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8 Key Takeaways from SIFMA's 2015 Social Media Event

San Francisco was the perfect backdrop to this year’s SIFMA Social Media Seminar focused on social and digital transformation affecting the financial services industry.
As a first-time attendee, I had the pleasure of being a part of a day’s worth of thought-provoking panel discussions, networking opportunities, and expert insights on the future of social business and the importance of embracing and applying new technologies to meet the demands of an increasingly socially connected world.
Hearsay Social was a platinum sponsor at the sold-out event, which attracted over 100 enthusiastic attendees spanning marketing, business, legal, compliance, wealth advisory, and social media roles.
Clara Shih (@clarashih), CEO and co-founder of Hearsay Social kicked things off in a lively discussion on the ROI of social media during a fireside chat with Tom Sagissor (@SagissorTom) of RBC Wealth Management. Sagissor wasted no time in getting right to the point by stating: “Not being a part of the social and digital transformation can be deadly to your business.”
Here are 8 key takeaways that I gleaned from the panel presentations:
1. The key to social business success is to put social media into your business model. On how to use social media successfully, Sagissor said it’s like buying a Ferrari — what’s the point of buying one if you don’t know how to use it? “With social media,” he said, “the key to understanding how to successfully use it is to put it correctly into your business. If you do so, you will become bigger than you ever imagined.” Wow — seems that ROI is priceless, and social and digital are critical to business success.

2. Consumers are empoweredThe fact that 79% of people have their mobile phones near them for all but 2 hours of their waking day, according to social media experts, is an example of the power that consumers have in their hands (literally!) Point is: consumers have more choices than ever because of the availability of products and information online, and this vast increase in choices has given them leverage over big companies aiming to reach them.
3. Companies must seek to be everywhere at all times. Social media may seem like a scary proposition for some, but Clara Shih reminded us that you’ve got to be in all the places where customers are looking for information and help them find it.  She says, in essence, social and digital have replaced the Yellow Pages and if you’re not present it’s as if you don’t exist.
4. Content really matters.  It was refreshing to see advisors speak on the importance of having good content. For instance, David Amann (@davidamann) of Edward Jones said he uses content to “surprise and delight”. Video will also play an increasingly important role, said Devon Slattery of LinkedIn, especially as we “move toward a democracy based world connecting producers with consumers.”

Ian L. Spronck presenting “Financial Services and Social Success with LinkedIn: How Leading Firms Have Driven Adoption, Changed Behavior, and Improved Performance by Strategically Leveraging LinkedIn”

5. Economic opportunities lie within the demographic shifts taking place. Ian Spronck of LinkedIn Sales Solutions shared two startling facts: Today, 50% of investors now rely heavily on financial websites and blogs, ahead of financial newsletters, periodicals and financial planners, and 70% of wealthy investors have restructured their investments and/or altered relationships based on content found on social media. Not only will demographic shifts have a profound impact on social selling, it will shape potential business opportunities to grow your revenues.
6. Without compliance, businesses can’t get to ‘yes’. One of the more hotly debated topics centered around social media compliance as an essential part to growing a business. To address the challenges, one tip that was offered is to set clear policies and implement technological controls, user agreements, and posting guidelines. On the flip side, Yasmin Zarabi (@yasminzarabi) of Hearsay Social reminded us that it’s fine to just adhere to what FINRA requests, and there’s no need to “make undue limits beyond what FINRA is asking.” Amen.

7. Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s how the world is perceiving it. Vangard’s Shayna Beck shared how listening is important  to your brand in terms of knowing what content to put out there. While some brands see social as an opportunity, others see it as a risk. But the good news is that more brands are realizing that social is not so scary and businesses are now figuring out ways to amplify their brand to reach the right audiences.
8. Social business success boils down to a committed group of people working together to do what has never been done before. It was interesting to see how many conversations centered around the importance of teams working together, whether at the brand level in how you communicate or the advisor level in how you use technology to engage with clients and prospects. Sunayna Tuteja (@sunaynat) of TD Ameritrade says social is a team sport. The bottom line is that social can no longer sit as a silo within an organization and we have to spread it across multiple business lines, mainly marketing, compliance, and distribution.

Wow, what an interesting time to be part of such a transformational shift.
All in all it was a fantastic event and I’m already looking forward to next year!
Check out our events page for upcoming event information, and please join us as we continue the conversation @HearsaySocial.
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Nicole Johnson

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