While 30 percent of financial advisers do not see a connection between social media activity and new business, the majority see a direct or indirect link to growth, according to a new report.
LinkedIn and the FPA Research and Practice Institute, a unit of the Financial Planning Association, disclose this finding in “Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media.” The report explores how the fastest growing advisory firms are investing in thought-leadership and social media to attract and retain clients and how client behavior is influencing the methods of communication and tools of the most successful advisers.
The research reveals that two-thirds (67 percent) of high growth firms say they added new clients directly as a result of social media activity. The study findings suggest that:
Client engagement is not only about the adviser’s expertise, but also the extent to which he or she helps clients make informed decisions through meaningful education; and
Social media is becoming a key part of the new business development process, including an adviser’s ability to attract referrals.
“In today’s fast-paced, technologically advanced world, advisors who are not embracing social media and more dynamic ways of engaging their clients and prospects are going to lag behind those practitioners and firms that are,” says 2015 FPA President Edward W. Gjertsen II. “While social media and online content can be an avenue of brand development for many advisers, too many are unsure how to approach it so it will not be onerous and lead to real results.”
Among the study’s additional findings:
Education is an important driver of client engagement with 76 percent of clients saying that education is somewhat important or critical.
While fewer than five percent of clients used professional or social networks when they found their current adviser, 21 percent responded that this would be important going forward. That number doubles for those clients under the age of 45.
While 33 percent of clients age 65 or older use LinkedIn that usage nearly doubles to 62 percent among those clients in the 18 to 44 age bracket.
About 70 percent of advisers share content with clients or prospects to build credibility, raise awareness and deepen relationships with existing clients. However, they rely primarily on traditional methods of distributing that information, such as email.
Eighty-three percent of advisers share content to build credibility, 76 percent share to raise awareness of their business, and 70 percent share content to deepen relationships with existing clients.
Seventy-six percent of advisers are currently using LinkedIn and another nine percent plan to use it in the future. Compare that to 43 percent who use Facebook (11 percent plan to use) and 23 percent who use Twitter (15 percent plan to use).
Of those advisers who currently use LinkedIn, 48 percent use it to build new relationships, 28 percent use to build their brand, and 12 percent use it to maintain relationships.
See the slides beginning on the next page for more highlights from the FPA/LinkedIn study.
How educational content is delivered varies by adviser; however, clients generally agree that in-person workshops and seminars have the highest value. Clients who are over the age of 55 tend to value receiving relevant articles, whereas those who are between 45–54 are more likely to respond to information shared via blogs or professional networks.
An increasing number of investors say that access to information via social/professional networks would be important if they were looking for an adviser today. That trend is clear across all age groups.
While less than 5 percent used professional or social networks when they found their current adviser, 21 percent responded that these social networks would important going forward. That number doubles for those clients under the age of 45.
Age impacts when prospective clients go online to research an adviser. Younger clients are more likely to search prior to making contact with an adviser, whereas older clients are more likely to use social networks to validate their thinking after meeting with the adviser.
Not surprisingly, younger clients report using social networks more extensively, supporting the industry’s view of these networks as an important medium. Usage is significantly different across age groups. However, significant numbers of older clients are also using social media.
For younger clients, higher usage translated into an expectation that their adviser should have a presence on social media, particularly LinkedIn.