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The $27 Trillion 'Generation D' Investor Prize

Maggie Overfelt, Special to CNBC.com
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 | 8:55 PM ET
Facebook campus, Menlo Park
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images
Facebook campus, Menlo Park

The most prominent board on Cathy Curtis' Pinterest page isn't the "women and money" one, which features pictures and posts that link back to her financial planning website. Instead, the majority of her pins are typical of what you see on the scrapbooking social network. That's because style, "good things to eat" and "books worth reading" are more likely to earn Curtis new followers and prospective clients for her investment consulting business.

While the number of customers Curtis has gleaned directly from Pinterest is hard to determine, spending time on the site has become an important piece of her social media marketing strategy. She's hoping it will allow her to form a more personal connection with young, affluent women, Pinterest's largest demographic and Curtis' target audience. "What's so valuable is that it shows prospects your total personality," said Curtis, whose Oakland, Calif., firm manages about $40 million, with clients averaging $750,000 in investable assets.

(Read More: Female Advisors Know What Women Want)

Hunting for prospects on a distinctly recreational site like Pinterest or Kumbuya is just one new way advisors are reaching out to "Generation D," (the "D" is for digital) a tech-entrenched U.S. investor group made up of 75 million people worth roughly $27 trillion in assets, according to consulting firm Accenture. A recent study from the consulting firm showed that financial advisors have had lots of success using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn—more than half of the advisors surveyed said they found or converted clients using these channels—so it's no surprise they are looking for additional social media venues to broaden their client base.

"They realize the market landscape is shifting to this new form of social interaction for prospective clients," said Amy McIlwain, founder and president of Denver-based Financial Social Media, a firm that coaches financial planners on social media strategies. "The bottom line is that people do business with those they know and trust, and social media is a great opportunity to get people to know, like and trust you."

One way advisors are facilitating trust is through social video. Many simulate face-to-face interaction by using videoconferencing technology like Skype and Facetime to "meet" with out-of-area clients. Laurie Itkin, a trading coach at The Options Lady and investment advisor with Coastwise Capital Group, which has over $60 million under management, uses Google Hangouts to teach clients near and far from her San Diego headquarters how to trade stocks and options. The program's shared screen feature allows Itkin to switch from seeing a client's face to what's on his computer screen, so she can watch him in action as he practices trading on TD Ameritrade's thinkorswim or Trade Architect trading platforms.

(Read more: How Financial Advisors Are Targeting the One Percent)

Other advisors are joining niche social networks that work only with financial planners whose certifications have been verified, an effort to reassure first-time investors that the person they're about to hire is legitimate. James Dowd, founder of investment advisory firm North Capital in San Francisco, is among them. His firm manages $30 million in discretionary assets and $70 million in nondiscretionary assets; the average investor Dowd sees has about $700,000 in investable assets. He recently signed up with Ask an Advisor, a new network from personal finance site NerdWallet that connects advisors across the country with people seeking answers about anything having to do with finance, taxes or retirement.

Readers float their questions through the site, which are edited by NerdWallet employees. Advisors like Dowd can answer as many questions as they wish. Their answers get submitted and readers can click on their name and profile picture to view an advisor's contact information and a video introduction of their business. NerdWallet makes it seamless for advisors to push their answers out to their own Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

So far, Ask an Advisor hasn't paid off in terms of new customers for Dowd, who has only been using the service since winter, when it launched. "There is potential," said Dowd. "At a minimum, it gives us an additional way to showcase our business and approach to investment management and planning."

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