Blogging Q&A with James McDonald

James McDonald of Index Strategy Advisors, a Houston-based firm that manages ETF-based portfolios, has made social media a key part of his firm’s marketing. He has built his firm’s assets under management from zero to more than $50 million in a little more than two years.

This is part of a series of Q&As that I’ve conducted via email with advisors who blog. Previous interviewees included Michael Kitces, Jim Blankenship, and Carolyn McClanahan.

Q. When did you start your Insights blog?j2

A. December 20, 2011 — I launched my blog on my birthday to coincide with the public debut/announcement of my company on social media.

Q. How has your blog brought you new business or improved your existing client relationships? Please explain and quantify, if possible.

A. My blog was crucial in growing my business from scratch. It helped by displaying my expertise and research to three main audiences:

  1. Potential clients
  2. Potential employees
  3. The media, colleagues and potential partners in the industry.

It’s all about showing people what you know and what potential value you bring to the table without logistical limitations! I’ve acquired clients, employees, and partnerships from all four corners of the United States and everywhere in between based solely on my online presence. Without my blog, I could never have grown my business across the country, let alone persuaded anyone to do business with me.

I can trace some new clients directly to my blog. In fact, there’s one blog post that attracted dozens of clients for me over the course of several weeks.

Q. What blogging techniques or topics have most helped your business?

A. The two most effective blogging techniques for me have been the

  1. Presentation of timely, news-driven topics, such as the Facebook IPO, fiscal cliff, U.S. presidential election, and euro zone credit crisis—this works because it attracts pageviews from people trying to understand these topics

2. Integration of people I care about into my writing—for example, I’ve been thrilled to reconnect with friends from my high school in Bethesda, Md., from 20 years ago. I often remark about them or speak directly to them in my writing. In other words I usually make my narrative personal. This seems to resonate with my readers, who feel they’re getting to know me as a person.

Q. What are three of your favorite—or most effective—blog posts? Provide the titles, URLs and a comment about why you included them.

A. My three favorite blog posts:

  1. How To Invest Smarter: The 5 Reasons Your Portfolio Isn’t Growing — this post is a favorite because it demonstrates our core expertise directly. This is the blog post that attracted dozens of clients for me over the course of several weeks.
  2. A complex debate simplified by money — this post is a favorite because I learned something new (financial statistics about the gun industry) and was able to constructively get something off of my chest. After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there was a heightened gun debate in the U.S. I wanted to join that debate, but from the perspective of a parent and investment professional. This post attracted several new clients for me. It was also a catalyst for new relationships with journalists interested in the topic and my research skills.
  3. 4 reasons why I accept Facebook as a friend, but am ignoring the IPO request — this post is a favorite because I felt so strongly about the topic (opposing investment in individual stocks by retail investors) and the investment in question (FB IPO). It was a fun way to include my technical expertise and personal thoughts, while weaving in my friends on Facebook who I enjoy so much. In fact, I even dedicated the post to my FB friends and a hilarious video about a baby raccoon that I had just seen on FB.

Q. What’s your best tip for advisors who blog?

A. My best tip for advisors who blog is to track and measure your viewership analytics closely. If people don’t like what you’re writing you need to change it. If people do like what you’re writing, then you need to increase your emphasis on that topic or style of post

Google Analytics is a great free tool to measure how many have viewed your blog posts. The input from a good tracking tool will inform how you calibrate everything you do with respect to your blog. It will ultimately drive your ROI higher.