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How to Build an Online Brand Using Social Media

This is an investment that can pay generous dividends in the long term.

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Social media offers advisors tremendous opportunities for reaching new clients. But it's a matter of using it strategically and skillfully, with a focus on creating content that truly educates your target audience.

By now, most advisors know that social media offers a cost-effective medium to showcase expertise. For a growing number of clients, social media has become a destination when doing research, so it factors into their credibility assessment. With a helpful and meaningful media presence, consumers can do more research before interacting with your firm.

Here are the elements that have helped me build a stronger, more effective social-media strategy.

Identify Your Niche First and foremost, your personal brand tells the story about you. Developing an online brand that resonates with your target audience will help attract your ideal clients to your advisory firm.

Ask yourself, "What makes me or my firm special? What are my areas of expertise?" The answers to these questions are critical to bringing about connections with your target audience. To put it another way, differentiation is free marketing, especially in a digital world.

Find Your Medium Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and even TikTok are just some of the many social platforms out there. How do you decide which platform is best? Go where your audience is. This is another way in which having a well-defined niche helps. For instance, since my ideal audience is millennials, specifically millennials in technology industries, I immediately struck Facebook off the list, since it now skews to an older audience than my target client. Instead, I chose LinkedIn and Twitter, as well as Instagram, to distribute content.

Once you have your targeted platforms, you can tackle the format for the content you want to share. The two main questions here are: What will work for you, and what will work for potential clients?

If you are a writer, consider writing blog posts or newsletters. Down the road, you can potentially compile your written work into a short book. If you are a talker, consider hosting a podcast. And if you are comfortable in front of the camera, a video series or web show is likely your best bet. For me, writing was the most comfortable method to express my thoughts and ideas around personal finance. It started with an educational blog providing content on equity compensation and tax planning, and most recently I've been tinkering with a weekly newsletter called Tech Money. Both of these content mediums have been an integral part of my overall strategy and have led to business growth as well as additional revenue streams. (And written content is easily adapted for your existing clients.)

Depending on which format you emphasize, there are strategic benefits unique to each. Written content can be located by clients through search, making it ripe for search engine optimization, or SEO, which can boost the chances of it being found organically. I use an SEO plug-in for WordPress, which is what my website is built on. Essentially, the plug-in helps me identify things like key words/phrases, suggested back links, and readability that will boost the article's chance of being found via a search engine.

In comparison, video and audio are excellent for allowing viewers to see your personality and get to know you better.

People consume content in many ways. The bottom line is that there is no "right" kind of content--there is only the right type for you and your audience. This means there are numerous marketing strategies to employ, so don't be afraid to jump in, try out a few, and figure out what works best for you and your firm.

Lead With Education Content marketing isn't merely talking about yourself and what you do for clients. It's about creating content that educates and attracts your ideal audience of clients.

Educating your audience should be the centerpiece of your social-media marketing strategy. From my experience, educating through how-tos, explainers, checklists, or insight into industry trends can position you as an expert in your field. And when you are perceived as a thought leader who provides insight and education, your audience will trust and rely on your guidance.

When your audience is empowered with knowledge, the more engaged it will be. Engaged audience members can turn into brand advocates and are more likely to share your work with others who stand to benefit. When they do, they're inviting other people into the conversation who are likely to fit the mold of your ideal client.

When this happens, it's incredibly valuable for your reputation and your business' growth. In essence, by building trust through education, you are investing in brand loyalty. If you can provide your audience with informative, digestible, and actionable content, you will have planted a seed that gradually grows over time.

Build Genuine Relationships From my experience, an unexpected benefit to building an online brand using social media was expanding my network and building genuine relationships with like-minded leaders across different industries. Gone are the days when you had to attend networking events or be in the same circle of the movers and shakers whom you wanted to learn from. With platforms like Twitter, it's never been easier to find your tribe and exchange ideas. With that intention, social media generally works best when you are authentic, engaging, and have valuable information to share. You never know, maybe you'll get a few client referrals simply because of the relationships you've developed.

Be Patient Lastly, if there's one thing I've learned on this journey thus far, it's to not feel pressured to be active on all social platforms. Consistency is key when creating content, and that is the essence of building brand awareness and a loyal fan base. Although building a trusted online brand likely won't immediately result in an uptick in new business, it is an investment that can pay generous dividends in the long term. Best-case scenario, clients and colleagues will follow, engage with, and share your content. Worst-case scenario, you'll be top of mind as a resource for prospective clients looking for help in your respective areas of expertise.

Samuel Deane is a financial advisor and CEO of Deane Wealth Management, an independent investment advisory firm for millennials in technology. He specializes in comprehensive financial planning, equity compensation, and tax planning. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Morningstar.

Samuel Deane is a freelance writer. The opinions expressed here are the author’s. Morningstar values diversity of thought and publishes a broad range of viewpoints.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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