Financial Advising via Social Media, Research Paper Example
Words: 9561Research Paper
This capstone project explores how social media is used in the field of financial advising. A study was conducted through three financial institutions in the form of a survey of their customers. The methodology used to conduct this survey made use of social media by sending out a series of survey questions to the customers of these financial institutions which are listed in the study. After sending out 300 surveys, we were able to get a return of just over 250 responses, which is greater than or initial expectations of a return of 200. The data we collected has been organized into a table presented later in this report of the study.
Limitations on the study exist because our study consists of a relatively small random sample size when considering other financial institutions and their respective customers. We also were limited by the return of survey responses as nearly 50 survey candidates did not respond. This could be due to their own personal matters or reasons of not wanting or being able to participate in our survey.
Our project team learned about how effective primary research can be as opposed to secondary research. Both primary and secondary research was used in our study, and we are able to correlate the two to present how socials media is impacting the field of financial advisement. Our primary research skills improved from this study because we now have experience in creating a primary source through the surveys we conducted. We understand that our primary sources of research in the study conducted are not always 100% accurate which is why we supplemented it with secondary sources from our university library among other credible sources.
Financial Advising via Social Media
In the contemporary environment, communications of financial advising can be problematic. There is a lack of time to communicate and discuss problems as they come up. A simple annual plan review, phone call, or even meeting is often not enough.
Today, financial services consumers have moved beyond just using the Internet as an information-gathering tool, to using both the Internet and mobile channels for an interactive, even social, experience. Social networks are growing at pace; by 2017, the global social network audience is expected to total 2.55 billion. the percentage of customers willing to give personal information to their bank online in exchange for better value or tailored services more than doubled from 2012 to 2014.2 And recent Accenture consumer research shows that nearly a third of consumers use information from social media sites when evaluating retail banking products and services. While still a minority, many consumers want companies to get directly involved in contributing to discussions on social media, and nearly one in four are more likely to do business with a company that they know they can interact with in a social media environment. Many financial services firms have responded by using social media to listen to their customers and monitor their brands. However, they are not yet using it to generate tangible business benefits. With advances in optimization tools, analytics and software, social media is now much more a science than an art. It can be a very effective means to build a community and engage with the consumer in a more personal way. By harnessing the power of analytics and integrating social media insights holistically into the company’s marketing strategy, financial services firms can drive growth, increase operational efficiency and reduce risk. (Brokesová, 2012)
Today’s investment advisors are well aware of social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, yet about 50% don’t know which levers to pull and which buttons to push to make social media a key tool in their firm’s marketing campaigns. That’s a mistake, as investors, especially younger ones, are pulling ahead of financial advisors on the use of social media in managing their money. According to a brand new study from Sysomos, a social media software provider, and Marketwired, a business news data channel, up to 60 to 70% of all investors surveyed say they use “traditional” sources of information (like newspapers and Wall Street analyst reports); but 40% say they use social media as a key investment information source. Given the relatively short lifespan of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, that’s an eye-opening number. (Putnam, 2014)
In another recent study of 400 U.S. financial advisors, 48% of advisors report using social media to interact with investors on a daily basis; 74% of U.S. investment advisors say social media is a useful tool in hiking assets under management, while 50% say they have “successfully used social media to convert prospects into clients.” Further, 9% of investors surveyed by Accenture claim firms that fail to leverage social media will lose clients to firms that use social media to engage clients. (Putnam, 2014)
Financial advisors can better leverage their use of social media to attract new clients in various ways. For starters, financial advisors should not be looking to use social media strictly to sell products and services. There are significant regulatory considerations, and in addition, these channels aren’t suitable for the delivery of financial products and services. However, social media can be very powerful in other ways for advisors. (Chang, 2015) (Business, 2013)
Social media is a fantastic content distribution platform, giving advisors the ability to showcase intellectual capital and thought leadership. Social media can also be used to promote personal and corporate brands, and help “humanize” the brand. The trick is to make Facebook, Twitter and other social media outreach programs work for you – instead of the other way around. Social media regulation for the financial services is now a reality. Some may believe that this just another compliance hurdle. However, use of social media in financial advising offers several opportunities. (Weekly, 2009) (Economic, 2011)
When decision-makers and regulators are brought together to evaluate how social networking can enhance trust and transparency, as well as create new rules that will provide clarification and consumer emphasis, it helps towards a collaborative relationship with the regulator and industry itself. This is imperative for searching in a somewhat unknown setting. At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting this year which took place in Davos, social networking specialist David Kirkpatrick as well as European banker Huw van Steenis will collaborate to go over this continuing issue in an international context. (Clarke, 2012) (Economic, 2011)
This pivotal turn is long overdue. The use of social networking in the sector of financial services has been slowed down by teams with a muddled perspective of what is authorized and safe. There is a common tendency to view social media platforms as subject to similar controls as standard corporate media relations, to think that they need managing by specific spokespersons, using widely pre-approved content. (Burgess, 2010) (Clarke, 2012)
There have always been unwanted leaks of information and public relations gaffs through e-mail, but not so many people suggest that companies should impair the use of email. As a matter of fact, management tools have emerged, and led to the majority of us becoming skilled at using e-mail. Social networking is very similar. The insinuated technical flaw is that it doesn’t go through corporate firewalls, so monitoring as well as management is a larger challenge. However, it is a challenge which the technology industry seems to be meeting. Enhanced clarity from the FCA would provide companies more confidence to utilize social networking to communicate with consumers and start establishing a trust factor. (Crenshaw, 2013)
Leading financial services companies are increasingly using social media marketing with strong results. American-Express pioneered several successful online initiatives that monetized the unique features of social media. Such as location check-ins for discounts with Foursquare (Sync, Explore, Save) and discounts via Facebook (Link, Love). These programs worked by linking the individuals’ American Express cards to their Facebook account and delivering deals and offers based on Facebook, pages that were liked and shared, as well as the activities of Facebook friends. (Toro, 2014)
With just one click, the discount was attached to the user’s account. When the related transaction occurred with the corresponding Amex card within a specific time period, a statement credit was automatically applied. The promotion offered customers an integrated way to earn rewards for using their Amex card, promoting loyalty and affinity with the brand. There was a benefit for American Express. It was a positive response and greater sharing of content by users due to highly tailored offers – both leading indicators of greater customer satisfaction and retention. (Greve, 2015) (Brokesová, 2012)
While most financial services firms are using social media to some extent, the vast majority is stopping short of using it to engage customers – leaving substantial business benefits unrealized. Social media marketing is no longer about passively listening to customers or conducting stealth experiments. A successful social media program hinges on:
- Understanding the relevant social audience and the organization’s goals and limits
- Mapping customer needs to a social experience that the organization can deliver
- Enabling the organization with the right capabilities to execute.
Financial services firms have the opportunity to build on their market presence, brand awareness and marketing expertise to drive significant business impact through social media. (Hellmann, 2014)
Social media offers the customer information such as personal attitudes, hobbies and needs that could help acquire customers and nurture existing relationships, both of which drive organic growth. This new customer information can enhance customer intimacy and customer insight and move marketing toward delivering personalized sales and service experiences. An enriched customer profile can help identify sweet spots in existing segments, select micro-targets and launch personalized cross selling and acquisition campaigns. In this way financial services firms can gain actionable insight on customer needs (using such techniques as interest graph analysis and activity feed analysis) and life events at an individual, friends and family level. (Koçak, 2014)
They can also leverage marketing automation and campaign management platforms to deliver personal marketing campaigns. For example, they can identify individual customers through connections on LinkedIn, position personalized interest/hobby related offers based on Facebook likes and directly initiate customer dialogues using Twitter. Gamification is another key tactic to enrich the customer experience, as well as to design products whose properties evolve according to social sharing. And financial services firms are able to design experiences with network dynamics in mind. A significant part of the buying decision process now happens in review and comparison sites, communities or crowd sourced content services. In this environment, financial services firms can extend their sphere of influence through proactive analysis, outreach and relationship management activities, and by enticing loyal customers to spread their influence. (Investment, 2014)
In 2014, Indian bank ICICI launched “Pockets by ICICI Bank”, an app allowing customers to access their accounts; and conduct a wide variety of banking transactions directly from its Facebook page. This social media strategy targets the more than 82 million Facebook users throughout India, 40% of who are under age 30. Since launching its Facebook page the bank has amassed more than three million likes and continues to build out new “Pockets” capabilities to make banking easier and easier for the customers. (Marketing, 2011)
Social media can be harnessed to improve the basics including lowering cost to sell and cost to serve and optimizing marketing spending. By seamlessly integrating current customer service workflows with social media components, financial services companies are already able to leverage the crowd effect, exploiting the potential of user-generated content such as in Q&A platforms. Financial institutions can also employ a resource sharing approach, converging different media and channels. In this way skilled customer service workers can provide services through different channels achieving higher efficiency at a lower cost. (Lin, 2015)
From a brand awareness perspective, traditional marketing techniques, such as word-of-mouth and member-get-member, might increase their power by leveraging greater reach and resonance of the marketing message, where a single commercial “meme” could reach a huge audience instantly. The famous Oreo tweet during the XLVII Super bowl “You can still dunk in the dark” generated more than 500 million impressions with 0 dollars in media spending. While the Oreo tweet is impressive in the reach and impact it achieved, these kinds of successes are opportunistic. Social now needs to be much more of a science, orchestrated to seek success without requiring a spontaneous moment or event. In a data-centric way, social can methodically drive operating efficiencies and optimized spending. (Mattsson M. , 2013) (Subrahmanyam, 2008)
The Barclaycard1 2Ring MasterCard, offered by 2global financial services provider1 Barclays PLC, is2 the first5 credit card to be designed 3and built through crowdsourcing. The Ring community1 platform allows 4community members to share ideas with Barclaycard and to help each1 other on a variety1 of financial3 questions. Customers1 are engaged in the product design and enhancement, building3 loyalty, peer-support and2 word3 of mouth. Combined with other voice of the customer4initiatives3 this program has decreased customer complaints by 50%, and increased customer retention by3 25%, resulting in an annualized3benefit3 of over $10 million. (Uzzi, 1999) (Weekly, 2009)
A big3 component of4 the financial services4 business is about sizing, anticipating and managing1 risks. For insurance1companies, risk is a core1 component of the1 value chain; for banks it is a1 long-term bet1 and for capital markets it is a driver of higher returns. Furthermore, Accenture’s consumer1 research showed that brand reputation1 and trustworthiness are key satisfaction drivers among customers. (Southworth, 2012) (Mattsson, Topor, Cullberg, & Forsell, 2009)
By identifying1 early signals1 and acting on (not just gathering) intelligence from consumer and business social data, social media1 could help to dramatically innovate1 reputational risk management. Looking at 1the customer within this broader network1 of relationships would introduce new approaches1 to help prevent fraud and better assess1 risk profiles. Banks are1 already was starting to understand local1 businesses by analyzing bill payments, money transfers and evaluating the micro-market from an economic1 standpoint to better assess default risks and capital requirements1 for specific loans. Through media marketers and risk1 managers will have an extended view of1 customers1 within their network. (McIlwain, 2014)
UBS, a leading1 global financial services1 provider, observed1 that understanding what is being1 published in social media is vital to1 effective communications, risk management and brand protection. Working1 with Accenture, UBS built1 a more functional1 social media monitoring capability1 delivered through global1 standardized services1, scalable technology and methodology. The service1 operates in four different languages utilizing1 native speakers with industry backgrounds to eliminate1 mundane postings, spot1 irony and understand context. UBS gets a more comprehensive view and may conduct campaign-related monitoring at short notice and at a relatively1 low fee. Through1 this new capability, UBS1 has a holistic perspective1 in the digital social1 world and may fulfill important business objectives1 in the area of reputation management and customer trust. (Meadows, Ormerod, & Cook, 2004)
To build the right social media marketing approach, companies have to start by deeply understanding their social media readiness across all aspects of the organization, procedures, processes and technologies. In particular, the organization has to be aligned with the social media marketing strategy and have a group responsible for social media activities. Procedures have to be adapted to incorporate social media as a possible channel through which the prospect and customer can interact with the organization. Specific processes need to be in place in order to guide the execution across all customer-facing touch points. The right technology must be available. Not only specific social media marketing components, but also more traditional components need to be social media “ready”. While every journey will be different, social media pioneers have followed basic steps to improve the potential of social. (Nagurney, 2013)
Defining the social media marketing strategy begins with identification of social media marketing goals, and understanding the brand and product characteristics that can drive value in the social media context. A personalized social media marketing strategy answers four key questions:
- What is the goal?
- Which tactic is more suitable to achieve the selected business results given the company’s particular DNA (e.g. brand perception)?
- Who are the target customers/ prospects?
- Through which social media platform?
The next step is experimentation. By experimenting a company reduces IT investment and runs a simple social media marketing pilot to gain the overall marketing organization’s buy-in before planning the bigger moves. This could be done based on already available technology or through a managed service approach. (Skinner, 2015)
With strong results from the pilot, companies can develop the business case to extend the social media marketing approach. This may involve broadening programs into additional targeted segments, expanding the number of tactics utilized or adding new social channels, depending on the targeted business outcomes the firm is targeting. Financial services firms should do deep technological due diligence and, based on the defined strategic goal, adapt the social media platform, introducing new components or services available in the market. (Southworth, 2012)
When the due diligence is complete, financial institutions can scale their social media marketing strategies and may be able to transform social into a new growth engine. A scaled program has numerous components from listening and planning to engaging and measuring. Key prerequisites for successful expansion include:
- Full-time active social media monitoring is underway and a process is in place to inform strategy and tactics.
- Efficient social processes, policies and actions are aligned to the organization’s digital strategy and there is enterprise-level funding and ownership
- There is high engagement and social activity across all desired properties and experiences
- Robust key performance indicators are defined, including both social and business metrics.
When Facebook1 superseded Google as the world’s most visited online resource1 in 2010 according to1 comScore, the trend was se1t for a significant period of social media dominance. Given that Google’s considered response was to create its own unique social networking function, it became clear that the diverse1 and interactive nature of social1 media suddenly held the key to success for businesses, consumers1 and commercial interests alike. In fact, 20111saw social media begin1 to influence the global investment markets, to1 the point where it is now playing a significant role in helping to determine1 trading strategy and stock value. (Southworth, 2012)
It is1 interesting to note1 that a recent study from KPMG1 found 70% of businesses now boast a clearly defined and integrated social media1 presence, while market leader Facebook boasts more than1 800,000,000 active users. These users1are making social media1 an increasingly significant part of their daily1 activity and decision making1 processes, with consumers utilizing brand pages and recommendations from within1 their network to help define1 their purchasing habits. Businesses1 have also followed suit, by analyzing1 the trends and behavior of consumers to help improve their own product or1 service accordingly. (Uzzi, 1999) (Chang, 2015)
This meeting1 of brands1 and consumers also marks1 social media as the single largest source of online data, and research1 conducted by the Universities of Manchester1 and Indiana in 2010 suggested that the scrutiny of this data could actually help to reveal stock market trends and movements. This notion encouraged1 U.K.-based company Derwent1Capital to create what has become known1 as the Twitter Hedge1 fund, which during its first month of trading1 outperformed the established S&P1 500 index by analyzing1 random tweets to gauge specific market1 moods. Its initial success1 encouraged other investors1 to adopt similar1 methods and start evaluating1 social media information for1commercial benefit. (Clarke, 2012) (Deaconu, 2010)
Twitter is1 a vast resource of real time1 emotion, and the instant nature of emotive posts makes data mining1 far easier than it may otherwise be. However, what1 about resources that operate differently 1and do not boast the benefits 1of micro-blogging principles? While 1sites such as Facebook1 and YouTube do not 1offer commercial users the chance to articulate such succinct emotions, respective 1fan counts, likes and company 1page views can instead be used to predict the performance of individual1 stocks and markets with 1relative success. (Economic, 2011)
The research that was1 conducted, which was influenced by the sentiment1 analysis tools used to assess Twitter1 as a data source, revealed that as specific company1 mentions increased across social media so too1 did the respective stock price and market 1performance. So, although the data provided1 by Facebook and YouTube does not1 offer the same level or nature of market1 insight as Twitter, it 1can be evaluated1 through different criteria1 to predict trends and mood. This may be especially useful in forecasting which 1markets are thriving, and, more specifically, where money is most likely to be1invested. (Business, 2013)
While utilizing the 1tools of social media to predict market 1trends remains an unpredictable entity, individual retail 1investors can rely on these resources to 1gain knowledge and actively share 1information. The ambitions of active 1online retail traders is 1diametrically opposed to those of professional 1practitioners, in so much that they thrive by 1interacting as part of a large network to share and 1gather ideas. As there is no more1 significant or far reaching network 1than that accessible 1through social media, it is a natural home for traders1 looking to build or become part of a community. (Brokesová, 2012)
With Facebook’s 1Zecco’s Wall Street application 1allowing potential investors to like, track and buy their chosen 1stocks, and specialist online trading resources 1adopting networking principles1 to benefit communal1 users, it is 1possible to access a 1wider range of 1market information1 than ever before. Social 1media is also 1allowing individual 1traders the opportunity to interact 1with and follow investors 1who boast a similar portfolio, 1with a view to improving their craft and taking part in 1collaborative successes. (Done, 2013)
If you have good content, people will read it. But if you have great content, people will share it—and that’s key if you want to exponentially grow your business. An effective social media strategy can single-handedly create a following of thousands—and a flow of prospective clients—in just a short period of time. Almost half of U.S. financial advisors are interacting with their clients through social media. (Business, 2013)
The objective of this study is to gain a better understanding of financial advisors’ attitudes toward and usage of social media. For this study, we first conducted a survey of customers from three popular bank institutions. We then chose to assess the use of financial advising through the popular social network Linked In. (Chang, 2015)
The goal of the first part of our study is to gain a general idea of how the average bank customer views the concept of using social media to consulate matters regarding financial advice. The goal of the second part of this study is to obtain general perspectives from financial advisors and their views on a specific social media platform using secondary sources.
We actually conducted the first part of our study using the social network platform Facebook. Our study was based on the customers of three major Emirati banks. These banks were Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Union National Bank, and Citibank UAE.
Our survey was conducted by administering a series of questions to a population sample consisting of customers from these banks. We sent the survey to the Facebook pages of these banks where an agent was able to relay the survey questions to members of the respective Facebook pages. Each of these banks’ Facebook pages allowed for our survey to be sent to one hundred members each. Of the survey questions we sent out, we received back 87 responses from Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, 71 responses from Citibank UAE, and 98 responses from Union National Bank totaling to 256 responses from the 300 surveys that were sent out.
The survey questions were structured as follows:
- What is your gender/age?
- How long have you been a customer at this bank?
- How would you describe your use of social media? None, Rare, Moderate, Frequent
- What social network platform do you use the most?
- When seeking financial advice, how do you communicate with your financial advisor?
- What is your preferred method of communication when consulting with your financial advisor considering your financial advisor uses social media?
- Do you think social media should be used to consult with your financial advisor?
The social networking sites for these three bank institutions can be found at the following links:
Our findings indicate that based on this survey, the majority of banking customers generally agree with the idea of using social media as a method of communication when seeking financial advisement. We’ll first analyze the overall results from the survey consisting of these three banks.
Of the participants in the survey, 59% were male while 41% were female. The median age of all participants in the survey was 27. Most customers had been with their respective bank for an average of 5 years. The majority of participants used social media on a frequent basis. The most popular platform for these participants was Facebook, followed by Linked In, and then Twitter. Most participants responded that they generally use the telephone when seeking financial advisement from their financial consultant. Telephone or cellular phone use made up 64% of lines of communication currently being used. However, about 67% of all participants stated that they would prefer social media as a form of financial consulting if their financial advisors used it. An outstanding 84% agreed that social media should be used to consult with financial advisers. The following table summarizes our findings from the survey.
|Survey Question||Concluding Results|
|What is your gender/age?||59% M/ 41% F : Median Age was 27|
|How long have you been a customer at this bank?||Average of 5 years|
|How would you describe your use of social media? None, Rare, Moderate, Frequent||Majority, 72%, used social media on a frequent basis.|
|What social network platform do you use the most?||Facebook was used the most in general utilization.|
|When seeking financial advice, how do you communicate with your financial advisor?||Most participants used telephone or cellular phones, about 64%.|
|What is your preferred method of communication when consulting with your financial advisor considering your financial advisor uses social media?
|About 67% would prefer social media if their financial advisors made use of it.|
|Do you think social media should be used to consult with your financial advisor?||Most participants, 84%, agreed with using social media for financial consulting.|
It is clear the telephones or cellular phones still stand as the primary line of communication when seeking financial advising based on the results of this survey. However, use of social media seems to be making an impact. The 67% that responded in stating that they would prefer using social media is evidence of this breakthrough. Also to further support this evidence is the 87% that agreed that social media should be used when communicating with financial advisors. This survey gives a general idea of how social media is viewed by the common banking customer. For the most part, customers lean towards use of social media in financial consulting and eventually social media may very well become the primary source of communication for clients and their financial advisors. This survey is limited however to the random sample sizes of these three banks and may not present concurrent views of other customers at other banks.
The next part of the study uses secondary resources and contrastingly analyzes the financial advisors perspectives, but provides a more focused study on a particular social media site in Linked In. Founded in 2003; LinkedIn connects the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. With more than 150 million members worldwide, including executives from every Fortune 500 company, LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the Internet. The company has a diversified business model with revenues coming from member subscriptions, marketing solutions and hiring solutions. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, LinkedIn has offices across the globe. Here are the general findings of this study. (Putnam, 2014)
Seven out of ten financial advisors are currently using social media platforms for business related purposes:
- Adoption rates will continuously increase; over half of financial advisors predict that social networking will play a substantial role regarding their marketing efforts in 2013 — this makes for an 80% increase year over year.
While the majority of advisors report that their use of social media is constricted, company compliance regulations have not significantly deterred overall use of social media.
- Company policies are actually more restrictive for wire house financial advisors than for either brokers or registered investment advisors (RIAs), which are expected due to the higher sensitivity to standard implications between the more significant financial institutions.
When utilizing social media platforms for business purposes, nine in ten of financial advisors go to LinkedIn:
- Among the advisors that have used at least one social media platform for business in the previous year, nearly 91% have been using LinkedIn, compared with under a third each for the other platforms Facebook, Twitter and Google+.(Friedman, 2012)
- Contributing to this social media preference are features and tools specific to the LinkedIn platform that significantly complement and increase advisors’ traditional efforts to expand their books of business.
Over three in five of financial advisors who use LinkedIn for business purposes have increased their business use of the platform over the past year:
- Primary elements contributing to this increase include a better understanding of how to best leverage LinkedIn for business and the existence of valuable target audiences on the platform.
Financial advisors use LinkedIn for prospecting of clients with substantially successful results:
- In the previous year, over three in five of financial advisors who us LinkedIn towards client prospecting successfully obtained new clients as a result — with almost a third of these generating one million dollars or more in cash assets under management.
Successful financial advisors have profoundly used LinkedIn through their acquisition processes, primarily through use of networking tools:
- Financial advisors that have successfully obtained clients through LinkedIn are three times more likely to have leveraged the platform’s search tools to locate clients or have requested introductions to other leads.
Although advisors mostly don’t report social network activity outside of the parameters of their regulations, they would rather use LinkedIn for a larger number of business purposes than they initially have been able to in previous years:
- Financial advisors are generally interested in using the platform more for information-sharing activities; this highlights the trust factors related with LinkedIn.
- Half of them would prefer LinkedIn as opposed to Facebook, Twitter or Google+ to deluge thought leadership if regulations were not a challenge, but only one in five have been able to do so.
It is no shock that a substantial majority of financial advisors are making use of social networking platforms to expand their business prospects. Hundreds on millions of people around the globe currently use sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, making the idea of social networking a continuous vital factor for establishing and interacting with populations of potential clients. With a predicted 19.2% increase of global social network users in 2012, this community will only continue to expand: At the present growth rates, 25.8% of the global population will use a social media platform at least once a month by 2015. (Friedman, 2012)
Social media platforms present a potent and multifaceted ground for financial advisors, whose businesses rely on networks and referrals to gain and retain clients. By centralizing present client contacts, social media offers a cost effective method to use this otherwise stagnant financial information. Through simplified actions such as inputting key word searches or checking related connections, financial advisors can expand and capitalize on their network to gain leads and referrals. (Friedman, 2012) (Business, 2013)
LinkedIn is the preferred social media platform for most financial advisors. If these financial advisors are utilizing at least one social media platform for business purposes, they are, in general, over three times as likely to use the site LinkedIn as compared with any other social media platform. For personal use, it is obvious that Facebook stands superior, as 71% of financial advisors who use the social networking site report it is strictly for personal use. Generally, however, LinkedIn is the primarily used social media platform among financial advisors, with nearly 78% using this site, just touching on the 75% who use Facebook. (Friedman, 2012) (Deaconu, 2010)
A primary reason for financial advisors’ profound business network preference is due to the fact that LinkedIn complements and betters the way financial advisors can grow their book of businesses. Historically, advisors are dependent on networks of referrals and cold calling to obtain new clients. They also depend on continuous interactions with present clients to deepen their current business relationships. Particularly concerning newer advisors, it often can take years at a time to establish a proactive network. By using LinkedIn, advisors can streamline and intensify such efforts, using a single social media platform to both obtain new clients and to strengthen existing relationships. (Clarke, 2012) (Friedman, 2012)
Financial advisors that use at least one social media platform for business purposes are not only more likely to use LinkedIn, but they are just as more likely to use it for their other specific business related needs. Financial advisors are particularly more than likely to use LinkedIn to establish professional connections better their referral ratios and build their business identity — more often than on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ combined. Because of the site’s professional structure, financial advisors have also used LinkedIn as a base for trusted sharing of information, both to grow their professional knowledge and to torrent thought leadership. (Friedman, 2012) (Burgess, 2010)
Because actions that involve content creation have a more potential for regulation issues, financial advisors appear to be proceeding with caution in these areas. However, as social networking continues to advance marketing efforts, advisors can benefit from company tactics that reduce any effects of restrictive regulations, such as the integration of middle-ware systems. (Crenshaw, 2013)
When glancing at LinkedIn use throughout different types of financial advisors, those from the wire-house firms are comparatively more likely to have used search or communication tools to prospect or obtain referrals of new clients. This may be because these social networking tools have shown to be effective in assisting advisors to gain new clients; particularly as wire-house financial advisors seek to offset losses from the shift to independent advisors in recent years. (Friedman, 2012) (Putnam, 2014)
- Over three in five advisors who have used LinkedIn to obtain client prospects in the past year have successfully obtained new clients as a result of this.
- Those who are successfully gaining clients on LinkedIn are generating the big business: Almost a third has gained one million dollars or greater in cash assets under management, while 12% have gained five million dollars or greater.
Advisors use LinkedIn more often for business, this further solidifies LinkedIn’s superior position in the sector. Financial advisors who use LinkedIn for business purposes are doing so much more often than users of other social networks. While three quarters of LinkedIn’s business users are at minimum monthly users, less than half of Facebook’s business users are using Facebook for business related purposes at minimum once a month – and fewer yet among Twitter and Google+ users on their respective social networks. (Friedman, 2012) (Done, 2013)
On top of this, more than half of those who use LinkedIn for business related purposes do so on a weekly basis, as opposed with less than one third of those that use Twitter or Facebook for business purposes. Interestingly, although Facebook is almost twice as popular as Twitter and Google+ in general usage, Facebook is used the least often for business purposes. (Skinner, 2015) (Friedman, 2012)
Most of the business users of LinkedIn report more usage year over year. Throughout all financial advisors who have used LinkedIn for business related purposes, 62% report an increase in their business usage of the social networking site over the past year, while just 4% report a decrease in usage. When they were asked why they have increased their usage of LinkedIn from the past year, advisors most often reference an active target audience on the site as well as their own better understanding of the LinkedIn platform:
- Three in five of advisors have increased their business usage of LinkedIn since the people they are trying to connect to are active on the site, about 61%.(Friedman, 2012)
- Almost as many have increased their use since they now have an improved understanding of how best to use LinkedIn for business related purposes, about 57%.(Friedman, 2012)
The existence of high value prospect clients on social media platforms such as LinkedIn is a remarkable driver of increased use of advisors, particularly as many investors desire financial advice on these networks:
- Two-thirds of US online adults holding an investment account now have social network profiles.
- On top of having a place on social networks, these investors are seeking help: it is noted that the percentage of investors who seek advice from specialist increased in the past decade, while the percentage of investors who make all of their own investment decisions declined by about 30%.(Friedman, 2012)
- Along with the fact that nearly 40% of US consumers who opened a full service brokerage account last year researched their options online, it is obvious that there is a solid audience based motivation for financial advisors.(Friedman, 2012)
Financial advisors who have obtained new clients with the use of LinkedIn are more frequently using the site with the intentions of building and growing a network of clients and referrals. Take for example; successful financial advisors are twice as likely to have used the platform to better their referral network and more than twice as likely to have utilized LinkedIn to grow client relationships. This presentation of return on investment (ROI) focuses the value of LinkedIn as a cost effective and profound alternative to traditional methods and tools such as mailing lists and advertisements. (Friedman, 2012)
Overall, financial advisors who have had success obtaining clients on LinkedIn have been more active in using the platform during the initial stages of acquisition cycles. In terms of specific actions that are taken, more than three times as many successful financial advisors have used search engine tools to locate clients, request client connections, or get introduced to new leads as opposed to those who have not obtained new clients. Moreover, more than twice as many have requested new referral introductions or have managed referral contact information using LinkedIn. (Friedman, 2012)
While it is obvious that advisors who have successfully obtained clients through LinkedIn have been more active on the platform, their success may be traced back to their real goal for using the social networking platform. Financial advisors who have used the site to cultivate client prospects are three times more successful when it comes to winning new clients as opposed to those who have not used LinkedIn to cultivate prospective clients. (Friedman, 2012)
While company compliance regulations do not seem to deter overall social network adoption among financial advisors, the regulations do affect how advisors can specifically use social networks for business purposes. For the most part, businesses have restricted social network actions that may fall within present guidelines or regulations dictating communications to and suitability regarding individual investors. Due to of such restrictions, fewer financial advisors are able to do certain actions on LinkedIn such as requesting or writing recommendations, posting to groups and pages, or sending out In-Mail. (McIlwain, 2014)
It also is possible that these restrictions are the cause for missed opportunities by restricting the ways that financial advisors can reach out to potential clients. Some of the key activities connected to financial advisor success, such as requesting connections and referrals, most often require the use of In-Mail. Similarly, most companies limit active participation in discussion their groups, which might otherwise provide the advisors with valuable opportunities for business building or their presentations of expertise. (McIlwain, 2014)
Nonetheless, most financial advisors, about 79%, are permitted to access LinkedIn at work. The majority, about 90%, are allowed to list their company name on their LinkedIn prole and either accept or request connections on the platform (83% and 81%, respectively). (Putnam, 2014)
Most likely due to a greater general sensitivity to the regulatory setting among the larger financial institutions, company compliance regulations are much more restrictive for wire-house financial advisors, compared with both broker as well as RIAs. Even for more gentle actions such as listing a company name on a LinkedIn prole or requesting connections, advisors from wire-house firms have more restrictive regulations. Nearly half of wire-house advisors who have advanced their business use of LinkedIn attribute this to a decline in company compliance regulations or securities policy. (Skinner, 2015)
As more and more financial advisors integrate social networking into their business practices and as companies begin to realize the marketing potential of these platforms, it is predicted that compliance policies will progress, specifically as they relate to the more business-oriented platforms such as LinkedIn. (Skinner, 2015)
Advisors would ideally prefer to use social media platforms – specifically, LinkedIn – for more business related purposes than they have been able to in the past. Consider, while half of advisors who use social media platforms for business purposes would ideally use LinkedIn to build thought leadership, just one fifth have been able to use LinkedIn for this purpose. (Skinner, 2015) (Friedman, 2012)
Together along with the benefits of evolving regulations, empowerment as well as education will assist advisors to optimally use LinkedIn and to better understand how to best work within the lines of compliance. Even for independent financial advisors who don’t benefit from company support, more familiarity with social media platforms and abilities will help lead advisors to the features and tools that are most valuable for their business related needs. (Chang, 2015)
Now, let’s analyze an external study conducted by Phoenix Marketing International. This study assessed the impact social networking has made on how financial advisors enhance existing client relationships, acquire new clients, collaborate with other financial advisors, and work with asset management firms.
Phoenix 1Marketing International one of the top market research 1companies in the US announced 1today the addition of a social networking1 module to its syndicated study programs within the financial1 services industry. Recent findings show 1that over half (58%) of 1financial advisors surveyed 1utilize social networking in their 1advisory business, utilizing various platforms to interact 1with clients, colleagues and 1firms. (Deaconu, 2010) (Elliott, Golub, & Jackson, 2014)
Not only are so 1many advisors currently using social 1networking, but more 1than 80% of those1 adopters consider their proficiency1 in social networking1 to be above average. Overall, concerns about1 ability to use social networking 1are limited among advisors; for 1those advisors not using social 1networking, regulatory concerns were the most commonly cited issue preventing usage. Regardless, still 30% of non-users plan to begin utilizing social 1networking in the next 6 months. (Deaconu, 2010) (Greve, 2015)
Conducted 1among financial advisors in the 1US this month, the new Phoenix 1social media study also 1answers:
- To what extent1 have financial 1advisors (FAs) adopted 1social networking for their advisory1 business and does adoption vary by FAs’ 1role, $AUM, annual production, tenure, 1age, or gender?
- Which 1devices and social networking 1platforms are used by FAs in their 1advisory business?
- What 1are the obstacles and concerns for 1integrating social networking as a 1business practice and1 to what extent are 1FAs governed by a social 1networking policy or guidelines?
- What 1are the most important purposes and 1goals for which FAs use social 1networking?
- Ratings 1and “best-practices” analyses 1of specific firms in the market 1today and how they are leveraging 1social networking, plus much more.
A full report 1on how advisors utilize social 1networking is available 1for purchase. Since1 2005, Phoenix has 1provided its clients with competitive insights on the attitudes and behaviors of individual investors1 and financial 1advisors and 1how they assess specific brokerage firms and their ROI from1 multi-media brand advertising. Other major 1firms specifically queried in this study include American 1Funds, Ameriprise, 1BlackRock, 1Charles Schwab, 1Columbia Management, 1Franklin Templeton, iShares, 1Jackson National, 1John Hancock, Lincoln 1Financial, MetLife, 1Nationwide, 1Oppenheimer, PIMCO, PowerShares, 1Prudential, Scottrade, 1State Street, Transamerica and 1Vanguard. (Elliott, Golub, & Jackson, 2014)
To sum it up, social media lets you 1connect with clients and prospects in a unique, personal way that helps you gain new insights, 1demonstrate thought leadership and build rapport.
Consider the following:
- Roughly 5 million U.S. and 1Canadian high-net-worth investors actively use social media to help them make 1financial decisions.
- Forty-one percent of 1millennials rely on 1social media to communicate 1with their advisors.
- Social media 1provides a cost-effective method to reach existing and potential clients.
Through 1social media, you can:
- Increase your 1visibility and demonstrate your thought leadership.
- Project a digital-savvy presence while improving 1your ranking with search engines.
- Share your 1own insights or curate 1research for your followers.
- Differentiate 1yourself from the competition.
As with any 1opportunity, it’s important to think about your strategy and identify which business objectives you’d like your social media 1initiatives to help you achieve. To prepare, you may 1want to ask yourself:
- Whom do 1I want to target?
- What benefits will 1I offer those who 1follow me?
- What will I do with the1 information gathered from using social media?
- What resources1 do I need?
- How will I measure 1success?
Four of the most popular 1social media platforms are1 LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Through these social 1platforms, you can create content, make timely observations, expand your reach and increase your 1client outreach. Once you have identified whom you would like to reach, think about your strengths. For instance, 1does your firm already produce a lot of videos? If so, you may want to start by uploading existing videos to YouTube. Or do you prefer keeping it brief? Then you may want to 1consider using Twitter. Let’s not assess these popular social networking sites as they relate to 1financial advisement. (Skinner, 2015)
LinkedIn is for networking 1and sharing information in a professional setting. Useful for:
- Making professional 1
- Staying on top of career-related 1changes in your network.
- Improving your 1referral network.
- Sharing commentary 1and research to reinforce your role as an investment expert and coach.
- Complete your profile with 1your full experience and credentials.
- Connect with those 1you know and have done business with.
- Share content to 1spark conversations.
YouTube is for hosting 11and sharing videos. Useful for:
- Using video to create a 1connection with prospects and clients.
- Repurposing videos from 1your website or blog.
- Improving 1your ranking on search engines (Google owns YouTube).
- Create short, effective videos on1 topics of interest.
- Use playlists to organize 1your videos by topic or audience.
- Incorporate videos into 1other touch points, such as your website, blog, email and other social media channels.
- Try your hand at 1creating videos with a tablet or smartphone.
Twitter is for sending 1and receiving short, real-time 1updates Useful for:
- Sharing 1updates with your network to reinforce 1your role as an investment expert and coach.
- Following up-to-the-minute 1trends and topics raised by clients, prospects 1and industry leaders.
- Staying “top of1 mind” with 1your audience.
- Create your handle; add 1a photo and brief profile description.
- “Follow” clients, prospects and 1industry influencers.
- Listen and learn; 1there is value to being on Twitter without even tweeting.
- Search popular phrases1 or hashtags (#ETF, #Financial Advisors, #TFSA) to find relevant conversations.
Facebook is for 1sharing information in a more personal setting Useful for:
- Monitoring the activities of “friends” for 1life milestones and shared interests.
- Staying in touch with clients.
- Sharing personal or 1professional updates.
- Create a professional 1profile for your firm.
- “Friend” others that 1you have a relationship with to create your network.
- Share updates 1with your network.
- “Like” or share1 articles, webpages or other elements1 that may be valuable to your audience.
Another major factor impacting both social media and financial advising is the new online currency known as bit coin. This is drawing the attention of many financial advisors as well as investors. Often referred to as the cryptocurrencydue to it being operated through computer science cryptology, Bit Coin is a primary attraction for investment bankers, businesses, and even the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). How the currency works is not fully understood in detail among the general public whom are recently exposed to it. However in terms of economic functionality, it is an easy to understand concept not much different from how traditional currency is transacted. Bit Coins can be used to make digital purchases from any individual or business that accepts them as a method of payment. (Yellin, 2014)
Once a transaction is made, it cannot be reversed even if the seller has defrauded their buyer. The only way to recover losses from fraud is to locate the seller which is virtually impossible being that Bit Coin users are mostly anonymous. (This is often the case when users make transactions through the deep web when purchasing illegal contraband that may not even exist.) The privacy key is the only way to make any type of Bit Coin transaction. If the user’s privacy key is lost from a computer crash or virus then it is gone for good. This is because the privacy key is not simple a password that a user can write down, it is a unique algorithm coded for the sole purpose of a digital wallet that manages Bit Coins. (Economist, 2013)
Bit Coin is progressively having its’ impact on the economy. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, Bit Coin entrepreneurs and former for unofficial Facebook engineers, vouch for Bit Coin by suggesting that it could the solution to the current economic issues in the global currency market. Additional Bit Coins are introduced to the digital economy by what is called mining. This happens when Bit Coin network computers engage in a digital problem solving race against each other. When the first computer running on the Bit Coin network renders a solution to the complex algorithmic problem, it is then validated by all the other computers. This validation is what establishes the new value of the Bit Coin and represents its unique process of inflation. (Carmody, 2013)
Bit Coin continues to make its trend-setting impact on the global economy, but its role will have the greatest effect on the international working force. Having a current value of $247 USD to 1 Bit Coin, transactions are not laced with any transaction or conversion fees. Workers living abroad, both blue and white collar, are able to transfer money to any country in the world without having to deal with the fees imposed by what Western Union would charge. Within the next few years, people living in third world countries will be able to make use of Bit Coins as it gives them a form of a bank account that they can use to globally interact with other parties for purposes of business. To take matters even further, Bit Coin may even set the new benchmark for central banks and financial institutions, as they would have to conform to the value and transaction fees of Bit Coin in order to sustain their position in the economy and communicate such information with their clients through social media. (Carmody, 2013)
Of course with all of the benefits of social media in financial advising, there are some risks involved. Financial advisers work in a rather conservative industry, but that doesn’t mean that they are not interested in stepping forward to embrace the advantages of social media to build a brand and grow their business. (Done, 2013)
Since this industry is highly-regulated, advisors must take care when using social media to avoid risks associated with this medium. Proceeding1 with caution must be the order of the day for all advisors if 1they hope to be successful while 1avoiding the pitfalls that await them if they are not 1vigilant in their use of these sites. One of the 1wonderful 1things about social media is that it creates a level of 1transparency that did not exist previously. When it comes 1to financial advisers, this can be a 1double-edged sword. When information is disclosed to the public, it must be transparent, and thus fair, 1to all investors. (Deaconu, 2010) (Done, 2013)
Rumors can get a life 1of their own very quickly online, and 1companies need to take steps to ensure that 1information posted on their Facebook and 1Twitter feeds is accurate. They must 1also respond quickly and 1appropriately to these types of posts to shut down any rumors before they start to spread. Financial 1advisors who receive enquiries from 1their clients can direct them to the appropriate social 1media pages to keep themselves at arms’ length from the rumors. (Done, 2013)
Another risk that may 1arise when financial advisors are 1not interacting with clients and potential1 face-to-face is that they1 lose a certain portion1 of the “personal touch” in these relationships. In 1a personal meeting1 (or even in a telephone 1conversation), the adviser1 can rely on prompts from the1 other person to get a handle on his1 or her level of knowledge about investment products1 and whether1 the information is1 1being completely understood. (Done, 2013)
In1 cyberspace, it’s all too easy to assume1 that a prospect or existing client has a level of sophistication that may not1 actually be present. To respond 1appropriately to client 1expectations, advisors can use the power1 of the Internet to host online 1seminars and virtual 1meetings to educate clients 1about their options. (Done, 2013)
These are excellent1 ways to create an atmosphere of 1trust, which is essential1 to the financial advisor’s 1brand. The relationship 1between the adviser and his1 or her client must go beyond simply discussing 1recommendations without any background1 information about why a particular type of investment would 1be a good fit for that particular client’s 1needs and goals. (Done, 2013)
This is1 not a “one size fits all” type1 of industry, and anyone who tries1 to make all client investment decisions fit into a1 neat little box will not last long in the business. Financial 1advisors must also be on their guard1 that any communications that they 1make on social media sites 1do not violate their clients’ privacy 1 (this concern1 also extends to potential clients as well). (Done, 2013)
Since the 1communication on 1social media sites is interactive, as1 opposed to 1face-to-face or via e-mail, it can1 be very easy for it to appear to have 1crossed this particular line. 1If a client approaches1 an adviser to ask a question on Twitter 1and the adviser responds in a 1manner that is too specific to that person’s1 financial situation, the response may be viewed as violating the client’s 1privacy. It was, after all, answered in a very public1 forum and provided specific advice tailored to 1that 1person’s needs. (Done, 2013)
Ideally, the advice1 would have1 been provided in a private1 1consultation. Since 1financial advisers are also required1to keep detailed records of their correspondence1 with their clients, this rule also applies to social media 1sites. Advisers must have 1some type of system for record-keeping1 to capture this communication to remain in compliance. (Done, 2013)
While there is always 1a risk of a corporate website becoming1 targeted by a hacker, social media also exposes the financial 1adviser’s company to risks. Hackers can take over Facebook pages and 1Twitter feeds, as well as 1websites, of a corporation. (Done, 2013)
If this occurs, 1they can easily access information pulled from private messages on Facebook or post false or misleading information on the 1company’s wall or Twitter feed. To minimize this type 1of threat, clients should be directed to contact their adviser directly with 1questions or concerns rather than through a social 1media site. The caution 1about putting any confidential1 information in1 a private message will have1 to be posted on the financial1 adviser’s Facebook 1page and tweeted out at regular intervals. (Done, 2013)
Existing and potential 1clients need to know that they 1are free to reach out to the adviser at any time but1 that sharing personal information, including 1account numbers and other details, is not recommended1 due to potential 1security concerns. (Done, 2013)
Financial advising will always be engaged in various ways. Social media is on the rise as shown in this study and it is important to consider that fact along with learning how to use it. The chances are, if you engage in some king of financial advising, whether you are the customer or the advisor, social media will play a significant factor.
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