Financial Industry Not Doing Great Job on Social Media: Twitter Exec

At SIFMA event, experts point to ways advisors and broker-dealers can embrace mobile communications

Over 80% of high-net-worth investors are online. Over 80% of high-net-worth investors are online.

Using social media is not a magic form of communications, according to a panel of social media experts. And it’s time for the financial services industry to embrace a new approach to it, a Twitter executive said at a social media seminar in San Francisco on Thursday hosted by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

“Social media makes it easy to get in front of people,” said Dan Greenberg, a senior account executive at Twitter, during a panel discussion. “And the financial industry isn't doing a great job at it.”

Executives from Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn stress both the challenges and the simplicity of growing business via social media.

“A key to success is to put social media into your business model,” said RBC Wealth Management divisional director Tom Sagissor.

Given the fact that 81% of high-net-worth investors are using social media, RBC’s approach has been to embrace social media and to allow advisors to use it with as much flexibility as possible, says Sagissor.

This is particularly the case when it comes to communicating with clients around life-changing events, such as the sale of a business, he adds, pointing to an advisor who uses LinkedIn to both connect with clients and to help clients connect with one another.

Such an approach is highly recommended by Scott Shapiro, a client partner in financial services at Facebook. “With social media, the key to two-way communication is to make it personalized and scalable,” Shapiro said.

In addition to going back and forth with clients online, advisors and firms must begin to roll out video-based content. Facebook users, for instance, post 3 billion videos a day.

“Great content matters,” said the Facebook executive. “This means video, as we get into the video age."

Regardless of what form it takes, though, Shapiro says advisors and firms need to think mobile, mobile, mobile -- pointing to a survey that found most people are near their cell phones during all but two hours of their non-sleep time.

“Mobile matters most of all. People would rather lose their wallets than their cell phones,” he said.

Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih says it’s helpful to think of a web and social media presence as the interactive Yellow Pages of our time. “The reality is that you have to be everywhere [online] that the client is,” she said.

That, of course, means lots of ways to extend a firm’s image and an advisor’s brand, and plenty of opportunities to jeopardize it.

“I caution advisors not to use Twitter at a party with a phone in one hand and glass of wine in another,” said Merrill Lynch senior vice president Douglas Preston.

Such situations exemplify the highs and lows of using social media within the financial-services field. 

“It’s not easy being the change agents that you are within highly conservative organizations,” said Shih, to an audience of over 100 broker-dealer employees and others working to expand advisors' use of Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and LinkedIn (LNKD).  

Twitter Two-Step

Twitter's Greenberg suggests advisors and firms take a two-step approach to embracing social media.

“There’s a lot [of information] out there,” he said, and what’s important to investor clients and prospects is how that information is both personalized and localized.

First, advisors and firms have to “be real and well rounded” in how they set the tone for themselves online, Greenberg says. “Establish personal connections.”

Then, with good training and resources and a strong initial connection, “Go a step beyond what’s taken place.” 

--- Check out On Social Media, Cut Through the Compliance Clutter and Connect on ThinkAdvisor.

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