Hearsay Systems released the results of its annual report on how financial professionals use social media during the firm’s seventh annual Hearsay Summit this week.

The report, which analyzes social media use for lead generation, customer retention, and corporate and personal branding, found that although suggested content published by advisors and field agents fell slightly, engagement rates increased steadily.

This would suggest that advisors and agents are focusing on specific content that is more targeted to the nature of their clientele, according to the report.

The study found that the types of content published by sales professionals closely mirrored recommendations from marketing, a noticeable shift from last year’s report.

It cited as an example the life and property and casualty insurance industries, where high customer retention rates are essential to sustained premium growth. The gap between suggested and published content narrowed to less than 3%, compared with gaps ranging from 8.4% to 18.2% in the 2018 study.

Hearsay noted that close alignment between marketing and sales professionals has led to more cohesive, balanced social media programs with better results overall.

The study also found that not only did the amount of total published content increase, but customer engagement also drew closer to nearly half of all published posts. The average engagement rate across the financial services industry was 44.7%, compared with 37.8% last year.

This suggests that teams are becoming savvier and leveraging quality, well-rounded content that appeals to target audiences while working in concert with overall corporate objectives, according to Hearsay.

The study showed that lifestyle posts yielded an 85.5% rate of engagement, nearly twice the rate recorded in the 2018 study. This year, engagement shot up even as the percentage of suggested and published lifestyle content went down.

Lifestyle posts represented only 12.3% of the total content published, but received high engagement rates, suggesting, Hearsay said, that consumers appreciate authentic, less overt content. It noted that although sales representatives seem not to want to rely too heavily on lifestyle content, it is a highly strategic tool for cultivating new leads and customer relationships.

While lifestyle content boasted the highest level of engagement overall, corporate-related content dominated in terms of sheer quantity of suggested and published posts, according to the study. This category accounted for 34.6% of suggested content and 29.2% of published content.

Hearsay attributed higher rates of recommended and published corporate and industry content to the personal and name brand trust that is an essential part of the financial services industry.

For the first time this year, Hearsay tracked hybrid content, and found that it showed great potential because it allows teams to take a soft-sell approach. Twenty-one percent of suggested content and 29.1% of published content fell into the corporate-industry hybrid category.

Content is considered hybrid because advisors and agents share a corporate name brand message while also imbuing it with industry or lifestyle content. Hearsay said that as teams adopt more sophisticated content plans, the percentage of hybrid content can be expected to take off in the next few years.

“This year, organizations across the financial services spectrum both experimented with and refined their programs,” Hearsay’s chief business officer Donna Prlich said in a statement. “They’re figuring out what works and evolving to meet their customers where they are.

“This study reflects the industry’s progress and highlights the best, most balanced social content diet in order to empower field representatives to inform, educate, and entertain their target customers, elevating their corporate and personal brands in the process.”

The study examined social media data from 110,150 financial services professionals at 32 U.S. firms across life insurance, property and casualty Insurance, wealth management and, new to this year’s study, the mortgage industry.

Researchers analyzed 34,888 suggested pieces of content (and some 9.6 million advisor and agent published posts) broken into three standard content categories — corporate, industry and lifestyle — as well as two hybrid categories — corporate–industry and corporate–lifestyle.

Industry-Specific Outcomes

Hearsay researchers looked at how specific lines of business used social media, given that each one operates differently.

Life insurance. Organizations in this sector demonstrated strong commitment to social content overall by publishing 3.7 million social pieces, the second highest among industries. They also had the second highest number of total engagements, 1.4 million.

In addition, life insurance agents published the highest amount of corporate-industry content of any vertical — 26.1%. At the same time, their marketing teams decreased their suggestions for lifestyle content. Hearsay said these factors likely contributed to low engagement rates for this vertical relative their peers.

P&C insurance. The property and casualty sector recommended 29.4% of corporate, 27.1% of corporate-industry and 26.4% of industry content. Although P&C marketing teams provided half the amount of suggested content as wealth management or life insurance teams, their balanced approach was rewarded as content was published many more times by P&C agents — an average of 576.91 publishes per content piece — and received 1.8 million total engagements, the highest of all verticals.

Wealth management. Wealth management teams leaned in to industry and corporate-related content, recording a rate of 42.1%, the highest among all verticals. Despite the high publishing rate, engagement with this content was limited. By contrast, only 12.8% of all content published by advisors had a unique lifestyle focus, but it had an engagement rate of 125%, the highest of all verticals in this study.

Hearsay said this reveals that wealth teams could improve the balance of the content they suggest and publish, as their followers are actively engaging with the limited lifestyle content they post.

Mortgage. In Hearsay’s first year looking at social content from mortgage companies, its analysis showed that marketing teams suggested the second highest amount of lifestyle content. It also yielded the highest average engagement rate of all verticals at 82.1%. It said data revealed that publishing limited but focused content within this vertical is an effective strategy, as long as mortgage companies post consistently enough to keep audiences engaged.

— Check out Almost All Advisors Are Using Social Media: Survey on ThinkAdvisor.