How Do We Prevent Competitors from Poaching Our Clients on Social Media?

Knotty compliance issues can serve as a disincentive to financial advisors weighing their involvement with social media, but often there's another matter in the back of their minds that drives their discomfort with social media even deeper.

Over the years, I've had numerous conversations with advisors at brokerages and registered investment advisors (RIAs) who feared operating in an open social network where other advisors could connect with retail investors. The reason? “Other advisors might take my clients!” The open and networked quality of social platforms appeared in their minds as a double- edged sword – their ability to strengthen relationships with their customers meant that their competitors could do the same. They were even afraid of outside firms recruiting other advisors on their staff.

This concern, of course, ignores a glaring truth – poaching can happen anyway. Just as we've noted that customers who have bad things to say will find a way to say them – whether you're involved in their social media world or not – so too can your clients or staff jump ship if they so desire. What it all comes down to is this: Are you doing right by your customers? Because if you are, they won't want to go elsewhere. If you aren't, well then, yes, you may have something to worry about. And it should be more than just this new thing called social media getting you to focus on that issue.


It's obvious that no one wants to spend time building valuable client relationships only to wake up one day and discover they've vanished. Sure, social media may open your professional world to advisor foxes who want to raid your client henhouse, but social media isn't the reason you lose them. The fault, Brutus, isn't in your social stars – it's in yourself.

Marie Swift, founder and CEO of Impact Communications, says the key to avoid being a victim of poachers is to know your clients and stay engaged with them. She shares the example of a California-based advisory firm whose clients frequent Facebook instead of advisor-preferred LinkedIn. So the firm's employees and leaders make a point of interacting with clients by making the experience fun and visual.

“Their strategy is to feature lots of photos of community interaction like client appreciation events or sharing milestones,” says Swift. “So keep your clients engaged with the people in the firm to demonstrate not only your expertise but your humanity.”

Here are three more key ways you can protect yourself and maintain your client relationships amid the growing competition:

1. Define and enforce social media ownership. While almost no agreement can offer foolproof legal protection, if you're careful to update your agreements frequently and make them well known, it will certainly make things more difficult for an ex-employee to walk away with your client list. Clearly outline who owns your company social media accounts – the company or the individual. To cover all your bases, be sure to outline ownership of account management in everything from the job description to the offer letter.

2. Tighten your social media security. In today's business environment, it's nearly impossible for advisors and the firms that employ them to continue flourishing without building strong social media bridges. That said, if the competition is intense and you're too permissive with your social media settings, you could be dangling your clients out there like bait for the circling sharks. Thankfully, most of the social networking sites provide varying levels of privacy settings. Following a list of clients on Twitter? Consider making this list private. Or perhaps a former colleague is now working for a competitor. If you had connected with him in the past on LinkedIn, he may still have access to all of your connections – likely a handful of which are clients and prospects. Consider modifying your privacy settings to prevent connections from seeing your full list of connections.

3. Know what your competition offers, and stay current. Stay abreast of what other advisors or firms are doing to attract and keep lucrative clients and top talent. You need to ensure your compensation, benefits, bonuses, incentives, rewards, and so on, are in line with – or ideally, slightly better than – the packages competing firms may offer. Below are some examples of social listening tools that you can use to monitor the


Corporate Listening – Radian6 (owned by Salesforce), Oracle, and Adobe all provide in-depth listening tools and are used most often in large enterprises.

Social PR – Meltwater and Vocus are traditional PR tools that have added listening tools for social media.

Free Tools – Google analytics and Social Mention provide great listening capabilities. The more targeting you can get, the better.

Network Analytics – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer innetwork analytics and tools for monitoring competitors.

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