Website and Social Media

Websites and social media are often necessary tools for advisors wanting to expand their business.

In this era of virtual communication with numerous opportunities to get noticed and promote oneself, the advisor’s obligation to practise their activities with competence, integrity, and professionalism requires them to be even more careful. They must do this to gain the respect and trust of their audience, which helps maintain the image and credibility of the profession.

Social media presents many advantages due to its ability to quickly unite a large number of people. This characteristic should also inspire the advisor to be careful, because in some circumstances, social media can also pose a risk both for the public and the advisor.

As a result, when using a website or social media, the advisor must act with the same level of professionalism as they do in their in-person, phone, and written interactions with their clients.

This means that all the rules mentioned in the Business development section must be followed by the advisor, with the necessary adaptations. When the advisor promotes their services or provides an opinion regarding financial products and services on a website or on social media, they are acting as an advisor, which means that they must comply with their ethical obligations.

Social media is comprised of online platforms where people can participate in a conversation by creating, organizing, modifying, commenting on, and sharing content.

Social media includes blogs, podcasts, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, and Flickr as well as instant messaging services.

While some social media is geared more toward personal use, others such as LinkedIn and Facebook company pages are used for professional purposes.

Websites and social media have many advantages:

  • they can be an effective way to expand a business
  • they are a good way to keep in touch with existing clients
  • they are especially convenient for younger generations, as they are the most-used communication methods
  • they can help improve financial literacy for savers and insured people

Given the following characteristics of content published on social media and on the Internet in general, the advisor must be careful when using it to publicly represent themselves.

This content is…

  • permanent, because there is still a trace of it left behind somewhere, even if the advisor deletes it.

    Search engines keep a trace of everything posted online. Before posting information, the advisor must check that they will still endorse it after 1 year, 10 years, or at retirement, or at least provide a time frame for the information, by indicating the date the information was updated, for example.

  • public, because it can be viewed by the advisor’s “friends,” friends of friends, or even the general public
  • potentially viral, because very often it can be shared with third parties, completely out of your control

    This exponentially increases the speed of the content’s diffusion and, as a result, multiplies the positive or negative effects that may result.

    For example, a negative comment about a competitor may considerably hurt their reputation and their practice, and expose the advisor to a libel lawsuit. It takes just ten people to share the advisor’s post for hundreds of others to become aware of it.

  • traceable, because one can usually identify the person that posted it
  • potentially harmful, because it may be misinterpreted and cause people to make bad decisions

The advisor’s professional status and obligations that accompany it follow them everywhere. Claiming that they are expressing their personal opinions as a blogger or commenter does not eliminate concerns if they address topics related to their profession, especially if these comments can be interpreted as recommendations and people experience negative consequences by following their advice.

It is therefore in the advisor’s best interests to carefully separate their personal profile from their professional profile when using a website or social media, because each one serves a different purpose.

With that being said, the advisor must remember that they are held to the same standards on their personal profile as they are on their professional page when addressing topics related to their profession.

The advisor, therefore, would be wise to…

  • create a professional page that is separate from their personal page
  • ensure they properly manage access to their personal page so they maintain a professional image for current and potential clients
  • ensure consistency, dependability, care, and restraint in their actions
  • not post too many photos on their professional page, and only images or photos that are serious and professional
  • limit personal information
  • avoid sharing viral content, such as popular videos or comments on news with sensitive, defamatory, or controversial opinions

    This refers to, for example, posting photos, articles, comments, or other content that is not related to work, is not professional, and presents no added value on a professional page.

It is not always easy for the advisor or their clients to make the distinction between simple information and advice. This is why the advisor must ensure they are very careful when diffusing information on their website or on social media.

The advisor is allowed to provide general information or recommendations to all of their contacts on their website or on social media by describing the advantages and disadvantages (including risks) of the mentioned strategies or products objectively.

The key to success is to provide value by posting content that is useful for the recipient and to establish a conversation with them. The advisor can stand out and promote their expertise and the value of their services, especially the advice they have to offer, by posting and simplifying specialized and informative content.

The key message is, therefore, that the advisor must focus their activity on educational content rather than promotional content. The content should be useful, relevant, interesting, and be provided in clear, professional language. The advisor may add important details, such as statistics, being careful to list sources and references to support their statements and demonstrate their credibility.

Before publishing information or promoting something on social media, the advisor should consult with the conformity manager at their firm or dealer, if applicable, and have the content of their messages approved as needed.

Although they may provide information on a specific product or service, the advisor cannot recommend it or provide advice to current or potential clients on their website or through social media. Without taking account of each person’s personal situation, one might believe that their advice applies to everyone.

The advisor must gain a full understanding of the personal and financial situation and other important details in each client’s file before making a recommendation.

As it is virtually impossible for an advisor to know the personal and financial situation of all their contacts on social media, and for such a recommendation to be applicable for everyone, recommendations to an entire network on a product, service, or strategy should be avoided.