Handshake through a computer screen

Social media is being used by most investment advisors, and a majority say it has improved relationships with clients. In fact, 86% of those who use social media reported gaining business — an average of $5 million — according to a Putnam Social Advisor survey released in early April.

But a study released Thursday by Hearsay Systems goes deeper, viewing social media and content from three views: what clients or followers prefer, what corporate marketing teams produce, and what wealth advisors, as well as insurance and property/casualty insurance agents, push out. Better matching these elements could increase client engagement, the study concluded.

The study found some disconnects and surprises, says Abhay Rajaram, vice president of customer success at Hearsay, who was surprised to learn the “time-tested 70/20/10 rule [lifestyle/industry/corporate] best practice that the marketing industry promotes simply doesn’t apply in financial services area … Interesting that certain norms you take for granted could be so dramatically different from reality.”

Overall in financial services — the three groups studied were wealth managers, insurance and P&C insurance agents — lifestyle-oriented content, content that informs and entertains on nonfinancial matters, was the most engaged on average by clients (48%), according to the Hearsay study, followed by corporate posts (42%), that is, branded posts intended to sell or educate consumers on a firm’s products and services, while industry-related posts (27%), which are non-branded content intended to educate consumers about more general financial matters, were least engaged. The study looked at social media data from 77,000 financial advisors and insurance agents at 15 enterprise financial services firms.

The disconnect comes from what engages clients to what financial service managers push out to what corporate marketing teams produce. Advisors were most likely to seek out and publish industry-related content (41%), which the report surmises is so advisors would be viewed as financial experts who were up to date with the latest news and trends, but only 27% of followers engaged in those posts.

Likewise, corporate marketing teams mostly pushed out corporate content (45%), but it has a low publishing rate — 26% — by advisors.

Further, lifestyle content was the “least suggested” content by corporate marketing teams (23%), but had the highest engagement rate, which is problematic for advisors and marketing teams as it means overpublishing of lifestyle content and the danger of “limiting its authenticity by oversaturating a social audience with the same exact message,” the study found.

Vertical Leaps

Looking at each group, wealth management findings were akin to the “Tale of Two Cities” on what managers use and what clients want, Rajaram said.

For example, 48% of advisor followers preferred lifestyle content, while 38% preferred corporate content and 28% preferred industry content. However, wealth managers published mainly industry content (55%), with 27% being corporate content and lifestyle content getting 18%, almost opposite of what interested followers. Equally as unbalanced were corporate marketing teams for wealth managers, who produced 55% corporate content, 35% industry content and 10% lifestyle content.

Rajaram noted that personalized content gets four times as much engagement than non-personalized content, so something needs to be brought into balance in wealth management. “Any element of personalization of content that is published drives a meaningful higher level of engagement,” he says. He points out that the cryptocurrency rage the last six months is a hot topic and the kind of information that engages followers and is current, industry content that corporate teams could push out.

Life insurance was more balanced in what corporate teams produced and what advisors published, but again, lifestyle content was in the most demand. The study recommended that life insurance corporate marketing teams could help agents save time “by vetting content around popular themes like kids and money, wealth transfer, and millennials and money, from well-known, respected news organizations and personal finance sites.”

P&C insurance agents, the most active on social media of the three groups, and their followers the most engaged, were fairly balanced, with corporate content being most engaging to followers. “This suggests that consumers in this more commoditized space turn to social media to learn about specific products and services,” the study concluded.

Hearsay recommended several best practices for both corporate marketing teams and advisors and agents, including:

  1. Put an entertaining, engaging spin on industry and corporate content, such as how-tos, what’s new, personal stories of success and inspirational quotes.
  2. Share more lifestyle content, which is what most engages followers. This includes popular trends and obvious and obscure holidays (ie. Talk Like a Pirate Day).
  3. Leverage automation and industry-specific technology to make it easier to publish the right content at the right time.
  4. Keep an open dialogue between corporate marketing teams and the advisory field.

— Check out Snappy Kraken Aims to Change Bad Advisor-Video Relationship on ThinkAdvisor.