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Financial Advisers Are on Board with Social Media, but Questions Still Linger

The findings of the Putnam Investments 2015 Social Advisor Study, which surveyed more than 800 U.S. financial advisers, point to the fact that social media continues to become an increasingly essential tool for advisers to communicate with their clients and build their book of business. Here are some of the study results:

  • 81 percent of advisers currently use social media for business, up from 75 percent in 2014
  • 40 percent of advisers (vs. 25 percent in 2014) use four or more social networks for business
  • 69 percent of advisers report social media is a significant component of their overall marketing effort—up from 56 percent in 2014
  • 79 percent of advisers report acquiring new clients through social media (up from 66 percent in 2014) with average annual asset gain from such clients standing at $4.6 million

These numbers appear to provide tangible proof that social media has grown to be the most direct path for advisers to reach out and influence their key audiences. However, despite this success, some degree of skepticism among advisers continues to linger. Below, I’ve listed the three most recurring questions financial advisers pose to our firm about social media.

Does Social Media Really Matter?
When confronted with this question, we consistently reply that the answer is debatable. What works for a financial planning practice may not work for a wealth management firm. And, in some cases, social media may not be a choice at all. However, before rejecting it, there are some key factors to be considered:

  • Unlike meeting a prospect face-to-face, or attending a live marketing event, social media interaction does not require travel and the costs associated with it
  • It allows advisers to exhibit knowledge and expertise to an audience beyond her or his established database of contacts and leads
  • It empowers advisers to create a sizable virtual network to develop new business
  • It helps foster conversations about an adviser’s brand
  • It establishes a bridge between an adviser’s website and her or his target audience—a good social media page will drive traffic to the adviser website
  • It enables advisers to position themselves as an expert sources at a negligible cost

How and Where Do I Begin?
Traditionally, the answer to this question has to do with what the adviser is seeking to achieve. Before engaging in social media activities, we recommend that our clients familiarize themselves with what other advisers, journalists and bloggers are doing—for example, the type of topics they cover, the frequency of their posts, the volume and quality of response they receive. This preliminary exercise will enable them to gauge whether or not social media is an effort they “really” want to pursue.

The second step is getting acquainted with a couple of platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. After joining them and establishing suitable profiles, the next action is to create engaging content—topics of compelling interest to the adviser’s core audiences—that includes tips, guidelines and actionable ideas. Then post such content on the adviser’s website and concurrently proceed to “push” it via established social media accounts. Ultimately, your social media engagement should seek to achieve two key strategic goals: 1) engage your audience prompting it to share your expertise and guidance; and 2) direct traffic to your website.

How Can I Handle Compliance?
Traditionally, compliance is advisers’ major deterrent to social media. Often, this is due mainly to their lack of understanding on how to meet social media compliance requirements. Prior to launching into social media interaction, it is crucial that an adviser attains a good understanding of FINRA’s rules governing communication and specifically how they regulate social media activities. FINRA’s guidance, articles, podcasts and videos on this topic abound and are easily found on the Internet. To shield themselves and their firms from legal consequence arising from bad social media interaction, advisers must establish a social media policy—that includes archiving procedures and guidelines—and if needed, seek appropriate legal counsel.

With social media, like with any other type of marketing communication effort, advisers must pay utmost attention that any post, comment, tweet is FINRA compliant. For example, a post or tweet in which an adviser may support a specific stock or bond could represents a “recommendation.” As such, it could be consequently treated as a breach of FINRA’s suitability rule and bear legal consequences for both the adviser and her firm.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

 

Editor’s Note: Other FPA social media-related content that may be of interest to you include:


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Social Media Strategies of High-Growth Firms

Your clients don’t want to have to rely on you for everything—they want information to make educated choices. And the way to engage them and other prospective clients is through content development and social media, found a recent study.

The study, titled “Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media,” was conducted by the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn was conducted by If Not Now Research, found that was the case.

The study found that clients crave more knowledge and many high-growth advisory firms are satisfying that craving by curating content and sending it out to current and would-be clients via social media, which is termed in the report as “thought leadership.” And it’s paying off.

“The study draws an important connection between the drivers of client engagement and communications strategies that will help advisers stand out from the crowd,” said Julie Littlechild, President of If Not Now Research.

“This report aims to help financial advisers of all business models understand how their peers are engaging in social media and thought leadership, the connection between business growth and these communication tactics ,” writes Lauren Schadle, CEO and executive director of the Financial Planning Association.

Some of the study’s biggest takeaways include the following:

Clients are engaged online. All age groups surveyed engage in online searches, but different age groups do so differently. While younger clients (ages 18-44) are more likely to search prior to meeting an adviser, older clients (ages 55-64 and those over 65), are more likely to look up an adviser to validate their impression of them.

Clients are engaged in social media and they expect you to be too. The age range of those most engaged in social media is 18-44 with 62 percent of respondents active on LinkedIn, 86 percent active on Facebook, and 55 percent active on Twitter. LinkedIn is the primary site advisers are using—76 percent of those surveyed—which is a good thing because the clients surveyed said they expect their advisers to at least be on LinkedIn.

Clients want education. They sought you out because they want professional help, but they also want to be educated on the issues so they can make their own informed decisions.

Firms that curate and push out educational content grow. Firms that wrote blogs, newsletters and other informational content and pushed it out via social networking sites and email saw growth over those who didn’t. The study found that 67 percent of high-growth firms said they added new clients as a direct result of using multiple professional and social sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

“Today we have a choice: to watch how the change plays out or to take action and be part of the change,” the report notes. “The data suggests that the leaders are the high-growth firms that are reaping the rewards of driving the change.”

You can find the full study here.


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If the CIA Can Tweet, So Can You: 5 Marketing Lessons from David Meerman Scott

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David Meerman Scott takes a selfie with the BE crowd to prove the power of real time connection.

When David Meerman Scott turned 50, he was bigger, he said.

He proved this by showing a roomful of people at the second general session at the FPA Annual Converence—BE Boston a picture of big 50-year-old him, and new fit 54-year-old him.

He changed his mindset, he said. That’s exactly what you have to do with marketing in real time utilizing social media.

1) Provide Great Content. Generate helpful blog posts and Tweet links. You may be concerned about regulations, but Meerman Scott gave the example of the CIA tweeting, so you shouldn’t have any excuse not to, too.

“Yes you have regulations, yes you have to be ethical, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate,” Meerman Scott said. One of the methods to communicate is something Meerman Scott calls “newsjacking,” which is the art of injecting your ideas into breaking news.

2) Connect With Your Markets Via Social Media. Align the way you sell with the way people buy. A good example of this is Donald Trump. Meerman Scott emphasized he wasn’t endorsing Trump politically, but said the man is “crushing it” in terms of social media connection.

For example, when Trump’s phone number was published by Gawker, instead of changing his number Trump changed his voicemail message to be a campaign tool, driving callers to his Twitter page and his campaign website.

Trump is leading in the polls, and it’s probably no coincidence that Trump has Tweeted 27,000 times.

Meerman Scott also emphasized following the “Sharing More than Selling Rule,” which is 85 percent of your activity on social media should be sharing and connecting, 10 percent should be original content and 5 percent or less should be promotional stuff.

3) Real Time Is Key. You should be operating in real time. Planners know about real time when it comes to markets and the news, but when it comes to marketing, they tend to look to past information to make plans for the future.

“If you’re spending all of your time in the past and the future, you’re not spending any time in right now,” Meerman Scott said. And that’s a problem because potential clients are looking for right now.

He used the CIA as an example here, too. The agency answers questions and interacts with its followers in real time, often making comical statements like, “No, we don’t know where Tupac is,” referring to the famous 90s rapper whose death involves numerous conspiracy theories that he is alive and well.

“If the CIA can do it, what’s you’re excuse,” for not doing it, Meerman Scott posed.

4) Bring Humanity to the Organization.  Don’t ask your potential clients to first fill out a form before you give them access to your content. Make your content free and encourage followers to share it. Take a lesson from the Grateful Dead, who shared their music for free and were tremendously successful.

Also, don’t describe your firm in technical, hard-to-digest terms. Eliminate stock photos and hire a real photographer to take pictures of you and your firm.

5) Manage Your Fear. The best way to manage your fear is to change your mindset. Think of it in terms of fitness, Meerman Scott said, and be diligent and consistent.

“If you want to get fit and run around a stage like I do,” Meerman Scott said. “You can’t dabble, you have to truly become fit.”

Same thing with marketing and sales, he said.

For more on Meerman Scott, check out this recent Journal of Financial Planning article.

HeadshotAna Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.