Six in 10 financial services companies have programs in place to assist their financial advisers and representatives with social media, LIMRA finds in a new study.
As the industry widens its outreach to consumers, support for advisers comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, with companies providing examples, guidelines, content and training, according to “Supporting Social Media,” which surveyed 36 financial services companies.
“We already know that almost all financial services companies are using social media,” says Norah Denley, senior research analyst in distribution and technology research at LIMRA, and the report’s author. “This study reveals the extent to which companies are helping their advisers and representatives capitalize on their social media presence and engage in best practices.”
In addition to training and content for advisers, three factors—executive buy-in, internal training, and awareness—are critical to success in using social media, according to the report.
Executives need to support the necessary financial and staffing resources, Denley says. “Compliance and sales teams should be users of social media in addition to knowing how it works,” she says. Home office staff must aware of their company’s social media programs to better understand their potential.
Financial services firms do have some challenges, according to the report. In addition to lack of knowledge, the most common impediments are a shortage of content and slow review processes for content, the study found.
Advisers who are frustrated by a content shortage can use what is currently available and let their firms know they’re interested in more, Denley suggests. “It depends on the advisers and the relationship with their companies,” she tells PLANADVISER. Adviser support staffs for social media tend to be lean, Denley says, and they are trying to do their best with limited resources.
“Provide constructive direction,” she says, and keep in mind that some organizations allow advisers to create their own content, a strategy that should be checked into. “It might take a few days to get approval for content, but the more you work with them the better they understand you,” Denley says.
In the beginning, created content may have to pass through a lot of hands, making the content less timely, which Denley says is the current reality of communicating in a lightning-fast medium when you’re in a highly regulated industry. “It comes down to communicating with your company.”
The reach of social media is considerable, Denley says, and it’s not just Millennials and younger demographics who prefer shorter, online communication. “It’s really about convenience, both for the consumer and the adviser,” she notes. “Younger consumers and consumers in general are busy. Younger consumers might not be as familiar with finance planners, and could be less interested in a phone chat or sit-down.”
Social media could be a good way for these consumers to get a feel for an adviser. Many people research financial purchases online before making a decision, and social media use can help an adviser build trust through social media messaging and communication, Denley says.
The point is to provide value. “If you’re talking to your clients or prospects, what are the things you’d be telling them?” Denley asks. “It’s not about selling: it’s about providing value and useful, interesting things they want to know, from a change in the tax code to information that might help them if they are having a child.”
Some sites can be useful research tools while the adviser keeps in touch and builds trust. “Instead of waiting once a year for the annual phone call,” Denley says, “advisers can send out messages applicable to more than one person. It could be a great convenience, and a great way to stay top of mind.”
Denley notes that social media is a long-term strategy. “Because it’s a social tool, it’s about relationships and communicating, which is a skill that most advisers have anyway. Training simply helps them convert those skills for use in a modern medium.”