When Andy Panko started his Facebook group, Retirement Planning Education, in April 2020, his goal was to grow the group to 1,000 members by the end of the year. Instead, he hit that goal in only a few months, and the group kept on growing to the point where it is at more than 37,000 members today.
Not a bad following for someone who started his solo fee-only advisory firm in 2019. Panko is a financial planner and owner of Tenon Financial in Metuchan, N.J.
Panko discussed his social media success during a webinar for Financial Experts Network this week.
He said when he started his firm, “I was doing traditional advisory stuff – I had a business page on Facebook, I got some referrals from advisors I knew. But none of those things ultimately transferred to actual clients. Instead, I was getting lots of little bites from prospects.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down in-person meetings, Panko realized he needed a new approach to connecting with prospects and he needed to become more engaged virtually. That realization led to his starting the Facebook group.
“When I started my group, there already were a few retirement-focused groups on Facebook,” he said. “But I wanted to have a group that was clearly retirement-focused and tax-focused. I wanted to be someone who did retirement planning but with a focus on tax planning, and I am positioning my group as the intersection of retirement planning and tax planning.”
Panko said he began posting his own articles and sharing others’ articles in the group.
“I was trying to get a flow of content in the group,” he said. “I also did some shameless plugging of my group in other Facebook groups I was in. I saw that people in those groups would ask questions and I would give thoughtful answers and then plug my group.”
Panko’s firm is an RIA firm, so he is required to archive all online communication. He said he uses software designed for archiving in a compliant way.
He also is careful to provide information but not give advice in the group.
'Clear when you cross a line'
“It’s clear when you cross a line,” he said. “I never mention specific securities or stocks. With being an RIA, regulators care mainly about advice around investments. I don’t ever mention specific investments., stocks, bonds, funds, etc. But my detailing IRS rules is not giving advice; that’s explaining rules. And I don’t tell people what they should and should not do.”
As owner of his RIA, Panko said, he is his own chief compliance officer. “But I also need to be comfortable with what I am saying in a public forum is not advice and not crossing any lines,” he added.
Panko described his Facebook group as “just me as an individual educating others.”
He said he obtained most of his current clients from the group and said his approach to the group is what led to attracting those clients.
“It’s not salesy,” he said. “You ask me a question and I give a thoughtful answer. It’s not you ask a question and I give an answer and if you want more give me a call. People can smell that a mile away.
“People would get comfortable with me in my knowledge and my approach – it was the best sales tool I could have. Ultimately, they would find me, get to know me, get comfortable with me. When they were ready for a paid engagement, they would find my business website and I have real clean call to action buttons. And the vast majority came to me from Facebook.”
Panko said he sought quality over quantity when it came to obtaining clients for his practice. He said he has 40-45 clients and is no longer seeking new clients. But he continues to educate others about retirement and tax planning issues.
He does weekly videos where people can post questions for him to answer live. His YouTube channel has nearly 16,000 subscribers.
Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan.