One of my coaching clients, Dave, informed me that he was just invited to a highly exclusive  “guys” ski trip. Dave developed a relationship at his country club with the CEO of a major company and over a round of golf, was invited on his private annual ski trip.

It’s not everyday that advisors run into such an opportunity to be in front of their ideal prospects, and Dave wanted to make the most of it.   He decided to do some online detective work and started with Facebook.  Sure, Dave could read articles about the CEO’s company online, but he wanted personal information – and Facebook is as personal as it gets. 

I guided him through the following process.  The objective was to put some structure around his Facebook intelligence gathering. This is by no means a complete list but it gave him a starting point.   It took less than ten minutes and the intelligence we decoded was pure gold.  (Some ideas below depend on the prospect’s Facebook privacy settings.)

1.     Check Pictures.  The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” holds true on social media.  Pictures can give you excellent insight into the unfiltered life of your prospect.  When reviewing pictures, make sure you take notice of who is tagged in each picture – these are commonly friends and family.  You should also review the comments written about each picture to give you more insight. Dave perused the prospect’s albums and identified that he was married, had two children, enjoyed fishing, hunting, traveling and has two dogs and horses.  He also noticed that one of the dogs was a new puppy.

2.     Check out “likes” (and “subscriptions.”)  Facebook gives users the ability to “like” certain hobbies, movies, TV shows, brands, sports teams, and more.  Likes are a way of publically telling your Facebook network who or what you endorse. Dave identified this CEO likes skiing, sailing, fishing, University of Michigan, and the NY Giants.

3.     View their Map.  Facebook “map” shows all the places you’ve visited and checked in. This CEO “checked in” at a Styx concert in Las Vegas with a picture from the crowd.  We also noticed he recently went to Hawaii and was born in Warren, Michigan.

4.     Look at Friends.  Peruse their network.  Viewing friends allows you to see if you have anyone in common and (depending upon privacy settings) you can also run a search on their friends. Searching their last name will allow you to get an idea of additional family members.  We confirmed this CEO’s immediate and extended family with this search.

5.     Review Status Updates.  See what they post.   Scroll through their timeline and see what they post and what they’ve been doing.  By reviewing this CEOs posts, Dave identified that he was a Romney supporter.

Using the Information

Using this information the right way is an art form.  Nothing screams “stalker” like someone finding out you’ve been looking them up online.  Dave doesn’t want to expose himself as having perused this CEOs Facebook page – it could be seen as invasive.  That said, any of the information Dave gathered should be used subtly to start conversations or signal a similar interest.  For example, Dave could mention his recent deep sea fishing trip or he could make sure that Styx was on his ipod playlist for the ski-trip.

In today’s world, advisors can come armed to prospect meetings with all sorts of intelligence.  Being able to connect with a potential client over a sports team, a hobby, a band or some alumni affiliation will help with step one of the art of selling to the affluent – building rapport.