"But really: how does social media actually help financial advisors market their firm, sell their products, and grow their business?"
That’s just one of the questions Hearsay Social sought to answer at its second annual Social Business Innovation Summit in San Francisco last month, which brought executives and thought leaders from across the financial services and technology industries together to discuss the future of innovation.
Speakers at the event included CEOs from top financial organizations in addition to tech industry stalwarts like Joe Fernandez, SVP, GM and founder of Klout, Bryan Schreier, general partner at Sequoia Capital, and Ralf Vonsosen, head of marketing at LinkedIn Sales Solutions.
In a special advisor-focused session, Chris Andrew, managing director at Northwestern Mutual, and Karen Kehr, a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial, took the stage to discuss how they are using social media to grow, maintain and serve their own base of clients. Here’s what we learned.
You Have to Be There
The key to Chris and Karen’s social business success was the realization that many of their clients were already using social media platforms to network and connect. Establishing a professional presence proved to be a natural extension of their existing personal use of social media, allowing them to convert friends and other network connections into clients and find new opportunities through organic referrals facilitated through social.
“I had a lot of relationships [and] a lot of good clients, but could not convert,” explained Kehr. “Social allowed me to do that.”
She said that she uses both Facebook and LinkedIn to build brand awareness and to connect with the multi-generational clients she serves. Through social media, she is able to strengthen personal relationships (e.g. getting to know clients’ kids and grandkids), which in turn eases the transition to new relationships and business. Her “a-ha” moment occurred when she noticed the “odometer” of relationships increasing at an alarming rate once she began to use LinkedIn to connect with others.
Andrew had a similar experience in finding that connecting with friends and prospects was easy, especially if you shared common interests. The financial services business is naturally about cultivating high-trust relationships: the ability to relate and share in similar circles makes it easier than ever to grow a book of business based on commonality. While many advisors still use the phone to connect with new prospects, more and more people are transitioning to social networks as their primary mode of communication. Andrew’s “a-ha” moment was the realization that if he didn’t adapt he would soon be irrelevant.
“There is a lot of power in social, lots of information, and we need to keep it personal,” he said.
As for best practices, both Kehr and Andrew suggest that financial professionals keep it simple. Facebook is for fun posts and personal stories, and it’s great for already-established relationships. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is better for professional networking and new opportunities. Content should be appropriate for the platform with a balance of business and personal communications.
Another important point emphasized by the panelists: social media isn’t just to grow business but to retain it as well. People will continue to work with people they trust and can relate too, and social makes it easier for people to understand who you are on a personal and professional level. It reduces the intimidation that one may feel when working with a financial professional and makes clients feel comfortable and connected.
As Andrew stated, “the only thing better than a new client is one that has been with you a very long time.”
To increase firm adoption of social both suggest organizations capture the success stories from the field to understand how people are using social to connect and grow their business. Senior leadership buy-in and use is also key to getting others on board. The dial-and-smile mentality is broken, and no longer addresses how clients are making buying decisions and how they look for advisors.
Kehr concluded the session with these wise words: “If you don’t have a presence, you don’t count.”