Great blog posts don’t matter…

…if people don’t read them. As the saying goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Don’t count on readers for your financial advice or investment services blog posts to come to your blog. Grow your audience by making your content available the way your readers prefer.

A client recently reinforced this lesson for me. She said, “Susan, I love those links you post on LinkedIn!” I was surprised. This client had declined my offer to send her my e-newsletter, which is the main way my clients read my blog posts. However, my content developed greater appeal when delivered via LinkedIn, a way that suits her style. Linking to my blog posts in my LinkedIn status updates is a bigger success than I’d realized.

Here are some ways you can make your blog posts available to satisfy your readers’ preferences.

1. LinkedIn status updates. I explain how to post links in “Reader question: How can I share my investment commentary on LinkedIn?”

2. LinkedIn groups. If you’ve found a LinkedIn group that gets good traffic, then share your post there.

3. E-newsletter. An e-newsletter is a great way to package your blog posts for readers who’ll never visit a blog or use an RSS feed.

4. Other social media: Twitter, Facebook, and more. You can post links to your blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites much as you would on LinkedIn. Of course, link-posting will reach a point of diminishing returns. Figure out which sites yield your best results, and then focus on them.

You may find that more of your prospects are on Facebook than Twitter or other social media sites.

5. Guest posts. Appearing as a guest on someone else’s blog is another way to get your content seen. While many blogs want original content for their guest spots, some don’t. You can learn more in “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments, Part I: Your approach” and “Part II Blogs that accept posts from financial advisors.”

If you’re not using any of these methods, it’s time to re-think your approach to blogging.

A great financial article isn’t enough

A great financial article that you find online does NOT make a great blog post. At least not by itself. It simply gets you to the starting line of writing your blog post.

Photo by Diana the Math

It’s an excellent idea to link to a provocative or helpful article, as many financial advisors do. But your job is not complete when you post the website address to access a web page or an Adobe Acrobat file. You must also give your reader at least one reason to click on the link.

You can

  1. Explain why you feel the way you do about the link–You may agree or disagree with author’s point of view. It’s fine to link to articles with which you disagree.
  2. Briefly summarize the article’s relevant points–Many people will be too lazy to click through.

You may think it’s enough to share articles that you like because you’re giving readers a sense of who you are. But link-only communication works better on Twitter. It looks funny on a blog.

You needn’t invest lots of time to turn a link into a blog post. Imagine you’re talking with a client or friend about the article in your blog post. Write out your thoughts and you’ve got a blog post.

Before and after examples

I’ll illustrate what you can do by outlining a blog post based on “A Market Forecast That Says ‘Take Cover,’ ” a column by Jeff Sommer in The New York Times.


Here’s how the minimalist blogger presented Sommer’s article.

You probably don’t feel inspired to click on the link. You may even feel irritated that the blogger expects you to act on so little information.

Next, I’ll sketch an outline of how you blog the same article.


In just three paragraphs the “after” example gives readers a sense of the blogger’s opinion. They may be intrigued enough to click through. Or, they may prefer to ponder the blogger’s point of view.

Make sure you express an opinion when you write a blog post that focuses on an article you admire.

FINRA/SEC compliance guidance for bloggers

Photo by Steffe

Registered representatives and registered investment advisors (RIAs) fall under two different regulators when they blog. Reps must grapple with FINRA’s regulations, while RIAs enjoy more freedom under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as I learned from Bill Winterberg’s guest post in December 2008. Do things right because “You can be sure that FINRA is going to start including social media reviews in their next round of examinations,” as attorney Mark Astarita said in “Advisors Allowed To Get Social.” That goes for the SEC, too.

However, if you treat your blog posts as sales literature or advertising, you’re unlikely to run into problems with your compliance department. This is true whether you’re a rep or an RIA. This has implications for your content, administrative processes, and recordkeeping.

You’ll find some guidelines below. Don’t rely solely on this blog post for guidance because I only skim the surface. Always check first with your compliance officer. If you’re the compliance officer, it’s important to monitor compliance developments for more details–and because standards may change quickly. You’ll find compliance resources at the bottom of this blog post.

Content: No recommendations

“The bottom line here is do not make specific recommendations in any of your communications.  You should keep your comments, posts, and interactions general in nature if you are referring to anything that is financially related,” says Stephanie Sammons, CEO of Wired Advisor, in “The Good News/Bad News of FINRA’s Social Media Guidelines Release.”

If you’re regulated by the SEC, you should observe the following policies when writing content, as summed up by Triplestop LLC’s Joe Polidoro in “Social Networking for RIA’s.”

  • Disclose all material facts
  • Don’t publish testimonials–When you wander off your blog, this includes LinkedIn recommendations, Twitter favorites, and the Facebook “like”
  • Don’t use “RIA” improperly

Polidoro also stresses that, aside from crafting your content carefully, you monitor your sites frequently so you can remove testimonials and other noncompliant content, keep records (see more details below), and develop and post your social media policy.

Some SEC compliance tips I picked up include during my dealings with compliance professionals include

  • Never make guarantees
  • Use “we believe” to make statements more palatable to your compliance officer
  • Avoid mentioning specific products, especially specific mutual funds, whenever possible, or you subject yourself to onerous disclosure requirements


Process: Preapproval preferred

Reps must get their blog content approved by a registered principal before they post to the web, according to Polidoro’s How FINRA Regulations Play Out in Social Media, At a Glance. RIAs have more leeway, especially if they’re at a small firm. I believe that larger RIA firms are likely to demand preapproval.

Recordkeeping: Archive your posts so they’re easily retrieved

FINRA wants you to keep your records for at least three years; the SEC, for at least five years. There are plenty of vendors that would like to provide you with an automated solution for tracking your social media. You’ll find some of them in the list of “Twitter and other resources.”

Reports, articles, and regulations on social media compliance

Here are resources that complement the blog posts I’ve mentioned above. If you’re aware of more, please let me know.


Twitter and other resources on social media compliance

Most of the people named below don’t focus on social media compliance. But they have put out useful information in the past. I expect they’ll do so again. Thanks to Bill Winterberg for adding some names to this list. Check Bill’s compliance list on Twitter in case new resources emerge.

This list gives Twitter names first. You can recognize Twitter names because they start with the @ sign. They’re followed by blog or website links. If the resource lacks a Twitter name, I give their real life name.

Do you recommend other resources on social media compliance for financial advisors? Please add them in the comments. I’m especially interested in resources for investment managers, wealth managers, and financial planners who blog.

April 2016 update: For a more recent post, read “Top 3 Compliance Concerns When Writing Your Blog.” In April 2016 correspondence, Cindi Hill confirmed that her advice is still current.


Guest post: “Adding Video into the Communications Mix”

Video makes a great complement to your written financial communications. This is the message I took away from the guest video post below by Samantha Allen of Investius.

Until I watched Samantha’s video, it hadn’t occurred to me that video’s short format can attract readers, so they’re willing to read publications that go into greater depth on the same topic. I’d been thinking of video as a competing format that appeals to people who prefer visual learning.

Thanks, Samantha!

Financial blogging lessons from The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Tips for more compelling posts

“The titles and the first few lines of your poem represent the hand you extend in friendship toward your reader. They’re the first exposure he or she has, and you want to make a good impression.”
— Ted Kooser, The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets

This Ted Kooser quote applies to financial blog posts as well as to poems. Financial posts and poetry aren’t often mentioned in the same sentence. However, both forms of writing will win or lose readers on the basis of first impressions. So, I’d like to share tips for financial bloggers based on the “First Impressions” chapter of Kooser’s book.

1. Use your title to set your readers’ expectations
. Give up bland titles, such as “401(k) plans” in favor of titles that give your audience a reason to read. For example, my title for this post identifies my target audience—financial bloggers—and the benefit I believe they’ll receive—more compelling posts. “Titles are very important tools for delivering information and setting expectations,” as Kooser says. Instead of “401(k) plans,” consider something like “Three ways you can get more out of your 401(k) plan.”

2. Don’t lead with boring information
. Put your background information somewhere other than your opening lines. Too often, as Kooser says, bloggers—like poets—start with “information that really is not essential but is there because it was a part of the event that triggered the poem. It’s the background story, and it may not be necessary for us to know it to appreciate the poem.”

3. Deliver on your promise. For example, if your title and first paragraph promise 401(k) tips, don’t switch midstream to discussing online checking accounts.

4. Write in a consistent style. If you drew in your blog readers with a warm, conversational style, you’ll lose them when you switch to a cold, institutional style. As Kooser says, “If a poem begins with three lines of strict iambic pentameter, a reader will be disconcerted if that forceful rhythm is abandoned in the fourth line.”

5. Be aware of your “voice.” Kooser describes “voice” or “presence” as “the person we not only hear, but intuit to be behind the words.” For example, I think my voice is friendly, conversational, and reflects a genuine desire to help financial advisors communicate better with their clients. Voice is communicated by your writing style as well as your content.

Try applying one–or all–of these tips in your next financial blog post!

Related posts
* Start with a good lead, or lose your reader

* Financial writers, lead with your message, not your source

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Six lessons from the CFA Institute’s conference tweets

You can learn some lessons for how to tweet a conference from the CFA Institute. It has done things right as it timed its Twitter debut to coincide with its annual conference. But there’s still room for improvement.

Lesson 1:  Deploy a team. The CFA Institute mobilized a team of 14 people to report on its three-day conference. One person will burn out if she or he tries to cover every session. Plus, it’s impossible for one person to cover concurrent sessions.

Lesson 2: Use a hashtag. The hashtag #CFA2010 allowed people to find conference tweets by both official and unofficial sources.

Lesson 3: Complement your tweets with blog posts. You can’t say much of substance in a line of 140 characters or less. You’ll engage your conference attendees more deeply when some of your tweets lead them to blog posts. Tweets may be the sizzle that leads some reader to the steak. Read the CFA Institute’s 2010 conference blog.

Lesson 4: Decide on a strategy for engaging with fellow Twitter users. The CFA Institute included non-staff #CFA2010 tweets in the Twitter feed. It might also have engaged with other people tweeting about the conference.

I may have overlooked something, but I didn’t see any CFA Institute Twitter users getting into conversations on Twitter. On the other hand, there aren’t many CFA charterholders on–or even knowledgeable about–Twitter. “You can tweet, although I don’t know what that means,” joked John Rogers, the CFA Institute’s President and CEO, to widespread laughter when he introduced the conference’s Monday morning sessions.

Lesson 5: Monitor the back channel. This isn’t an issue for the CFA Institute yet, but it’s becoming more of an issue, as reflected in the publication of The Back Channel: How Audiences Are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever by Cliff Atkinson. The CFA Institute kept its eyes on the back channel by featuring #CFA2010 tweets on its conference blog and on screens at the conference.

Lesson 6: Go multimedia. Some folks like to take in their information in written form. Others prefer audio and video. The CFA Institute did a great job of getting its headline speakers interviewed on camera by reporters and tweeting the interviews as they became available online. It has also gradually fed the interviews onto its blog.

Congratulations CFA Institute on a conference well-tweeted!

Related posts:
* My blog posts related to #CFA2010

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Pull your white papers into the year 2010

Investment and wealth managers, you can get a lot more mileage out of your white papers today.

How’s that?

Don’t forget about the content once it’s up on your website. Reuse it using social media.

Recycle as blog posts
White paper content can be recycled into blog posts. In some cases, you can pluck a few paragraphs and drop them into your blog “as is.” However, most of the time, you’ll need to frame and re-write the content. I’ve been doing this recently for a white paper client.  

Another possibility: Send your white paper to a blogger whom you respect. Offer to answer questions about your topic on the other person’s blog. Check out “How to guest-blog on personal finance or investments,” if you’d like to explore this option

Tweet it–and don’t forget LinkedIn
It’s a no-brainer to tweet the availability of your white paper. Smart marketers go beyond this. They tweet intriguing excerpts, keeping them short enough to be retweetable. Pithy quotes are popular on Twitter.

Remember, tweets are also great fodder for LinkedIn updates. While you’re over at LinkedIn, you may also want to raise a question in a Group related to your white paper topic.

Go multimedia
Different members of your audience prefer to take in content in different ways. So, also consider turning your white papers into podcasts, videos, or interactive webinars.

Related posts

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

My May blog posts by category: Blogging, economy/investments/wealth management, marketing, social media, writing

Did you notice that I went wild in May, posting every day as part of the Word Count Blogathon? For your convenience, I’m listing my May posts by category.


Economy, investments, and wealth management


Social media


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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

Using CFP in your Twitter name–Read the CFP Board’s position

Using a term such as CFP in your Twitter name makes sense as a marketing strategy for financial advisors. It immediately identifies you as a credentialed professional. However, it also means you’re violating the CFP Board’s rules.

Twitter alerted me to this issue. When I dug into the CFP Board’s Guide to Use of the CFP Certification Marks, I discovered that point 1.7 says “CFP certificants may not own or use an email address or internet domain name that includes the CFP mark.” (Sorry CFP Board, I don’t know how to make the (R) mark appear in a Blogger blog). 

Here are some examples from the CFP Board of proper and improper use of their mark.

A Twitter name isn’t an email or a URL. But Twitter does make the name into a URL following the format

I contacted @CFPBoard to ask if a Twitter name using CFP would violate its rules. Here’s the reply:

It sounds as if the CFP Board is open to your feedback about using CFP in Twitter names. So shoot SLaBonte an email, if you’d like to be heard.
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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved

If you enjoy my #CFA2010 tweets…

…you may also enjoy my free monthly e-newsletter with practical tips for your client communications. You’ll also find at least one investment or wealth management article. 

I often report on presentations to the Boston Security Analysts Society, so you know you’ll see topics of interest to CFA charterholders.

Topics in the May 2010 issue included

  • Watch out for inflation, says veteran value investor, Jean-Marie Eveillard
    Treasurys vs. Treasuries–Which is the right spelling? 
  • How to guest-blog on personal finance or investing 
  • Poll: How do you sign your business emails? 
  • Last month’s reader poll about ghostbloggers 
  • Morgan Creek Capital’s Yusko on investing

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Copyright 2010 by Susan B. Weiner All rights reserved