Registered Reps: Is Your Website Compliant?

FSP FINRA Update

Rules – they can really stink, I know.

I wanted to be sure all Registered Reps knew about and understood the new FINRA rule regarding your website, though. It goes into effect June 6, 2016 so let’s jump right into it and get this knocked out!

What’s All This About?

If you’re a Registered Rep, then you likely know FINRA has the BrokerCheck utility on their website. The BrokerCheck allows consumers to learn more about a registered rep and make sure they are in good standing. It’s like the BBB for broker backgrounds. Well, it’s coming to your website now too.

Recently, FINRA Rule 2210 states an advisor must provide a link to this utility on your website so your consumers have easy access to by simply clicking while there. FINRA is giving registered reps until June 6, 2016 to comply. You’ve got a couple of months – so don’t sweat it yet! What’s very important to understand is the details of WHERE the link must be placed though:

Effective June 6, 2016, FINRA Rule 2210 (Communications with the Public) requires a firm to include a readily apparent reference and hyperlink to BrokerCheck on the initial Web page that the firm intends to be viewed by retail investors, and any other Web page that includes a professional profile of one or more registered persons, who conduct business with retail investors.See more at: http://www.finra.org/industry/rule-2210-brokercheck#sthash.2i0TTM3H.dpuf

Who Needs to Comply?

If you’re a Registered Rep and you have a consumer-facing website, you have to comply. Again, be very careful to understand the bolded comments provided above. This notice must be on any page where a professional bio exists of a registered rep, the initial page your firm uses (so typically the Home page of a website, but could be a Landing page if you use it for lead generation) and any other page which would contain your bio.

I would even caution to include this interpretation also means  your LinkedIn profile. Although the ruling doesn’t outright state this, I feel it’s a matter of time before they clarify it. Your profile is a biographical representation of who you are and your background. Providing a link to the BrokerCheck utility at FINRA seems not only safe but very transparent.

What Do I Need to Do?

You need to work with whoever manages your website and make sure they understand the implications of this ruling. Updating your website, your LinkedIn profile, and any other place where a bio of you as a registered rep exists is mandatory. Failure to comply always equals a penalty of some sort. 

Do not wait to comply; get it done today. If you need help, reach out and ask me. I can provide instructions or even help you get your LinkedIn profile updated so you avoid trouble with something so small.

Again, I know rules are a pain the butt. However, FINRA wants to keep you and the consumer safe and informed. Let me know if you need assistance.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today.

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

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Are you Rockin’ your Twitter content yet?

FSP Rockin Their Twitter Content

I’m saying the scary word…yep…financial service professionals will want to plug their ears while saying, “La la la la la la la la!!!” Are you ready? I’m going there today: TWITTER! Before you completely bow out of the conversation, what if I told you there’s a really cool place you can go to get your Twitter content and you don’t even have to post it – it will do it for you?

Now that I have your attention…

Tweet JukeboxI had heard Tim Fargo’s name for a very long time. If you worked in social media – you would too. He wrote an awesome book back in 2013 called “Alphabet Success“and while promoting the book he figured out what a lot of us already knew in financial services: it takes a long time to schedule tweets! It’s the number one reason I hear financial service professionals avoid Twitter – sheer time! Gah!!

Tim (along with a few others) developed an application out of a need to save time which would post tweets on your behalf. You simply go to http://www.tweetjukebox.com and sign-up for an account to connect your Twitter account, you then select your “jukebox” which plays the type of content you want your followers to see, and then…you kind of set it and forget it.

But wait, there’s more!

I started using this tool right at the end of 2015 and I have to say, it’s been some of the most engaging posts on my Twitter account. I chose their free Quote Jukebox and turned it on. I was not really sure it would make a difference, but it was free – so why not, right? It definitely couldn’t hurt.

I’m three months in to using this platform. My impressions on Twitter have increased, my mentions have increased, the quality of my connections have increased. Basically – my Twitter got better because I’m playing that funky content on my Twitter without spending one single minute of my time doing it. Now THAT is worth talking about!

Taming Twitter

Tim Fargo’s idea which was crafted out of a simple need has literally tamed my Twitter content conundrum. The quality of the TweetJukebox quotes plus the interaction I’m receiving on Twitter (and in case you are wondering, the sentiment has been 100% positive – not a single negative reaction to date) means this tool has value.

The free version includes two jukebox subscriptions, but the paid version is only $13 per month and you can have access to ten jukebox subscriptions – and there is a lot of stuff to choose from, plus – you can add your own jukebox and be a content producer, should you want to go that route.

TweetJukebox allows you a new, funky and fresh way to reach out to your audience without a lot of time and effort on your part. This is very attractive to many of us in financial services and I challenge you to try this tool and let me know how it goes!

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

I actually just wanted to say sorry…

Financial Professionals 3 Words to Stop Using

How many of you have written the following at some point?

  • Just checking on the status of…
  • Actually, I only needed…
  • Sorry to bother you…

I know I have done this! So, why do we do this? Why strip our writing of any power? Are we really sorry for bothering someone for something we need? Is our goal to minimize what someone else thinks of our request?

Of course those are rhetorical questions, however, we are doing the very things we detest most every time we write with weak words. Knock it off!  Oh, and guess what? There’s a solution for it now too!

Just…

In 2015, one of my resolutions was to stop using the word “just” in my writing. Dear Lord, I would write sentences such as:

  • Just wanted your opinion on…instead of “I want your opinion on…”
  • Just needed to check on…instead of “Please get back to me on…”
  • Just checking to see how you are…instead of “How are you?”

There was an article written last summer about Ellen Petry Leanse, a former executive at Google and Apple, and her harsh criticisms of women using the word “just” too much. As she shared with others, the word “just” is a permission word. Are you asking for permission when you need an opinion, or are checking status on something and even when you want to know if someone is feeling ok? Of course not, then stop changing what you mean to some passive form of permission. And although this seems to be directed mostly at women, I am seeing more and more men using this writing technique today. Stop!

Actually…

Whenever I hear this word, I cringe. Are you trying to make me feel stupid?

  • Actually, the premium is $100, not $99.
  • The assistant actually left at 4:59 pm.
  • I actually need you to call the client first before I deliver the policy.

Completely removing this word will not only help your credibility but will improve your personal and professional relationships. Actually, it’s an unnecessary word and it’s kinda just mean. (See how this works? Yuck!)

Writing is an important part of what we do in financial services. I feel confident many of you do not intentionally mean to write weak and abrasive sentences, but our writing habits tell a different story.

TIME, a well-respected magazine, wrote an article several years ago which I took to heart. I never realized how much I was using this word and how it made my writing appear harsh. Just stop it!

Sorry…

Sorry, guys, talking to the ladies for a moment. “Sorry” is a word I knew long ago I didn’t want my daughters to use unless they really meant it. Women tend to abuse this word so much that when they really mean it – it’s hard to know because it’s been devalued from the million other sorries already said.

Many of us are confusing “sorry” with trying to be polite. We have been reared well and encouraged to have manners (yeah!), but this has been grossly misconstrued to now include a word of remorse.

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

If you need the medical records from a client’s doctor’s office to complete their life insurance, do not say, “Sorry, just checking..” That’s not what you meant. Instead, say, “I need the status of the medical records for…” 

There’s a solution for that…

I was putzing around LinkedIn today and saw an article published on Slate.com about a Chrome extension you can download for Gmail to put an end (or, at least, give you a chance to reconsider) a crappy sentence. “Just Not Sorry” is a Gmail plug-in which lets you stop qualifying your messages and diminishing your voice.

Words are underlined for correction and the plug-in goes on to provide details about why you should change something. This gives you an advantage as you’ll also learn a little more about your writing so you can make the best decision based on the message going out.

In closing:  These are bad writing habits. You’re not a bad person, your writing might be making you appear that way on the other side, though. Commit to better communication in 2016 and you’ll see how others respond more positively to your awesome new skills.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

 

Pinterest – there’s a right way to use it and a lot of wrong ways

Pinterest for Financial Professionals

Starting the new year off with a little fun, but a big lesson. Pinterest is a social media platform which might be on your marketing list to consider, but only if you have an awesome LinkedIn profile set-up AND the platform fits your demographic group (so it’s perfect for those of you with a woman-based business focus).  Like everything in life, there is a right way to use this platform and many wrong ways. Unfortunately, I see a lot of the wrong ones.

What’s right?

Working in financial services, many of you who are registered reps will probably not be able to use this platform at all. The compliance to monitor Pinterest is not solid yet and if you post something, you all know it must be able to be monitored. For those who can use the platform, it’s a great way to share (or “pin” as they call it on this platform) interesting articles, motivational quotes and even a few pictures of fun things (…er, I might have an entire board devoted to bacon).

  1. Pin content interesting to your followers. If you sell Medicaid Supplement insurance, what does the majority of this group like talking about? This might not only include a board for the MedSupp articles you write or like, but also home improvement projects, tips on frugal shopping and even some recipes. Whatever your audience likes and knows, share content that talks directly to them.
  2. Pin content at least once a week. Your boards need to have consistent content like any other platform. Be sure to pin at least once a week to show up in newsfeeds.
  3. Share your pinned content on another platform. Once you pin an article, share it to your LinkedIn account as an update. Cross-promotion of content is encouraged!

So, what’s wrong?

Remember your boards are a reflection of you and your business. Perception is the reality; whether we like it or not.

  • Make sure your profile picture is appropriate. I recently visited an insurance consultant’s Pinterest board where they are taking a selfie, in the bathroom with bathroom types of things around (if you know what I mean). Yeah, I don’t think so. Try and use the same profile picture you did for LinkedIn instead. The synergy will be useful when you cross-promote your pins to other platforms.
  • Check your content before pinning. If you see another pin on Pinterest you feel would be great to share, be sure and open it and make sure it goes to an actual article. A lot of people are using click-baiting as a marketing tactic (basically posting about one thing and then make you click through to something else unrelated) and this will turn your followers off – big time.
  • Secret boards – learn to use them. I was visiting a financial professional’s Pinterest profile where they had boards about small business, motivational quotes and long-term care insurance. Not too shabby right? Except, they went into the “Creep Zone” when they also had boards titled exotic, her fantasy and dream girls. Pinterest has a feature called, “Secret Boards” – use them! You can pin without your followers seeing. For example, I have a secret board for my New Years Resolutions where I keep all the articles I want to review on getting my house in order, losing weight and cocktails I want to make by the pool this year. I then move pins from my secret boards to my open boards.

Pinterest can be a “pinteresting” platform to use in 2016; make sure you do it right though! If you have questions about this or any other social media need, feel free to contact me with your questions.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown | @BIONICsocialite

Financial Advisors and the LinkedIn Summary

whyWhen working with financial advisors on their LinkedIn profiles, a majority of them do not have a LinkedIn Summary. My inclination is to believe that the clean slate leaves many feeling overwhelmed with the daunting task of talking about themselves. What do I say to not sound dumb? Do I write this in first person or third person? Why don’t my connections just go to my website to see what I do? Let’s help you get answers (and some help!) on getting this important task off your social media to-do list!

What do I say to not sound dumb?

This is a real fear. I know many highly decorated advisors who are very smart chaps (and chappettes!) and when you hand them a pen and paper to write a few sentences about themselves, they freeze up. Think about it for a moment. We know what we do for a living, but how do we say this so we don’t sound conceited, or worse, dumb to a potential client?

First, let’s talk about what the LinkedIn Summary is there to do. The biggest mistake I see people doing is going right into what they do at their job…wrong! The Summary section is your chance to tell your “why”. Why are you in this business? Why do you like working with people and businesses? This is what make you human and people really do want to get to know you on a deeper level.

So how do we make sure you don’t sound dumb? Just be yourself. Honestly, just be you. Come from your heart and say why you do this work. That’s much more important than trying to sound super professional and probably unapproachable. An example is my own:

As the Manager of Advisor Engagement Services at Ash Brokerage, I want to share my passion of social media with the financial services professional. As a six-year-old child, I lost my mother to lung cancer. It’s a mission of mine to tell the insurance story every day so it helps others plan for unexpected events.

I’ve used a lot of keywords in this (my title, my company, what I do which is  ‘social media’, financial services, insurance).  This helps optimize my profile so Google can find me in searches, but you can read this and get a sense of who I am as a person.

Our “why” will evolve over time too.  When I started in the insurance community more than twenty years ago, I did not come in with a ‘why’ that is as strong today. It developed through those years, and so will yours so updating your profile is very important.

If you come from your heart, you won’t sound dumb – I promise you.

Do I write this in first person or third person?

You always write in first person.  Always, always, always.  This is a conversation of sorts.  If your name is John, you wouldn’t go into a cocktail party and say, “John likes music.  John likes horseback riding.  John believes every young family should have term insurance.” That would make you sound dumb (look at the first question of this article!).

Write in first person.  Be conversational.  Use words from your heart.

Why don’t my connections just go to my website to see what I do?

If you’re counting on folks to go to your website for everything then you’re not being realistic. With the shortening attention span of consumers today, you’ve got seconds to make an impression.  Use your profile landscape to be interesting, heartfelt and informative.  If clients go to LinkedIn to find out what you do, then be sure you’re there.  You’re not guaranteed they will go back to search for your website and not get caught up looking at cat videos or making Amazon purchases, forgetting they were supposed to be finding out information about you.  Seize the opportunity to be relevant!

If you have questions about your profile, let me know. I enjoy talking with advisors and seeing them be more active in social media.

Be bigger, better, and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown – the @BIONICsocialite

Does your email sign-off hurt or help your brand? [H/T to @RZGreenfield]

emailSo here I am shoveling through my Facebook news feed yesterday when I see an article shared by Pam Moore of Marketing Nutz titled, “You’re Ending Your Emails Wrong” published on Bloomberg. Rebecca Greenfield made a valid argument and it made me really read the salutations of the emails I received from the previous day. Lo and behold I found very common ones that read:

“Good Selling”

“All the best”

“Thank you”

For financial advisors, I would think this is really important to consider: How are you ending your emails? What about doing away with a salutation altogether? Is this too insignificant to matter to you? Let’s discuss.

Sincerely Yours

I vividly remember reading a Forbes article by Susan Adams on “57 Ways to Sign Off An Email” – holy moly, right? She shared everything I thought that was imaginable until last year she updated that article to “89 Ways to Sign Off On An Email”. I then thought, really? Do we really need 89 ways (I also wonder why we have 600 channels of TV too, so…)

Adams mentioned one thing in her article that I do believe is true – your sign-off shouldn’t leave people guessing at what you mean. For example, I’m not a fan of every email ending with “thank you”. Greenfield also reiterated the very point of my aggravation with this – do you really need to thank people for that attachment you sent? How grateful do you really have to be to tell everyone the bathroom is out of paper towels? There’s a place for a heartfelt ‘thank you’ and I don’t believe it’s at the end of your email.

What about those emails that have quotes by famous people? I am also not a fan of this. What if you’re quoting someone who a prospect can’t stand? Is it an endorsement of that celebrity and what they stand for? Mark Cuban is a dynamite business person – what if I hate the Mavericks? Will that turn some people away? I think anything’s possible.

Say Nothing At All

When in doubt, I think it’s best to say nothing at all. I think your social media icons in your signature line are far more important to your brand and business than a salutation. It got me to wonder how many people actually READ to the bottom of your email anyway?

First of all, most emails today are being read on a mobile device. I just saw a statistic published a couple of days ago by eMailmonday.com that provided a survey showing 53% of total email opens occurred on a mobile phone or tablet in Q4 of 2014, which was an increase from 48% just a year prior. So are people even reading the salutation? Maybe there is something to be said, by saying nothing at all.

Who Cares?

Maybe you don’t care and that’s fine too, it’s your business. This might be so incredibly trivial to your business and feel it warrants no attention. However…

I do think from a brand perspective it should be on someone’s mind in your company to at least consider giving a few minutes of thought. I feel strongly an email signature should contain your contact information, any disclaimers needed by compliance and social media icons so others can connect with you.

I felt this was a good discussion and it made me think about my own brand. I’m less inclined to believe salutations are needed after considering all of this information and on that note I leave you with my blog salutation (this isn’t an email, ya know!)

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC!

Sheryl Brown – @BIONICsocialite