It’s a Small World – What Are You Going to Do About It?

Even in a world dominated by social media and technology, word of mouth is powerful.  Now the problem is words do not just come out of someone’s mouth anymore.  There is all sorts of information available about you.  What can you do about it?

You Can’t Dominate Channels, But You Can Influence Them

Let us consider seven ways people will learn about you:

1. Word of mouth.  This has historically been the first source people would use for background research.  “I’m thinking of doing some business with (your name).  What do you know about her?” 

Proactive:  Who might be approached?  Let’s start with clients.  Do they know what you do for them?  The success stories from your relationship?  Remind them occasionally.  Next consider your family members.  Can your spouse explain what you do?  Recognize an opportunity?  Continue this through extended family members.  Now you move to friends and acquaintances.  Ideally everyone knows Who you are, What you do and Why you are good.

2. The Google (or Bing) search.  What is going to come up?  Are there other people with your name?  It is highly likely your firm as arranged when your name and words like financial advisor are entered into the search field, your advisor web page at the firm is the first result or near the top.

Proactive:  Only one way to know.  Do a search on your own name from time to time.

3. Your LinkedIn profile.  Everyone knows LinkedIn is social media with a business purpose.  Expect someone checking you out will view your LinkedIn profile.

Proactive:  Does your profile adequately explain what you do?  Does it answer that question from the “How do I help people” perspective?  Do you have a professional photo attached?  Does your profile page have any endorsements for specific skills?  Any personal recommendations?  Different firms have different rules in this area.  Have you posted or commented lately?  That is also part of your profile.

4. Your social media presence.  People will check you out on Facebook and other sites.  It has been said people in their 20’s have lost out on getting jobs because the HR department of the hiring firm will have done a search beforehand for background purposes.  If you have done silly stuff and posted the proof, they might not consider you mature enough for the position.

Proactive:  Research yourself.  What have you found?  Be careful what you post.

5. Have you been published or interviewed?  Once again, different firms have different rules.  If you are an independent advisor, you might have written a “white paper” on an investment topic and published it via LinkedIn.  Advisors have written books, both with the public or other advisors as the potential audience.  If you have written a book and it is available on Amazon, that should come up in an internet search or a search on the Amazon website.  Advisors are sometimes resources for the media or write an investment column for the local newspaper.

Proactive:  Assuming your firm allows it, seek out opportunities.  You might see if the local TV stations maintain a list of experts when an opinion or quote is needed.  Does your local newspaper have a regular column broadly explaining investment concepts?  Our local paper does.  It’s written by a local advisor team.

6. Have you spoken in public?  People often attach great credibility to people who have spoken in front of groups.  It might be an alumni club, community group or a professional organization like the Chamber of Commerce. The fact you have spoken is often archived.

Proactive:  If you haven’t spoken, consider if it’s a practical option.  How could you arrange it?

7. Do you have a YouTube video?  Many advisors have developed videos explaining investment concepts.  It’s another searchable channel that positions you as a subject matter expert.

Proactive:  You need to learn if your firm allows it.  Assuming it is OK, there are many services that reach out via e-mail or through LinkedIn seeking to sell you this service.  If your firm allows it, someone else has done it.  Find out who they are internally.  Get in touch.  See if they were happy with the service and cost.

Other Channels you Need to Know About

If you are a financial advisor, you are aware FINRA has it’s Broker Check tool.  An interested party can access the site and learn about your state registration, firm employing you, licenses you hold and regulatory actions against you. (1)  It’s important to know not only what it says, but to verify if the information is correct.

Another important site to know about is Mylife. (2)  This site gathers information about you (or anyone) from many sources and builds a picture including where you lived or have lived, court records, education and other details.  It calculates a Reputation Score based on data collected.  As I recall, people encounter a paywall once they get to a certain point, but it would be useful to know what the site says about you and correct inaccuracies where possible.   

You can’t control everything, but at least be aware of what information is out there.  Your friends and clients can be your greatest cheerleaders.  Do they need to be reminded how you help people?

Related: Ten Reasons Why You Need Younger Friends