Yeah, I said it. YouTube. While social media video (YouTube, Snapchat, Periscope, etc.) used to be seen as a hobby for iPhone happy millennials, it’s quickly becoming the communication du jour for the business world. Yet despite its potential, social media video has not yet caught on with the financial advisor community, especially the ones it should – small RIA firms who need to scale their businesses. This article will discuss the financial advisor branding obstacles that many face and reveal examples of some great brands who are overcoming them.
Social Media Video Obstacles for Smaller Firms
Social media video is often neglected by smaller firms, whereas the truth is these size firms are the ones who stand to benefit the most. Remember that social media is the great equalizer. Because there’s no cost to post content online, a large firm with a million dollar marketing budget and a small firm are on the same level.
Social media video can be a very powerful tool for financial advisors and provides a solution for several of the market problems they face. It allows them to strengthen their brands and set themselves apart in an industry that is highly commoditized. Video also provides a means to get in front of, connect with, and build trust with their target audience. As the saying goes, seeing is believing. The more people can see you, the more they can feel comfortable with you. Do it right, and they might just fall in love with you.
Video isn’t just for commercials anymore, in fact, this format is mundane compared to the many other ways that it can be used to engage an audience.
- Follow up video. While most people say thank you after a meeting by sending a handwritten card or email, making a personalized video carries a more powerful message. It shouldn’t be any longer than 1-2 minutes and can be done from an iPhone. Include your branding elements such as logo and tagline to make a stronger impression.
- Documentary video. Ever since the debut of MTV’s series The Real World twenty years ago, voyeurism has been on the rise. There’s a certain human curiosity that candid videos satisfy. Gary Vaynerchuk, social media expert, has a full time cameraman who follows him around and tapes him in action during client meetings, speaking on the phone, and even traveling in his car. Everything is impromptu and unscripted. The authenticity is compelling and presents living proof of his business acumen. It’s all one big Gary V commercial, without seeming that way. Later in this article, we’ll show you real world examples of how financial firms are using this same technique.
- Sit down style video. These videos shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes long. The speaker is stationary and speaks directly to the camera. Financial advisors can use these as a way to provide the viewer with information about his or her view on a particular topic, a news update, or to disseminate a message about his or her firm. These are generally less engaging.
- Tutorial video. This is an opportunity for a financial advisor to position him or herself as a subject matter expert. Often using whiteboard animated screens, tutorial videos guide the audience through a certain challenge they may be having. How do I perform a Roth conversion? How does a college savings plan work? These pieces may last up to an hour.
- Trailer video. These are the closest you can get to a commercial without being one. Trailer videos are designed to preview a product or event (e.g. book launch, conference) in a way that is inspiring and motivational. They promote the product in an energizing way, like a movie trailer, by giving a sneak peak at what to expect without going into detail.
High Production Costs
Many businesses hesitate to make videos because they don’t want to pay the $3-5k each time they have something to communicate. This is a huge loss of opportunity -- video is the most engaging type of social media available! Here’s one example of a financial advisor who’s done it without breaking the bank.
Michael Kitces is one of the most respected financial commentators in the industry. He’s gone about building his online brand in such an intriguing way. A financial advisor as well as business consultant to other financial advisors, he has forged a gigantic Internet presence for himself through his highly followed blog, the “Nerd’s Eye View.”
Most of Kitces’ videos are semi-produced or you could even say homemade. So how did he get so popular without spending millions?
- He steers clear of compliance landmines. Although he could talk about either subject, he chose to focus his online brand on providing advice to other advisors rather than the end consumers he targets for his investment practice. Do you hear him giving investment advice? Never. Kitces steers clear of discussing products, his firm, or investment performance. This is a great way to avoid compliance scrutiny.
- He attracts a great deal of attention online for his advice on financial advisor business topics rather than for his own investment business. But remember that on the Internet, a rising tide lifts all boats. In establishing a strong Internet presence for himself as a business consultant, he established a high domain authority for his website. If you were to type “financial advisor blog” into Google one day when you were looking for financial advice, his website would be one of the first to come up on Google page one. In doing all this, he has elevated his brand to a level of notoriety that can’t help but call attention to his skill as an investment advisor and attracts those seeking investment advice. A brilliant tactic!
- He’s exciting. Kitces tapes from exciting locations sometimes on the scene. You see videos of Kitces filmed from his laptop in an airport waiting area, or in the lobby of a hotel where he’s attending a conference. Instead of being viewed as scrappy, this builds credibility because you can see what a power player he is.
- He’s relevant and service-oriented. Because Kitces is a financial advisor, he can provide in depth views on questions that perplex this community such as the impact of the DOL ruling or whether it’s a good thing to name your firm after yourself. You don’t hear Kitces using buzzwords every other sentence or trying to pitch and promote himself. He serves the audience by informing them about things that directly impact their work and they naturally follow him as a result.
Nobody will complain about production quality if what you are saying is so captivating that they can’t take their eyes off the screen. Michael Kitces’ success is living proof that you can make huge inroads with your audience on social media if you are engaging, professional, and relevant.
Too Large of a Time Commitment
While many advisors would gladly publish videos, many fear that the time commitment required to script, get compliance approval for, and rehearse the video would put too much of a dent in the day.
A great example of a financial firm that has established a strong brand “scripting-free” on YouTube is Bill Winterberg’s FPPad. Winterberg, a former financial advisor who has now become a FinTech authority, spends very little time staging and scripting his content. This has made his presentation less commercial-like and more authentic (remember Gary V) which gets people intrigued. He creates an outline for his piece and then lets it roar extemporaneously. It saves time and introduces a human element that wins with today’s audience.
FPPad has made some great collaboration videos (see “Tech Tour” playlist) and some live, real time videos of conferences he has gone to. This is more natural content because it involves real people, places, and events and is more engaging to the modern audience.
But it’s not just Winterberg that is catching on to this trend - look at the work he’s done producing content for financial powerhouse Morningstar. In this trailer video, the CEO is interviewed walking around onsite at a busy conference, speaking in a natural conversation with Winterberg. You can see the passion behind the CEO and his genuine drive to achieve the conference’s goal for the sake of its participants. It’s not the stuffy, belt-and-suspenders style interview you would watch on CNN -- and that is what makes it more believable. You’ll notice the lack of investment product promotion in this video, a great way to legitimately avoid compliance objections to the content. Winterberg has reinvented the modern day financial commercial!
The more casual nature of these videos, however, doesn’t take away from their professionalism. You’ll notice in the Morningstar clip and also in FPPad’s Bits and Bytes episodes, each video displays a structured set of branding elements. The Bits and Bytes shows all have a highly customized thumbnail image superimposed with lead in text and a picture of Bill doing something relevant to the video’s theme. Economics is not an issue here; you can make these images yourself with a low cost subscription to Picmonkey. Similarly, the Morningstar video flashes the firm’s logo in the intro scene at the same time that motivating music plays. The video’s intro and outro brand the firm nicely without imposing too much of a commercial feeling.
As you can see from FPPad’s success, the days of the teleprompter are gone forever. Want to reach people but don’t have hours and hours to rehearse? Ditch the script and create a down-to-earth video that lets your true passions come out naturally.
Summing it up: Success Tips for financial advisors and social media video
The financial industry hasn’t even begun to take advantage of social media as they should, and this is a huge opportunity for advisors who want to get in and build their following before the horse has left the barn. Financial advisors who want to participate in social media video but are weary of the cost and time commitment should rest assured that some brands are effectively getting around this. Don’t be afraid to be natural, shoot impromptu videos that document your real life and work. Most of all, serve the audience with relevant information and avoid discussion of compliance landmines such as investment products and performance, and show your passion for doing it. You may find yourself the next YouTube superstar sooner thank you think.