is done poorly, all of a firm’s accounts schedule the tweet for the same exact time. If any poor soul is following all of these accounts, their social wall turns into a wall where the same post is stacked, one on top of the other, in a nauseating flood of non-organic content.
When the strategy is implemented just a little bit better, they stagger the tweet so each account sends it at a different time or a different day.
But the fact remains; social media is about engagement. The strategy I described above is not engagement. It’s a lazy and reductive way to make it appear that an account has more content to post than it actually does.
So if you can’t do both, which should you choose?
It’s actually not a difficult question at all. No matter who you are, the answer is always the same.
Ditch the company account. Keep your personal one.
Over the rest of this article, I’ll explain why focusing on building your personal brand is the right move, every time.
People Care About People, Not Companies
People don’t “buy” a financial advisor like they buy a product or a service. Look no further than how you’ll be talked about in a referral situation for evidence of that.
When one of your clients refers a friend of theirs to your firm, they don’t tell their friend all about the great “company” that they work with for financial planning and investments.
Bob doesn’t say to Joe, “Joe, you’re going to love Big Blue Financial Group.”
They talk to their friends about the person at that company they work with—you, their advisor.
Bob says to Joe, “Joe, you’re going to love Jim, my advisor. Jim always has time for me, he knows me, he’s a huge bocce ball fan just like you, and I know he’ll take good care of you.”
Time and time again across industries, this idea that people trump brands holds true.
It’s especially true when we look at engagement and interactions on social media.
As one example, I want to share a few mind-blowing stats from the average advisor’s favorite pastime: the game of golf.
Check these numbers out:
Since January 2017, the top 50 players in the world increased their social fan engagement by 82% over the previous 20-month period.
Players across the PGA TOUR produced in excess of 200 million video views, a 157% increase, and grew their collective audience by almost 10 million followers.
Tony Finau’s followers have jumped by 125% while Jon Rahm has increased his followers by 86% from the same time a little over a year ago.
Now let’s do a side-by-side comparison.
The last video shared by Tiger Woods’ Twitter account, at the time of this article being written, got 21,000 likes.
The videos don’t cover the same content, but the last video posted by the PGA Tour’s Twitter account got 11 likes.
I’ll admit, it isn’t entirely apples to apples. The content of each video isn’t the same, but I think the difference is stark enough that you can begin to see the picture I’m painting.
As a general rule, people want to engage with other people. People don’t engage with brands and companies. (Before you ask, yes, there are exceptions to the rule. Wendy’s Twitter account is one example, but that hamburger restaurant’s account is a case study in itself that can rarely be duplicated.)
Reasons to Leave the Company Account Behind
At one time, it would have been important to keep the company brand account active and posting regular content updates.
But that time is gone.
And as Star Wars villain Kylo Ren would say, it’s time to let the past die.
While you still want to have company accounts established on each social network for SEO purposes and to claim your name so it won’t be claimed by someone who could harm your image with it, it’s overall going to be a better strategy to prioritize self-branding over establishing your company brand.
Here are a few reasons why you should keep the company account in the back seat.
Your company could fail.
If you do all your social posting from behind a company account, what are you going to do if your company fails? All the goodwill, all the content, all the followers you’ve built up will be meaningless.
If you build your online persona around yourself instead of your company, then your company failing will have less of an impact on your ability to continue to engage with your online followers. It will still sting, but it won’t be the death of your social media efforts.
You change jobs.
If you’re not the owner of a company, you might want to change jobs. Or if you are the owner, you might one day sell your business and move on to creating a new company.
If this type of career change happens and you’ve built your entire online presence behind your company brand, then you’ll be starting out at zero when you should instead be drawing on the years of connections you already have.
You change career focus.
It’s easier to rebrand yourself than it is to rebrand your company. You can shift career focus, restyle the topics that are important to you, and take a new position on important matters much more easily when self-branding. After all, everyone changes throughout their life. We don’t expect people to remain static. We do, however, expect company brands to project more stability and consistency.
(Gary Vaynerchuk, one of the best marketers of our day, eloquently highlights how he’s navigated the shift in his career focus here, if you want a quick read on the topic.)
Building Your Personal Brand on Social Media
Once you’ve decided to heavily lean on your personal profiles for business use, it’s time to put in the work to establish credibility and make you someone worth following.
You can’t create a new account and immediately expect to gain followers or be respected. Like with any other marketing initiative, you need to work with a plan.
The foundation of your plan for social media should always rest on engagement and communication. Posting links to articles you’ve written is great, especially so if you’re writing on topics people want to read, but don’t ever lose sight of the fact that social networking is about being social.
Respectfully jump into conversations with people you follow, respond to comments others leave you, and act like a decent human being who shows respect to everyone else online.
Begin there, and your personal brand will be off to a great start.
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