I found this article about Gen Y and financial planning (and social media and web research) pretty interesting: "Firms Must Embrace Social Media to Reach Gen Y."
I don't know that I agree that financial advisory firms (or other businesses) MUST embrace social media, per se, to reach Gen Y. But it's a wise approach for exposure since social media dramatically increases your ability to be found online, and Gen Y peeps most definitely turn to the web to find ideas and solutions. And as the article's author Hannah Wu points out, the ability to communicate with your advisors using alternative channels can be perceived as an added benefit.
I think my friends (and past clients) Michael Goodman and Annette Clearwaters, when they co-founded Clarity a few years ago, created a brilliant approach with their DIY-and-as-needed-assist approach geared for exactly the folks Hannah describes. Check out their Glossary, for instance. For beginning investors, the ability to quickly define terms that are new to them is extra comforting.
Annette worked with Michael in his wealth-management practice Wealthstream Advisors which, like most financial-advisory practices, serves people of high-net worth and has higher investment miminums than most people who are starting out will have. Wanting to also help beginning investors who aren't a match for Wealthstream (yet) and both understanding and appreciating the DIY approach that Hannah describes, they launched Clarity.
How helpful might a DIY or start-with-research person find your website or blog?
Back to Hannah's article, using social-media channels to get the word out about financial-advisory (or any other) services is beneficial, but the bigger issue is making sure the service offerings are matched to the people who use a given channel.
High-net-worth Boomers are definitely online, but they tend to run in different web circles than Gen Y, wealthy or not. Boomers are on Facebook to see pics of their grandkids and reconnect with their childhood and college friends. Gen Y are also on Facebook, but Tweet a lot as well. Boomers and Gen X are on LinkedIn, Gen Y not so much.
Facebook has amazing advertising potential when you know the demographics (education level, career, social, political, geographical) of your audience. LinkedIn, too. Twitter is not so great for isolating any group, but has massive viral power. LinkedIn is sort of in the middle.
Where do you start?
Most important is to simply be online at all. Then, to be most effective:
- Make sure your service offerings are described very clearly so people can easily tell when they are a fit with you, and you with them.
- Help people know what your culture is and isn't. If you or your firm come across snooty, too formal, or jargony, you'd probably alienate or intimidate more down-to-earth types or less sophisticated investors. This isn't just an age thing, maybe you're in a rural community. Or a beach community. Can someone tell if it's okay to meet with you in jeans or shorts? Scrutinize everything you convey—visually and verbally—with your eyes wide open to all possible external perceptions. Country-club fonts and stock photos of crisp white shirts with gold cuff-links? Will this resonate with the clientele you seek? Would it put them off?
- Find the places where your target buyers are already hanging out and become more visible in a helpful, friendly way, not a self-promoting way.
Be found, be relevant
If you want people to trust your financial advice, they have to feel comfortable with you. Not intimidated, not overwhelmed, not underwhelmed. Conveying confidence without arrogance, and listening thoughtfully and respectfully are as important online as offline.