Victor Gaxiola

Social Media Thought Leadership
August 27th, 2013 by Victor Gaxiola

Observations from the LIMRA/LOMA Social Media Conference for Financial Services

This post originally ran on the Actiance blog on August 26, 2013

Last week Team Actiance participated in the annual LIMRA/LOMA Social Media Conference for Financial Services held at the Hyatt Regency in Boston.  The conference agenda was full of great speakers and on Thursday morning we were treated to a special keynote talk by author, entrepreneur, and social media evangelist  Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary kicked off the day with an energetic talk on his background and how he managed to adopt to the changing landscape of business that now includes social media.  Although the tools of his trade have changed from his early days of selling lemonade, trading baseball cards, and online wine sales, he has not lost sight that all business is social and success is based on the stories we tell and the relationships we develop along the way to ultimately…..sell more stuff.

“We are in the business of storytelling. Where the stories are being told is changing – that’s where Social is.” — Gary Vaynerchuk

Prior to the conference, I had seen Gary’s presentations online and enjoyed his books “Crush It” and “The Thank You Economy”.  In person, he very animated, confident, funny, and a natural storyteller.  Meeting him after his talk was one of the highlight of the conference for me, and I look forward to reading his new book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” coming out November 26th.


Gary V’s kickoff presentation set the stage for the day and increased my awareness of the stories being shared and the key themes from the conference:

Twitter Use-  Having participated in this event last year, one of my biggest observations was the increased number of Twitter users and the volume of tweets to share the sound bites of the presentations and the conversations of the event. Unlike last year where only a dozen or so attendees seemed to be tweeting, this year the hashtag #LLSMC was blazing with updates both from participants at the Hyatt and those monitoring it from afar.  In fact, last year’s tweet totals were eclipsed before the end of the first day of the conference showing the increased use of Twitter as a broadcast medium and the adoption of use by attendees in financial services.  How this will translate to end user behavior remains to be seen, but the increased use by practitioners is a positive sign of change.

The Fight for Attention-  One of the key tenants of Gary’s presentation was that all advertising and marketing is a fight for attention and that social media posts are part of the noise.  Unless you can get the attention of your audience, your message is falling on deaf ears.  What investments are you making in time or money to increase the probability that your message is getting to its intended audience?  These days people have too many choices to choose from and unless you can add value to the conversation and save people time, or money, you are spinning your wheels hoping for engagement.  To highlight the change in how we consume media, when asked, a surprising number of people in the audience admitted to watching television with a second screen open (smart phone, tablet, or laptop) at the same time.  If this trend continues, how will it change the way we advertise, brand and position our product and services?  What tactics will we need to develop to get and then maintain attention?

Adding Value- You need to give to get. The concept of reciprocity in business is certainly not new, however the barriers of entry to compete are getting lower each day.  How can an organization consistently provide value when the competition for attention (see above) is getting harder to navigate?  The answer lies in the quality and quantity of “snack-able” content that makes it easy for people to read, and more importantly share.   At Actiance, we recognize the importance of content and recently released a new white paper on what great content is, and the role it plays in fueling the engine of social media. Download your copy today.

Authenticity- Be real, be social, be present. Nothing can ruin the content of your message than the perception that its intent and delivery is not authentic.  People like doing business with people, not brands, and providing a human voice to the message, quirks and all, makes it easier to consume and digest.  Given the recent history of financial markets and perceptions of this industry, the need for authenticity and transparency has never been greater.

Collaboration- The successful adoption of a  social strategy requires both sides of the house, marketing/communications and compliance to collaborate.  Executive sponsorship of a social strategy also facilitates its adoption as part of the corporate DNA.  Those that do, will have success sooner than those that don’t.  The conference had a healthy mix of representation from both camps, and although it remains a challenge for many organizations, the successful implementation of social in this space is a key catalyst for change.

Realistic Expectations- No social strategy will have success overnight and expectations for engagement need to be tempered with the breadth of the audience and the quality and quantity of content.   Social media success takes time, and engagement levels are likely to be low in the short run.  However, this should not discourage organizations from continuing to pursue adoption or growth because a large percentage (roughly 90-95%) of social media users are lurkers.  Just because they don’t post, comment, like or share, does not mean they don’t appreciate the value you add by sharing content or participating in social media.   If you are trying to lose weight, you can’t expect to go on a diet, exercise, and see change in a few days.  You need to work at it, be consistent and not give up.  Only then will you see results.

There you have it, my quick observations on the main themes from the conference. I am sure I missed others that were discussed in the breakout sessions I did not attend, so I in invite those that participated in the event to share their own in the comment section of this blog.  What themes did you observe?  What are some of the trends and changes we can expect for Financial Social Media in the year to come?

March 28th, 2013 by Victor Gaxiola

Lessons from a First Time Flyer

This post originally ran on the Actiance blog in February  2013


I’ve been flying my whole life and cannot recall my first experience of boarding or traveling on an airplane.  From a young age,  I’ve always been a fan of air travel preferring the window seat over an aisle to look out the window and experience the ride.  Hell, I even spent nearly 10 years working for United Airlines because I loved airplanes.

As a frequent flier, I’ve had some good flights and some bad flights and it’s only during times of weather or major turbulence that I’m reminded how amazing it is that we have harnessed the skies.  Today a person can have breakfast in New York, lunch in Denver and dinner in Los Angeles, all in a single day.  Every day 747s cross the Pacific Ocean bridging Asia and North America and all points in between.  What used to take months, takes hours today and air travel has become so commonplace that we rarely give it a second thought.  That is unless something goes wrong, or it’s your first time flying.  Last year on a short flight from Salt Lake City to San Jose I re-experienced the wonder of air travel with a first time flyer.

Sitting in the window seat of an 737 I knew the ride home was going to be interesting when the person sitting behind me announced to those sitting in her row next to her that it was her first time flying and that she may have some questions as she was feeling quite nervous.   The girl was about 20 years old, and we were all silently shocked that at her age this would be her first flight.  The kind woman in the middle seat next to her said she had nothing to worry about and reminded our first time flyer that air travel  continues to be the safest form of transportation.  As reassuring as that thought is, and I remind myself of this fact each time I fly, it’s the lack of control that makes this harder to digest.  We all assume that the pilots in the front know what they are doing and that they’ll get us safely from point A to point B.  Our experience without incident continues to add to our reassurance and given the number of flights that take off and land each day, it is a miracle that the incident count is so low.  Back to the story.

As the plane pushed back, the first time flyer began her series of questions, asking her seat mate what we can expect to feel once the plane takes off.   The lady, a saint in my opinion, explained that the plane would taxi to the runway, accelerate, and at the right time pull up into flight.  The plane would continue its ascent until reaching a safe cruising altitude where it would remain until it was time to land.   Satisfied with this explanation, she sat motionless asking if she should keep the window shade open or closed?   The middle seat woman said she prefers it open to see what is going on.

The plane taxied to the runway as expected and revved up its engines.  Before long we were gaining speed, picking up momentum and the plane began to fly into the wild blue yonder.  The girl behind me started to freak out!

“Oh my god!  Oh my god! Oh my god!”  She kept saying with a few shrieks thrown in between.

Meanwhile the woman in the middle seat consoled her telling her it would be OK.

As soon as the plane went into the air the girl exclaimed “WE ARE FLYING!”   She was amazed.  Her amazement was quickly followed by fear when there was a loud sound below our feet.  Without missing a beat, the woman in the middle said “landing gear” sharing that the landing gear was being brought in and there was nothing to be afraid of.

With each bump, there was a small shriek from her and an short explanation from her seat mate.  Once we leveled off, the girl behind me apologized for her behavior, a little embarrassed with the shrieks and minor freak out at take off.  EVERYONE was very understanding and reassuring her not to worry- we had all been first time flyers at one time too.   The fact that so many had flown before and were freely providing support made her feel a little silly for her behavior.   For me, it was very heartening to see a community of travelers come together for the aid of one.

The flight, like most,was uneventful and she actually enjoyed looking out the window, especially as we flew over the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains and Lake Tahoe.   As we approached San Jose, the woman in the middle began to prep our nervous flyer explaining each step of the descent, including the flaps on the wings, the return of the landing gear, and the bump on impact as the landing gear hit ground. It was amazing how calm and reassuring she was and the girl closely listened, asking a few questions along the way.  As a result the remainder of the flight was a series of validating what the woman in the middle had shared and before long we were on the ground again, safe and sound at the gate.

The poor girl had been through a life changing ordeal and although she was traveling alone, she was not alone.  As we deplaned I turned to congratulate her on her first flight and shared that it gets easier with each flight.  She thanked me, but was in no hurry to relive the experience anytime soon. In the end, I think she kept it together quite well.

Witnessing the fears of a first time flyer was quite an experience, especially since all those elements that were terrifying her have become so second nature for those of us who travel regularly.   It  also brought to light the importance and value of having someone with experience guide you and provide you with the reassurance one needs when faced with uncertainty.  There are a number of lessons here, and I walked away with a renewed sense of wonder and desire to approach each new task with the same level of curiosity and to seek out the experience of others to make the journey more manageable.

How do you approach new experiences, and what can we learn from those that take the plunge?

February 1st, 2013 by Victor Gaxiola

On Social? Be Authentic

This post originally ran on the Actiance blog on January 10, 2013

Now that three of my colleagues have weighed in on the question of Facebook pervasiveness and use for business, as well as the blurred lines between personal and professional use, I thought I’d weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter.

I started using Facebook in April 2007 after it had become available to non-university students. At the time there were 20 Million people on Facebook (compared to over a Billion today), and MySpace was the leading social network (a record they held till April 2008). Using Facebook it was easy to connect with friends and family that were already on the network, and I was quickly able to re-connect with people who had been part of my life in the past. Status updates allowed me to participate in the lives of so many that had either gone by the way side or forgotten through time and miles. The social network made sharing a daily affair and I enjoyed connecting on common values, likes and ideas.

When I went into financial services, the use of Facebook for personal connections with clients and prospects was not allowed. As a result my attentions shifted to LinkedIn for professional connections and network development keeping Facebook as a personal network with friends and family. This continued until I left the business and was no longer a registered representative. Despite the new found freedom, I still maintained my Facebook as a more personal network and when I started working at Actiance I too approached the invitation from work colleagues to connect on Facebook on a personal level with trepidation. Facebook was MY personal network, and I was initially a little nervous to share that part of my life. Mind you, it wasn’t that I had anything to hide, I just wasn’t sure if I wanted people at work to know me THAT well. However, I did and continue to do so today, and like Joanna I enjoy the discovery of common interests we share, and learning more about their likes, dislikes and passions. It has enriched the experience of working at Actiance and allowed me to know the people I collaborate with on a more personal level. On Monday mornings water cooler talk doesn’t require us to ask each other what happened over the weekend- because we know. Instead, we can ask about the experience. How did it feel? How much fun was it? Instead of what did you do?

I think we’d all prefer to present our true self…. our authentic self. “Be Yourself” was a rally cry of our youth and the reality is there is not point in denying who you are, quirks and all (people will find out eventually anyway).

Back in 2011 I wrote about this when I encouraged financial advisors entering the world of social media to avoid losing their voice and replacing it with corporate canned messages. I still believe this today and caution financial institutions to avoid forcing their language and messages through their networked employees and allow them an opportunity to provide their own voice. People want to work with people who work at brands, not the other way around. Here is the message I shared, and continue to share today.

BE AUTHENTIC! A message to new social media users in Financial Services:

Welcome to the world of social media networking! As an early adopter and advocate of social networking in financial services, I look forward to the new voices and thought leaders that will emerge In the months and years to come.

Before you get started, let me share some simple advice: BE AUTHENTIC!

I know this may be a new world for you, and that learning how to use social media may seem like learning a foreign language. It’s not. If necessary, get help to learn HOW to use the tools, but resist the urge to have others speak on your behalf.

Don’t rely or use the “canned” messages created for you by your public relations, corporate communications, or compliance departments. Instead exercise the voice that has led you all along and has built the business you own today. Let your unique voice communicate who you are and what you represent in social networking circles. You know why people work with you-tell us!

Trust that the amplified nature of social media networking will reveal the thought leader that you are, and value you add each day.

Your audience is out there listening- it’s time to engage!

For more, check out these two blog posts on authenticity:
“Why Authenticity Matters” by Brian Solis
“Five Ways to Maintain Authenticity with Social Media” by Patricio Robles

What do you think? How important is it to have an authentic voice when it comes to social media?

NOTE: If you are worried about exposing too much of yourself on Facebook, you can always use groups to create your own private circles of trust within Facebook. I did this by setting up a Gaxiola Family Group that is secret (until now) and cannot be found on search. In this group we share personal stories, photos and videos and all comments, shares, likes, etc. are limited to the members of the group.

January 28th, 2013 by Victor Gaxiola

In 2013, Resolve to Embrace Social

This post originally ran on the Actiance blog on December 31, 2012.


As a social media subject matter expert, I don’t go online, I am online. For me social platforms are not a destination, it’s where I live, converse and can be found. I know that for some, the idea of living online is scary and that providing so much of myself takes away from my privacy. However by being social, my presence has provided me the opportunity to develop rich circles of influence and online friendships with others in the industry. With Actiance I’ve also had the good fortune to have traveled and participate in industry events where I’ve met many of my online colleagues face to face. Upon meeting someone for the first time in real life (IRL), the biggest compliment someone can share with me is that I am exactly the same in person as I am online. Being social has been good for me, and I think the same could apply to anyone in the business world today.

In 2013- resolve to be MORE social!
I invite you to embrace the relationships that can be developed or found using social as a bridge to new connections and opportunities. Like many other resolutions that take time to develop (losing weight comes to mind), be realistic about your expectations and start small and then build on it from there.

If you have no presence, I suggest you start with LinkedIn, the most professional social network and develop your profile among your existing circle of friends and colleagues. Dive into some of LinkedIn’s professional features such as groups where you can find others who share common interests, LinkedIn Today for content, and other applications.

Learn the uniqueness that is Twitter, and find your tribes. Take the time to understand what the @ symbol means and how it can be used to highlight others and yourself. Learn what a hash tag (#) is and how you can use it to find conversations and people who share common interests in business, sports and entertainment.

If you are on Facebook, post more often. Let people know what you are up to. Post photos, videos and links that say a little more about yourself and the things your care about. People ARE curious about you and what you are up too, and it brings us together.

This holiday season, I have enjoyed seeing the posts from my friends and connections around the world and throughout the year I have celebrated in their accomplishments including: marriages, new jobs, new babies, promotions, moves, birthdays and anniversaries.

Be part of the conversation. It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s at your fingertips.

In 2013- resolve to embrace social. You can start by connecting with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!

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