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Social media activity, which has become a critical component of financial professionals’ repertoire, has taken on a new level of importance amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to Hearsay Systems’ third annual Financial Services Social Media Content Study, released Tuesday.

Representatives of financial services firms seek to communicate important information to clients and prospects, and to share knowledge, opportunities and recognition of people doing extraordinary things within their communities.

“This year’s report clearly shows the impact of social media across the financial services landscape,” Clara Shih, founder and chief executive of Hearsay Systems, said in a statement. “Social is no longer an experiment, or a nice to have, but a critical component of customer acquisition and retention.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic, social media use has become even more compelling as advisors and agents seek to reassure clients and offer assistance amid market turmoil, potential job losses and a global health crisis.”

For its study, Hearsay aggregated data from 54 leading U.S. financial services firms — in the wealth management, property and casualty insurance, life insurance and mortgage industries — and their cumulative 173,000 advisors and agents who used the Hearsay Social platform during 2019.

In all, researchers analyzed some 18 million published social media posts, which garnered more than 23 million engagements across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

Authentic and Personal Content 

The study found that authentic and personal content written by local advisors and agents showed 10 times more engagement than content suggested by corporate marketing, underscoring, it said, the power of advisors’ personal connection to their community.

In wealth management, for example, advisor posts about general lifestyle topics, such as holidays or health, performed exceptionally well. Life insurance experienced engagement spikes with corporate branded content posts, such as a local corporate charity event.

However, not all financial organizations allow customization because of regulatory requirements. As a workaround and to reap benefits of increased engagement, firms have adopted compliance solutions that enable supervisors to approve or revise individuals’ posts in a matter of seconds.

“What we found is that program administrators should be encouraging agents and advisors to create original content by sharing the engagement data in training and coaching sessions, collecting and sharing great examples from colleagues, and having advisors follow one another for inspiration,” Shih said.

By way of example, Shih said administrators of Hearsay Social use its “mad-libs” feature, which allows corporate marketers to provide templates that give a starting idea, a sample of the content, and then require customization. Marketers might, say, provide a Happy Father’s Day message and ask advisors to add their own father’s name and upload a photo to personalize the post.

“Users have found this is an easy, highly effective way to encourage original content,”  she said.

Automated Campaigns 

According to Hearsay, automated campaigns have become a staple of successful programs because they blend consistency in message and cadence with minimal effort from the field.

The study found that these campaigns were particularly valuable for practices with little local marketing support, in that they significantly lower the compliance burden even as centralized content creators tailored campaigns by region or provided multiple campaign options to ensure variety.

Engagement rates for automated campaign posts were high across the industry: 33% for wealth management, 32% for property and casualty insurance and 30% for life insurance. Not only that, offering the option to make small modifications to suggested posts also doubled the engagement rate over unmodified posts.

“Automated campaigns create a baseline of consistency for each field rep, which builds trust, helps them stay top of mind, and opens up opportunities for cross-sales,” Shih said.

“Such campaigns have also proven to be particularly useful during the pandemic as firms try to convene consistent information to clients at scale. The ideal mix across advisor original content vs. corporate is 75%/25%, but to be realistic, we guide our program leaders to strive for 50/50.”

Lifestyle Content 

Hearsay noted that its new study found lifestyle content such as health and holidays to be quite popular. In wealth management, for example, lifestyle content increased from 15% of total suggested content in 2018 to 25% of the total in 2019.

At the same time, the average number of publishes per piece of content increased by 16% year over year, demonstrating an increase in advisor activity across social and signaling more comfort and buy-in from the field, according to the study.

Hearsay Content Campaigns, which automatically provide weekly content along particular themes from the likes of Fortune and Bloomberg, also demonstrate the high engagement in lifestyle content as well as financial education. These were the top five channels ranked by engagement:

  1. Kids and money
  2. Travel
  3. Millennials and money
  4. Healthy living
  5. Technology News

“While the strategy to post more lifestyle content may seem counterintuitive to driving demand and delivering on brand promise, it increases overall interaction, which then creates a halo effect, increasing visibility of the brand and promotional content,” Shih said.

She said program administrators could drive higher engagement rates and more consistent interaction by adjusting the balance of content more toward lifestyle, particularly as people’s daily lives have been altered COVID-19.

“People gravitate toward ideas of how to live better, smarter, healthier, etc., and they want ideas from financial professionals.”

According to Hearsay, the research suggests that an optimal social media content strategy requires a recipe of several ingredients as administrators try to achieve authenticity along with widespread adoption. The goal is to execute posts that increase reach, engagement and clicks in order to drive client acquisition and retention.

Strategies should be flexible enough to support both advanced marketers who will put in the time to customize content and advisors or agents who lack administrative support and can focus little time on social media.

The most effective organizations have developed fine-tuned programs of curated content, rich firm-developed content, prompts and suggestions for customized creations, and automated campaigns.

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