More Clients Are Using Social Media to Vet Advisers

Hartford Funds data finds that, overall, 33% of respondents reported seeking financial advice online and almost half say social media impacts whom they retain as a financial professional.

Billions of people worldwide have social media accounts, and social media is nearly ubiquitous in the U.S. Meaning that if you’re a financial adviser without a social media presence, you could be losing out on some serious marketing strategies.

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A new survey from Wells Fargo & Co. revealed that 35% of surveyed teenagers learned about finances from social media, with 34% using websites and online articles. Separate data from Hartford Funds found that almost one-quarter of Generation Z respondents said they would not hire a financial adviser who doesn’t have a social media presence. In fact, 24% of Gen Zers in the study reported seeking financial advice on social media.

“If you’re going to appeal across generations, having multiple digital presences is important,” says Bill McManus, managing director of applied insights at Hartford Funds. “Especially as we come out of a pandemic, you have to assume the first place anyone will go to find out about your services is your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and any other social media account.”

McManus, who works with financial professionals on adapting their strategies in a virtual environment and has worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Age Lab, explains that a client looks for prospective financial adviser much the same way people look for anything in a digital world.

“If you go to a city that you’ve never been to or if you’re going on a vacation, what’s the first thing you’re going to do when you’re looking for a restaurant? You’re going to go online and look for something that is what you’re seeking based on reviews and engagement,” he explains. “It’s no different now than any other type of service you’re going to seek now, including with financial professionals.”

The Hartford Funds data suggests this desire for online engagement doesn’t stop with younger groups. Findings showed that, overall, 33% of respondents reported seeking financial advice online. Almost half of the people surveyed said social media impacts whom they retain as a financial professional, with 20% of that group noting that social media was their sole deciding factor in the decisionmaking process when evaluating a financial professional. More telling, 64% of respondents said they feel comfortable discussing personal information during a virtual meeting with a financial professional.

Social media has significantly altered how individuals are interacting and what they’re discussing online. Platforms including Instagram, TikTok and now Clubhouse let people delve into an endless number of subjects with content coming from experts, influencers and everyday people alike.

And as more people tuned to their computers and phones throughout 2020 amid lockdowns and social distancing requirements, financial service companies saw this as an opportunity. An eMarketer report found digital ad spending in the U.S. financial services industry grew 9.7% in 2020, up to $19.62 billion.

During the pandemic, 74% of financial advisers who used social media for business initiated new relationships or onboarded new clients, according to the Putnam Investments Social Advisor 2020 Study. Even as the U.S. workforce enters a new recovery phase post-pandemic, advisers can expect these strategies to stay, experts say.

Jeff Mattonelli, a financial adviser who works with Gen Z and Millennial clients at Van Leeuwen & Co., says he’s noticed the impact social media plays in guiding prospective clients. The firm regularly uses Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to market content to clients. When the company posted information on 529 savings plans on its Twitter account, a former classmate of Mattonelli’s reached out to him to create an account for his child after seeing the post. “Right there, we were able to generate a lead and prospect just from having posted that type of content,” Mattonelli says.

Building a social media presence can not only increase client numbers, but it can also establish additional credibility, he says. Because information online is wide-ranging and substantial, it is vital for advisers to post consistent and tailored content with a reputable presence. Clients who are searching for or vetting a specific adviser will first go to social media when deciding, Mattonelli says.

“Especially on social media, it’s really important that we’re posting content consistently to show that we have credibility in terms of the different services that we offer,” he explains. “Posting daily lends itself to credibility. It’s important to be on social media, but it’s the presence that you’re building that’s really much more important.”