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Business Strategy

How two advisers used social media to scale new heights

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22 days ago

One of the first things James Wrigley asks in an initial client inquiry call is where they live – this was not, incidentally, a question that was important before the growth of his social media profile.

“In days gone by, they were living in a Melbourne suburb and we’d organise a meeting in our offices,” says Wrigley, a principal at First Financial.

Today more than half of the firm’s new leads are from interstate and often from people living in remote areas.

“One client is a doctor living three hours drive from the nearest town. If it wasn’t for social media there’s no way she would have come across me,” he says.

Wrigley is one of Australia’s most successful licensed financial advisors using social media to educate and win new business. His more than 138,000 followers find his videos and posts across five channels: TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

As his biggest driver of new business, social media has expanded the size of Wrigley’s potential market both geographically and in the type of client.

“By and large, the people coming to us as a result of social media posts have never spoken to a financier adviser before,” Wrigley says.

In practice

Wrigley prefers to use video for social media because it’s a faster way of building a connection. He suspects that’s because people want to work with others they feel they get to know and trust.

His style is a simple direct-to-camera approach delivering a message in a few minutes. Now that he’s been producing the videos for around eight years, Wrigley is comfortable with the way he looks and the way his voice sounds – but he recognises that this method might be “scary” for others.

“So, writing static posts is better than nothing but I'm a strong believer that video is the best of all of the things you could possibly do,” he says. 

For those new to posting online, he suggests choosing one social media channel and becoming comfortable with that approach there before moving on to others.

It’s an idea that worked for fellow adviser Adele Martin, who started out on Facebook about 15 years ago. Today, LinkedIn and Instagram are her preferred platforms.

Back in 2013, she reinvented her advice business after attending FinCon, a US conference for personal finance content creators. The big trend was to create a more recognisable profile by developing a personal brand rather than using a business name. 

So, while Martin, founder of Firefly Wealth and My Money Buddy, was the one who travelled to the US, it was “Adele Martin – Money Mentor” who returned to Australia.

“That was my first ‘a-ha’ moment into how I could do things a bit differently,” she recalls.

Just over two years ago, she took her business in another new direction by choosing to work with solo financial advisers. LinkedIn works best for this client base, while Martin runs a private Facebook group for adviser clients. 

Both Wrigley and Martin agree that regular posting on LinkedIn helps to open up other opportunities, too, such as invitations to speak at events and media interviews.

Martin, who usually posts written thought pieces, technical content and FAQs, also recognises that videos showing her talking to camera often get the greatest engagement. Martin, along with her team, are also exploring AI tools to help create content.

Pluses and minuses

From the launch of YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook two decades ago to the more recent popularity of Instagram and TikTok, social media platforms have promised a more accessible channel for financial advice. A 2023 Compare the Market survey found that a third of Australians turn to social media and the internet for information about investing.

Of course, it’s been a mixed blessing for the financial advice sector. 

After all, social media led to the rise of so-called “finfluencers”, social media stars providing financial advice without a license. In 2021, ASIC warned unlicensed finfluencers (and corporates working with them) they could face “significant penalties,” including up to five years’ imprisonment and fines “into the millions of dollars.”

The warning applied to advisers, too; ASIC said licensed financial planners may be liable for an influencer’s misconduct and reminded them to do their due diligence, have risk management and monitoring systems in place and use appropriate compliance resources.

Meanwhile, Wrigley suspects that the public awareness of the laws around financial advice has increased. He’ll occasionally see a comment on one of his videos telling him he needs to be registered to talk about these things.

For Wrigley, responding to comments on his posts are an important way of building an online community and one reason for his large and growing following.

He recalls some advice he saw online, likening a social media post to giving a presentation on a stage.

While no presenter is going to leave the stage when the audience starts asking questions, Wrigley says that’s effectively what advisers do if they don’t respond online.

“I get a lot of satisfaction out of educating people and while it has some great business outcomes, that’s not first on the list for me,” he says.

“What I've realised over the years is the more you give away for free, the more that comes back in a commercial outcome down the track.”

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