LinkedIn is one of the most widely used platforms for financial professionals. In fact, approximately 91% of all financial advisors using social media use LinkedIn according to research done by FTI Consulting & LinkedIn. However, one of their greatest concerns is the visibility of their connections. For those less familiar with LinkedIn’s features, you have the ability to keep your connections visible to all of your other connections or you may choose to make them private. By making your connections private you are able to theoretically protect others from accessing your clients and colleagues for which you have connected (with the exception of those connections that you have in common). For many advisors, their books of clients are sacred groups of people and feel obligated to shelter them from others. Although, what are you really accomplishing by hiding your connections?
Does hiding your connections on LinkedIn make them any less vulnerable to the marketing initiatives or endeavors of other advisors in your community? Are your clients who are connections on LinkedIn any less likely to seek the counsel of another advisor for support with their financial planning because you hid them from others in your network?
In most cases, the answers to these questions is “no.” In reality, you aren’t protecting your clients or your business. The true vulnerability to your business would be a lack of relationship with these clients. In my opinion, advisors often spend too much time worrying about their competition gaining access to their clients and not enough time building and reinforcing the relationships they have with their clients. A best practice would be to carefully select your LinkedIn connections (i.e. don’t connect with your competition). After all, it’s not about how many connections you have; it’s the quality of the connections and the relationships that you have with each of them.
Another point of interest pertains to Dunbar’s Number. In a recent article I read by Michael Kitces, he discusses the concept that a person (particularly advisors doing comprehensive financial planning) can only effectively maintain relationships with no more than 150 people. Although, many comprehensive financial planners feel that they can only maintain 125 clients (some go as low as 60-70 clients depending upon the complexity of the planning required). Given that the average person on LinkedIn may have approximately 400 connections and assuming that your strategy was to connect with all of your clients and prospects on LinkedIn, you should have more than enough clients (assuming you have taken the time to build & nurture the relationship). If that is the case, there really isn’t any need to fear having your clients visible on LinkedIn and risk being acquired by another advisor because based upon Dunbar’s Number, you already have more relationships than you’re mentally able to manage. Now, I know that may sound trivial, but my hope is that it helps put things into perspective.
In the end, focus on what you can control which is how well you build relationships with your clients. That is what will truly solidify their relationship with you and your firm instead of debating over whether or not to hide your contacts.