Social Media Can Enhance Adviser Relationships

Advisers can use social media to build more personal relationships with clients, speakers said during the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) social media seminar.

Jay Gordon, chartered retirement planning counselor and financial adviser at The Popper Gordon Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, told seminar attendees that on his LinkedIn profile, he includes a summary of how he can help clients: “It’s a good time to talk with us if … You wish to consolidate scattered retirement accounts from former employers; you administer your company’s 401(k) plan and need help managing your fiduciary responsibilities; your current adviser is not meeting your expectations…”

Gordon also reviews clients’ profiles the day before meeting with them to gauge whether that client’s LinkedIn connections could also benefit from services such as 401(k) rollover. LinkedIn makes it easy to determine whether someone has changed jobs with its “new job” notification feature, panelists added.

Betsy Billard, a chartered retirement planning counselor and private wealth adviser at Ameriprise Financial, said she uses Facebook to be notified of clients’ and prospective clients’ job changes. For Billard, Facebook is a great prospecting tool that she said is unique because of its “like” feature.

Gordon said Facebook gives advisers a way to engage with clients in ways they normally would not because it is more personal. “It makes the relationship quite a bit warmer,” he said.

Billard’s company does not have a Twitter business page, but she said many clients have found her personal Twitter account. She follows more than 800 people and organizations representing a wide range of her interests—anything from financial publications to the Yankees—which she said provides more personal interaction with clients by discussing shared interests.

Sacha Millstone, senior vice president of investments at Raymond James Financial Inc., said her company started with small social media goals and expanded from there—for instance, the company began with the goals of tweeting once a week.

"Twitter is one of the most powerful ways to create community that there is," Millstone said.

Chris Keller, senior vice president and chief information officer at Benjamin F. Edwards Co., said in another seminar panel that YouTube has been extremely popular for his company because it is visual.

Facebook is the most widely used social media platform, followed closely by LinkedIn and YouTube, George Walper Jr., president of Spectrem Group, said during the SIFMA event."[YouTube is] a really powerful tool for the investor community … and it’s far more intuitive than a lot of other social media platforms," he said.

Clients also enjoy using YouTube to refer advisers and share comments about their experience with that adviser, he added.

In general, Millstone said the landscape of client communication is changing—and like the other panelists, she welcomes it. "[Social media] is an incredible opportunity to define yourself," she said.

Despite advisers' willingness to embrace social media, compliance challenges remain. One hurdle is the lack of immediacy for things like tweets because compliance must review them beforehand. "The whole point of social media is to be immediate," Billard said.

Keller said he hopes the industry can someday develop a rules engine that allows instantaneous compliance approval of social media posts.

Although compliance challenges exist, Walper said it is more harmful to fail to adopt social media altogether because it can cause businesses to lose or turn away prospective clients. "The adoption [of social media] is not going away," Walper said. "This is something that's going to be around forever."

As for the future of social media, seminar panelists agreed that engagement—rather than just pumping out information—is the next wave. Advisers must respond in a timely manner to social media posts and remain at the center of conversations, said Gail Gross, director of wealth management brand marketing and affluent segment programs for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.