social media / vectormine

Between online trolls and wary compliance officers, social media can be an intimidating space for financial advisors. As with exercising, the best plan is the one you’ll stick to, said Mark McGrath, a financial planner with PWL Capital Inc. in Squamish, B.C.

McGrath decided in July 2022 that he would write at least one thing every day on Twitter. The fruits of those posts include more than 100 meetings this year with prospects who found him on the platform now known as X.

McGrath spoke Thursday at the Institute for Advanced Financial Planners’ annual symposium in Edmonton. Joining him on the panel was Robb Engen, a fee-only financial planner with Boomer & Echo in Lethbridge, Alta., and Aravind Sithamparapillai, an associate with Ironwood Wealth Management Group in Fonthill, Ont.

All three agreed that advisors don’t need to be on every platform. A better strategy is to choose one you’re comfortable with, that suits your personality, and that you’ll post on consistently.

For Sithamparapillai, a self-described extrovert, that means posting videos on Instagram. He tried other channels but found his target audience of midwives prefers the Meta-owned platform, and he creates content with those potential clients in mind.

McGrath and Engen, on the other hand, both described themselves as introverts and prefer writing — tweets for McGrath and blogging for Engen.

“I don’t feel I could do a succinct, 30-second video that’s really going to pop, so I write a 1,000-word blog post instead,” Engen said.

Writing about common financial planning topics, such as when to take CPP, helps him engage with his target of mass-market clients.

McGrath often writes about tax planning, which is of interest to his target of physician clients. It’s important to visualize your ideal client and write for them, he said, as that’s who will contact you.

McGrath acknowledged that putting your voice out there can be terrifying. One consolation is that, at least at first, not many people will be paying attention. He said advisors should commit to posting for six months to a year before gaining traction. At times that may feel like writing into the void, but showing your personality and engaging with people who respond to posts will help build a following, he said.

“When people are going to engage with you or hire you, if you’ve shown that side of yourself, they feel like they know you,” McGrath said.

That makes it harder to outsource social media to a third party, whether that’s an agency or someone at your firm, Engen said, since consistency and authenticity matters.

But posting gets easier the longer you do it, McGrath said. You get faster and begin to see ideas everywhere. He also said topics don’t have to be complicated or original. Writing about something you already know well — how an RRSP works, for example — can be easy and drive the most engagement.

Different firms take different approaches to advisors’ social media use. McGrath said he can write on X without consulting compliance, but blog posts require pre-approval. Sithamparapillai said he works with his chief compliance officer to determine what he can post on Instagram. Most financial planning topics are fair game, he said, while investments are more difficult.

“It’s about working with compliance and understanding where the sandbox is,” Sithamparapillai said.

McGrath recommended being cautious when responding to people online, and to be gracious rather than combative when someone points out a mistake.

And some topics just might be too heated to be worth it. “Don’t talk about dividends with people on Twitter,” he said.

Disclosure: Investment Executive was a media sponsor of the IAFP symposium. Part of the sponsorship included transportation costs. No coverage was guaranteed in exchange for the sponsorship.