Editor’s Note: Earlier this year the compliance environment for social media flexed a bit – as regulators have assessed just how much control any individual or firm can realistically have when using social media for business. In fact the SEC provided better guidance than they’ve traditionally offered. Though you can now entertain using sites Mike mentions below – as he notes, it is not as neat as we’d like it to be. In our view, it is smart to claim your name and location on the most popular destinations that Mike explores – just insure you understand the compliance boundaries.
Financial advisors know the importance of maintaining a good reputation in the local community. Many advisors support local charities, sponsor youth sports teams, and take part in local business organizations.
Social media provides another way for financial advisors to maintain a good local image. Review sites such as Yelp, Yahoo Local, and Google+ let consumers post reviews about local businesses for other potential customers to consider before they call or visit a business.
It’s important to make sure that your listing on these sites is up to date and accurate so that people can find you. If you move, or change your email address or phone number, you’ll probably remember to change that information on your web site. Make sure you change it on these review sites as well, so that people always have to best way to find you.
Yelp may be the gold standard of free review sites, and they offer reviews on everything from restaurants and hotels to construction services and funeral homes. Many people look to Yelp first when they are making a buying decision.
Yelp gives businesses the option to include additional information about themselves. Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to put your best foot forward when describing your business. Say what you do and the kinds of clients you serve. Don’t hesitate to include marketing language you have aready pre-approved for use with your online business profiles. Make sure your address; web site and hours of operation are accurate.
Yelp makes money by taking paid ads, but Yelp advertisers get no special treatment. Advertisers cannot change or remove bad reviews and they don’t get preference in ranking. That said, an ad on Yelp would increase your presence.
The way that Yelp ranks businesses can be a little confusing. The more information you include about your business, like your profile, pictures, and contact details, the higher up you will rank. Yelp also looks for keywords in the reviews. If someone searches Yelp for “retirement planning” and four of your five reviews use that phrase, you’ll rank higher than those advisors whose reviews don’t include that phrase.
Yahoo! Local includes a lot of ads mixed in with search results. There are paid ads at the top and the bottom of the results list. When you click on a name in the list, you get a map of the business’ location, contact information and more ads. Then you get a section that says, “You might also like…” followed by the names of four or five of your competitors!
A basic business listing is free. It includes your name, address, phone number, description of your business and a link to your website. You can also get an advanced listing, which costs $9.95 as of August 2014, and includes your logo, a more detailed description and up to ten photos. If you have an enhanced listing, you’ll get listed more often in the “You might also like…” section, and your mention will include a photo. Yahoo! Also offers Yahoo Localworks for companies with wider geographic distribution.
Angie’s List is a paid membership review site that charges consumers to join. There are no anonymous reviews, which makes Angie’s List one of the more reliable sites. Anyone can post a review on Angie’s List, but only paying members can see other people’s reviews.
Getting Good Reviews
It’s been said that a happy customer tells no one, but a disgruntled customer tells everyone. This is just as true with online reviews as it was when products and services were discussed with the neighbors over the back fence.
For Financial Advisors, you have to be careful with reviews to make sure that you are in line with regulatory and compliance guidelines. While recent SEC guidelines now allow using 3rd party commentary as a sales and marketing tool, all reviews must be unsolicited so you can’t openly request reviews from clients. However, you can make your presence known by including links to external sites like Google+ Local and Yelp on your website and let your clients discover a way to do so indirectly. It’s also important to know that once reviews start coming in, advisors currently can’t edit or modify the reviews in any way.
At the end of the day, consumers are relying heavily on these types of websites to make their decision when choosing any type of service, so exposure is paramount. Play it safe and make sure that you have the maximum amount of exposure online in order to benefit from increased traffic, search rankings, and visibility on the web.
Building up your presence on online review sites can take a while. Be persistent, and keep your listings up to date. You’ll find that, like most things, it’s worth waiting for.