Association Social Media: CFA Institute

In this series of interviews of Association Social Media Managers, you’ll be able to compare notes on what all of these fab organizations are doing with their social media management – from how they organize the roles and responsibilities, to how they manage content flow through the organization and out to social, to what campaigns…

In this series of interviews of Association Social Media Managers, you’ll be able to compare notes on what all of these fab organizations are doing with their social media management – from how they organize the roles and responsibilities, to how they manage content flow through the organization and out to social, to what campaigns they tried, to how they see the future of association social media.


Today’s interview features Len Costa, Head, Communications & Content Strategy for CFA Institute.

1) First things first – in what department in your organization does your role sit? Who do you report to?

Len CostaThe social media function at CFA Institute has grown in strategic importance over the years, and its location within our organizational structure has evolved along the way. When I joined the organization in 2009 as the first director of social media, I sat within our educational products division, alongside product specialists and our multimedia publishing team, which produce a range of print and digital editorial and learning resources for investment professionals. As our social media strategy gathered momentum and our external social media footprint grew exponentially, the organization invested in our activities and we built out a global team of dedicated social media professionals. Along the way, I took on responsibilities for digital innovation as well as mobile and content strategy. This year, the social media team — along with our web team — joined the global marketing and communications division. Along with these changes, my responsibilities were refocused on external and internal communications as well as social media. Additionally, I oversee our member magazine and continue to help look after our organizational blogging strategy, two key editorial platforms that we hope to bring much closer together. I now report to our chief marketing and communications officer, based in London.

2) Describe your social/digital “ecosystem” – what social media sites do you (or the org as a whole) manage? Are they interlinked in specific ways? How do you decide what content to post where? Do they have different audiences?

The organization’s social media footprint spans Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as Sina Weibo, which we use to engage with our growing number of constituents in China. Our goals in social media, broadly speaking, are to build audiences for our educational and editorial content, to communicate our key brand and advocacy messages, and to build community for our many stakeholder groups. I’ve found that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to which platforms work best for specific audiences. That said, roughly speaking, we tend to reach prospects for our educational programs and current candidates of our programs most effectively through our Facebook presence.

Our LinkedIn Company page and our portfolio of LinkedIn groups are places where we engage with existing members and other professionals with a strong interest in our programs and policy positions. Just as important, our LinkedIn groups also serve as conversation spaces for peer to peer exchange.

On Twitter, our policy and advocacy messages and our blog content tend to resonate strongly. Many investment professionals are now using Twitter regularly to stay abreast of news and financial information – and we want to be a part of the conversation happening there.

Photos_and_videos_by_CFA_Institute___CFAinstitute____Twitter 2

3) Can you describe the internal collaboration workflow with other areas of the association (e.g. are you part of a team that meets on a regular basis)? How do you manage content flow? How do you manage monitoring and responding across the organization?

The social media team should set strategy, of course. But my view is that it is best to embed social media capabilities across the organization, versus centralizing channel management. After all, social media strategy is about executing a successful content strategy, so bringing colleagues who are close to the content into the day-to-day management of key channels really pays dividends. Our Twitter footprint is a great example of how this can work. We currently maintain 16 different branded Twitter accounts for key functions and regions, but only a handful of these accounts are directly managed by my social media team. Our successful @CFAevents handle is run by a colleague on our events team, @CFApubs is managed by an editor on the publications team, and so forth. This approach is much more scalable, but it requires appropriate training and mentoring — and a willingness to “let go” of the reins.

At our organization, there is no shortage of excellent content to fuel our social media activities, so the biggest challenge in managing content flow centers on packaging and delivery, and achieving an appropriate balance of subject matter and key messages across our channels globally given our wide-ranging objectives. These include demand generation for our programs, meeting the continuing education needs of our members, and sharing appropriate content and tools to help industry practitioners be a force for positive change in the financial industry. We’re constantly looking at strategies for improving our visual storytelling and working hard to create content that is more appropriately packaged for the way people consume information these days.

4) Describe a typical day for you – and any favorite tools you use regularly for anything related to social media.

The best part about my job — and about working in social media, generally, I’d say — is that there really is no typical day. I enjoy the overall mix of activities: strategy work, content development, campaign planning, and the analysis that is required to figure out what is working and what is not. With regard to tools, I’m a big fan of TweetDeck, which I use to monitor our branded accounts, to stay abreast of news, and to keep current with what’s happening in the world of social media. More recently, I’ve been trying to teach myself some of the tools of social network analysis, which is really useful for identifying key influencers. We also rely a lot on a TweetReach Pro account for measuring the impact on Twitter of key social media activities such as content amplification.

5) Is community management (group moderation) part of your responsibilities? Please describe those activities.

We actively manage our communities on Facebook as well as our LinkedIn groups. Our Facebook page tends to attract inquiries about our programs, and we collaborate with an internal team to ensure questions get answered in a timely fashion. Within the LinkedIn groups, I think of our role more as that of a convener. We create the space and the rules of good behavior — and then try to stay out of the way so that members can benefit from peer-to-peer exchanges, whether it’s about studying for the CFA exam or debating a contemporary issue in investment management.

Facebook India registration tile

6) Have you done any social media campaigns? Can you share any success stories (or lessons learned)?

We have run a variety of campaigns in support of many different objectives, from promoting our newest educational offering, the Claritas Program, to driving registrations for our live events programming and raising the visibility of the CFA charter and its value to employers by celebrating our newest CFA charterholders around the world. One of our biggest successes to date has been our social media amplification of CFA Institute live events, which attract some of the most renowned investment experts in the world. Our staff participate in live tweeting and write in-depth coverage for our blogs, which we then amplify through our various social media platforms and support with a modest investment in paid media. We are now looking at ways to improve engagement by using our platforms more strategically. For example, a large proportion of our more engaged followers on Facebook hail from India. So we’ve shifted social media coverage of our annual India Investment Conference every January to our Facebook page. Similarly, Sina Weibo serves as a locus of activity for our annual China Investment Conference.

Facebook India Conference content post 2

Facebook India Conference content post 1

One of the social media campaigns that I’m most proud of supports our Future of Finance initiative, an effort led by CFA Institute to shape a trustworthy, forward-thinking financial industry that better serves society. One of the centerpieces of the current campaign is the CFA Institute-authored Statement of Investor Rights, which outlines the ten rights that any investor should expect from financial service providers. The campaign features a variety of thought leadership, advocacy content, and standards aimed at many stakeholder audiences. In our most recent fiscal year ending in August, the campaign delivered nearly 87 million impressions on Twitter alone and achieved both a higher engagement rate and a lower cost per engagement than Twitter’s industry benchmarks for the media and nonprofit sectors.


7) What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest parts of my job are managing growth, balancing the business needs of the organization with the information needs of our audiences, and ensuring that our social media activities are appropriately aligned with our other external communications activities around the world.

8) Give us a glimpse into the future. If budget and resources were no object, what would you love to see in terms of your association’s social media presence in 3 years?

I’d love to have the resources to more intensively experiment with new paid social media formats, especially some of the new geotargeting and retargeting tools offered by Facebook and Twitter. I’d also invest in new platforms to enable more visual storytelling. And I’m hungry for more tools that would enable me to better understand the interest profiles, or “tribes,” that exist within our growing communities across the social web.

Thank you so much Len! If you’d like to ask Len questions, he can be reached at @LenCosta3rd, or

CFA Institute’s social media presence:

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