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5 Simple Steps to Make Your Local Business More Findable on Google

shutterstock_172855088Being findable is core to any business, but it can be especially challenging for local businesses to be findable online when they have to compete for search ranking with national and  global brands. Given that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers, it’s no wonder that local search volume is increasing. This increase in local, mobile search creates a great opportunity for financial advisors and insurance agents that are strongly rooted in their local region and community.
Here  are five  simple steps for making your business more findable online.

1. Claim or Create Your Business on Google and  Google+

Google controls almost 65% of the online search market and if you haven’t listed your location and created your business on Google+ you are missing out. Google tends to favor businesses with local listings. Google doesn’t automatically pull business information from websites, however the steps are easy. Google MyBusiness offers self-explanatory tools to claim or create your location listing. From there, you can expand your Google presence by also creating a Google+ page to connect with people.  Make sure that these listings include accurate business information (that matches your website) and include a link to your local website to close the loop.

2. Add Structured Data to Your Website

The practice of adding hidden SEO keyword tags to your website is a thing of the past. Today, one of the best ways to boost your SEO is to insert structured data into your website code. . Structured data should include the important details of your business, such as business type, location, phone number and hours.  To test whether your website includes the appropriate structured data, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. If you don’t seeing results like the one illustrated below, you’ll need to insert the appropriate structured data code into your website using the guidelines from  You can also check with your website partner or technology provider to get their help in creating and managing structured data to make your business information more findable.

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3. Include Dynamic, Local Content

We’ve heard it a million times, “content is king.”  When your business is connected to a national or global brand, it’s fresh and personal content that is going to help you stand out. If your website has exactly the same content every other advisor or agent at your company (save for the name and address) that is going to hurt your search ranking. The search engine crawlers look  for unique and fresh content. So, make sure your website has content that  represents your unique community business. In addition to having high quality content, your  website should have fresh content and new sources of information  to rank better in search results.

4. Be Active Across Social Networks

Social pages and profiles are your secret weapon for being findable online. More often than not, search results containing a name include listings from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter that show up at the top of the page. Take a look at the results for one of our local financial advisors below.  Right after her business listing, Misty’s  LinkedIn and Twitter pages show up next.
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Step one is creating complete pages and profiles that accurately represent your business. In order to best support your findability, make these pages public, so that the search engine crawlers can see all of your information. By using the same name, address and other information as your website, you are reinforcing that the information is accurate. In addition, adding links to your social profiles from your website helps browsers see that the different web properties are all representing the same business, improving credibility and findability.
Finally, just having complete social presences is good, but actively keeping the content on them fresh is even better. Share tips and thought-leadership across the social networks and update your profile as your role or business changes in order to get even more benefits from social media.

5. Be Mobile Ready

In May of 2015, Google announced that search volume from mobile devices surpassed desktop search activity in the US.  Around the same time, Google also started penalizing websites that are not optimized for mobile viewing. Adapting to the rise in mobile web browsing is important for every business, but it is especially important for local businesses because according to a ComScore study, the majority of mobile searches have local intent.
To be more findable in this mobile era, it is imperative that your website is mobile-ready. Start with testing it out on your phone, and/or using the the Google Mobile Friendly test.  If your website needs some work, your website partner or technology provider should provide some solutions to improve the mobile experience, and optimize for mobile-first activity
If you’ve had a website for a long time, you may have noticed that times have changed.  There used to be all types of secret tips for SEO, ways to essentially trick search engines to rank your page at the top of the results, but todays search engine optimization is much more straightforward.
Search engines are continually getting better at filtering out spammy websites trying to game the system, and improving the rankings of business pages that consumers actually click on. If you have an up-to-date website, and follow the five tips above, you’re well on your way to improving the search ranking and findability of your business.

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Marketing and Compliance Teams Partner for Social Business Success at #FTFSMAC 2015

ftfLast week, the Financial Technologies Forum hosted its annual Social Media and Compliance in Financial Services (#FTFSMAC) conference in New York, and it was every bit as informative and engaging as in years past. The conference featured many interesting presenters and topics around social media and compliance, and brought together representatives from across banking, wealth management, and insurance to discuss and share best practices for successful and compliant social media programs.
I was delighted to lead a session, “The Friend Request: An Honest Conversation Between a Social Media Manager and a Compliance Manager,” and picked up three key takeaways from the event.
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Cross-functional partnership is key

Social business programs must include partnership between cross-functional teams to be successful. Several presenters stated that assembling working groups that consists of members from across marketing, compliance, communication, and practice management is key to the ongoing success of any social business program. In terms of building a successful team, Adam Sherman (@adsher1), Social Media Director, New York Life Insurance, said “everyone has to be on the same page.”  Their organization does this with regular working group meetings that include a combination of all of these functions. When they first started, they met weekly, but were able to scale it to monthly meetings as the program progressed. Similarly, Rick Apicella and Rocco Procopio, both from Morgan Stanley (@morganstanley), employs a cross-functional committee that meets every other week. And “for any effective social media program to work, marketing and compliance must walk hand-in-hand,” says Mr. Apicella.

Change is constant

If there is one thing we’ve learned in this business is that change is bound to happen. According to the presenters, it’s important to know of these industry changes so that you can adapt your programs and policies. Michael Bello, Compliance Director for MassMutual (@MassMutual), joked that the social networks change so much that they were updating their policies as often as once per month.
Joking aside, in the session “Keeping Up with the Cool Kids: Staying Current While Staying Compliant” one panelist mentioned that there had been over 350 “meaningful” social network changes in 2014. These included changes to the social network interfaces, API functionality, new features, and new social networks. He told us it takes a team effort across an organization to keep up with these changes. Others stated it also takes relying on technology vendors, like Hearsay Social, to stay informed of the changes.

Always be educating

FTF’s core message was that education is key for enterprise social media programs. The group discussed two key areas for education: 1) educating compliance and supervision teams on social networks’ functionality, and 2) regularly training employees on a firm’s social media policies and practices.
Moreover, “the key to effective supervision is understanding what you are supervising,” said Michael Bello, Compliance Director, MassMutual. In similar fashion, Corina Roy (@corinaroy), AVP, Digital Experience, MassMutual described what the education process was like when they first started. She even encouraged some of the compliance and supervision professionals to set up their own social profiles so they could really understand the in-and-outs of the social networks.

In addition, regulations require annual training and attestation of a firm’s social media policy, but some say annual training is not enough. Lori Hale, Vice President, Senior Corporate Compliance Officer for Bank of the West, says to make information easily available for social media users as well as provide quarterly updates. Likewise, in-person events, such as advisor sales conferences, are another great opportunity for education. Ms. Roy, for example, has conducted multiple sessions at her firm’s annual sales meetings.
Overall, this year’s FTF SMAC conference fostered great conversation and information sharing on the compliance and social media topics from many levels. It was valuable to hear what different organizations are doing, and I look forward to hearing how they evolve at next year’s event!
If you missed the event, you can still follow the conversation at #ftfsmac.
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Announcing Hearsay Social's New iPad App for Advisors and Agents

At Hearsay Social we understand that financial professionals are always on the go. In fact, there are many advisors and agents who are finding ways to leverage technology to build and manage client relationships more effectively, such as using an iPad to collect client information.
It is our goal to make it as easy as possible for our customers to engage with their clients across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ in a compliant manner. That’s why we are excited today to announce the release of Hearsay Social’s first iPad application for advisors and agents.
Earlier this year, we launched iOS and Android apps to enable our customers to engage with their clients wherever they are. With the iPad app, we have streamlined the technology and optimized the tablet experience, providing them access to the key functionality they already use.
The app offers a unique Content Library experience, including filtering and content views built for the iPad touch screen. Plus, with Hearsay Social’s unique predictive content scheduling, advisors can schedule posts across the social networks, so they stay top of mind, even when they’re not online.

Now, with the new iPad app, advisors and agents can access their Hearsay Social application from any device of their choosing, including a mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Hearsay Social customers can download and access the new iPad app and log in with their existing credentials.
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The Rise of Content Calls for Regulatory and Policy Changes: Insights from FINRA Annual Conference 2015

FINRAACThe financial services industry is clearly undergoing a period of rapid change. At FINRA’s 2015 Annual Conference, key topics of discussion centered on changes surrounding digital content and supervision strategies — which came as no surprise given the proliferation of content and digital communication channels in recent years.
Even today, people around the world are sending roughly 183 billion emails a day and sharing another 1.5 billion photos. This ever-increasing volume of content is having a big impact on regulation as a whole, as well as financial industry regulators who are required to review, monitor, record and retrieve content.
In the session “Top Technology Challenges,” panelists from both large and small firms with diverse business models led the audience through a conversation on the top tech issues facing broker-dealers today, mainly the challenges around communication channels and the required supervision and record keeping we’re all familiar with. Of note, text messaging and the lack of adequate supervisory tools is a big area of concern. This, in combination with Bring Your Own Device “BYOD” programs at firms has compliance professionals concerned about limited ability to supervise advisor-client communication.
Joe Nadreau, Managing Director of the Innovation and Strategy Group of Wells Fargo Advisors shared that they still have to find a better solution for mobile communications, so that their advisors “can communicate with clients the way they want to communicate.” Participants agreed that they can control some of this communication via policy, but that the industry needs to find a better technology solution.

Another challenge is that even advisors with the best intentions can sometimes accidentally break the rules. One example that was shared is when a client, who is also a personal contact, reaches out to an advisor using their personal email or phone number. Joe shared that they caught an advisor who had received work emails to his personal email account and the panelists agreed that this type of breach of policy is a concern, but they have limited way to monitor for it.
With the large volume of communication types that firms are now supervising, the supervision/compliance technologies are also causing areas of concern. The panelists discussed “vendor fatigue” and the issues caused by having multiple systems for compliance review and record keeping.  Jim Webb, Principal and CEO of Cape Securities had such issues with the technologies they were using that they custom built a solution to meet his firm’s needs.
While some of the larger firms discussed looking to large technology companies, (like Apple or Facebook) to drive their technology, it was noted that smaller organizations actually look to the to the larger firms, such as Wells Fargo and Pershing (who were on the panel), to drive innovation and technology decisions. The smaller companies don’t have as much power to influence technology or policy, so they rely upon the larger organizations to influence technology roadmaps provide example use-cases.
In the session, “Communications with the Public: Rule Retrospective and Beyond” representatives from FINRA Tom Pappas and Joe Savage participated on a panel with Rajib Chanda, Partner at  Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Alex Gavis, SVP and Deputy General Counsel FMR/Fidelity Investments where they discussed key takeaways and changes from the Retrospective Rule Review on Communications with the Public. Referring also to this report, a majority of respondents said FINRA should provide increased flexibility and clarity on the application of its rules to social media and mobile communications.
In addition, there was a lot of discussion on the types of content that must be filed for review and what type of changes require re-review.  Regulatory Notice 15-16 was released in response to the Retrospective Review. One type of content they discussed was templates, clarifying that they did not require filing.

Another key takeaway from this session was how receptive FINRA was to exploring better ways to address the disclosure requirements as technology changes. Pappas discussed a variety of options for displaying disclosures and agreed that in today’s age of ever-changing technology, disclosure requirements can be met with a hyperlink, QR code or “info” button. Many of the rules around disclosures were created before the mobile web and social were as prevalent as they are today. And, this evolution of devices and access points, from desktop to laptop to mobile, is making it critical to stay current and revisit how disclosures are displayed.

With disclosures, it was discussed, that firms and advisors must keep the customers in mind.  The goal is to encourage client understanding and awareness, and so, as we consider how they are displayed, we must keep this in mind.

Download our free guide on US Social Media Compliance.
View additional highlights of the 2015 FINRA Annual Conference.
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Highlights from SIFMA's 2015 Private Client Conference

SIFMA’s Private Client Conference, the premier conference for Private Client Groups at all levels, took place on April 8 in Chicago. Although the event has considerable history, much of the conversation centered around the future. Bringing together top industry leaders to discuss the practical and tactical ways to enhance client services and advice, it was telling that the topic of ‘robo-advice’ was mentioned in almost every session.
Remaining Relevant to the Next Generation of Investors
Tim Scheve, President and Chief Executive Officer of Janney Montgomery Scott, kicked off the conference with an idea that would be a recurring theme throughout the day, “When you just maintain the status quo, you are going to be left behind.” Highlighting women and younger investors, Scheve urged that the industry needs a more diverse workforce and to tap into a younger clients if it is going to be successful in the coming decades. According to to Scheve, over half of the households that advisors serve are led by women. Women in the U.S. are responsible for $11 Trillion in assets and that number is on track to grow to over $20 trillion.

During the panel presentation on “The Financial Advisor in the New Economy,”  Lisa Hunt, Executive Vice President of International Services & Special Business at Charles Schwab & Co., also highlighted the necessity for firms to adapt to changing demographics and expectations of investors.

What “Robo-Advisors” Mean to Private Client Services
Speakers at the event shared their comments on the rise of consumer-technology and robo-advice offerings.  Sheve said that it is important for firms to remain focused on serving their clients. “We have an obligation to provide our clients with highly skilled and ethical financial advisors, who can help them meet their financial goals,” he said, following with, “clients want technology that assists their advisor, not replaces him.”

As a representative of Schwab, which recently rolled out its own robo-advice offering, Lisa Hunt, said that advisors shouldn’t be scared about robo-advice technology cannibalizing their business. Hunt described that “the dynamic is changing….it’s more about the client than our advisor. It’s about the client and the client choice.” For Schwab, offering consumers access to robo-advice technology is providing investors the choice to engage with the firm on their own terms.
In line with the offering from Schwab, Brand Meyer, Senior Managing Director and Head of the Independent Brokerage group at Wells Fargo, shared his opinion that technology could be valuable in helping firms build relationships with younger investors who have not yet accumulated the assets to earn the attention of advisors.
Technology to enable and enrich the advisor-client relationship
Continuing the discussion on how technology is affecting the industry, Mary Mack, President and Head of Wells Fargo Advisors, shared her perspective on how consumer technologies such as Amazon, Uber, Apple, and Jawbone are changing client expectations. According to Mack, the use of technology is not just something they are seeing in the younger generation, but rather the effect of these technologies “cuts across all age levels and asset levels.”
In his session, John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, reminded the group to learn from the past. Quoting Shakespeare, he said, ”remember, what’s past is prologue.”
Looking towards the future, in the panel “The Financial Advisor in the New Economy”, James Allen, President, Chairman, and CEO at Hilliard Lyons, shared the importance for financial advisors and their firms to foster and deepen relationships with clients and utilize technology to better engage future heirs and next generation clients.

During the “Trends in Wealth Management Marketing” session, much was also discussed regarding the importance of advisors first being able to “be found” by clients and potential clients in the digital era. The importance of a robust social media presence along with mobile-friendly, local-relevant advisor websites was discussed in the context of optimizing for local search via search engines like Google.

Beyond just being findable, the session concluded by highlighting that there’s also real ROI for those advisors who are enabled with technology for engaging clients. Citing a study by Fidelity, Amanda Smith, Senior Vice President and Head of Marketing at National Financial, shared that digitally-enabled advisors are much more productive when compared to those advisors not using technology in a meaningful way.

Michael Lock, President & COO of Hearsay Social, shared that success using social media starts with building and enhancing client relationships in an industry that has always been social. This application of social media has lead to real ROI with Hearsay Social clients successfully realizing and measuring metrics such as percent growth in client acquisition rates, percent growth in acquisition of new high net worth clients, growth in overall AUM,  growth in referrals, and increase in retention rate.

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4 Tips to Fix Advisor Websites

Nearly every advisor has a website. What’s not as common is a site that engages the target audience and stands out in a crowded digital landscape.
Consumers look for thought leadership and interesting content to determine if an advisor is someone they can trust. As such, your website plays a pivotal role in the client acquisition process. If you want to turn site visitors into clients, here are four things to keep in mind.

1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Thanks to the availability of information on the internet, consumers are now doing more of their own research on financial products and services than ever before.
Once prospects do a Google search for a financial professional and ultimately make their way to your site, what will they see? Content that hasn’t been refreshed since the day your website went live or fresh, relevant material that is an accurate reflection of your current principles, ideas, and differentiated services?
Make sure your site isn’t frozen in time. It’s far easier to update content regularly to demonstrate that you are in touch than it is to make up for lost business as prospects move on to the next advisor that popped up their search results.

2. It should be easy for interested people to contact you.

While social media helps to forge new relationships and email helps to maintain relationships, websites are invaluable because they can convert business. There’s still no better place to put a call-to-action, such as a quote request widget or a “contact me” form.
By combining these conversion mechanisms with thoughtful, relevant content that speaks to your audience, your website can become a great channel to grow your business. So add that form to make life easier for potential clients and yourself — just make sure it’s simple and quick from a user experience standpoint, or risk losing out due to a prospect’s frustration with the interface.

3. Your site should be a hub, supporting other elements of your online presence.

A great website serves as the foundation for an effective multi-channel online presence. It can and should support other online marketing efforts, such as email or social media campaigns.
For example, if a prospect reads your email, but isn’t ready to reach out directly, your website is a great place to send him or her to get to know you and your services on their own time. Make that connection for prospects — it’s as simple as providing a link.
And just as email and social media draw interest and your website amplifies and continues that engagement, the reverse holds as well. Tools are readily available to integrate your social feeds into your site so that content remains consistent, relevant and dynamic across channels. Cross-pollinating your online content will pay big dividends later in terms of both client acquisition and retention.

4. Your site should show that you are a thought leader.

People want to work with experts who are knowledgeable about the services they provide, the communities they serve and the unique individuals they do business with. An effective site gives you a place to showcase your expertise and present your firm as a sought-after professional resource.
While social media is great for sharing quick thoughts, links and photos, it’s impossible to fully convey you and your business in 140 characters. For that, you have your website.
Create a space on your site devoted to your unique insights. Afraid that you won’t be able to fill it? Think about the questions, both common and uncommon, that clients ask and you will find plenty of fodder. Consider the seasons of the year and what they could imply — paying for college, renovating a home, buying a boat, etc.
Once you get started, you’ll have no shortage of ideas to share, consistently replenishing your site with material that reinforces the image you want to project.
To keep up with shifting client expectations, professional websites are evolving from a Yellow Pages-type listing with simple contact information to a full-fledged content and engagement hub. Stay ahead of the curve by building a website that conveys your personal brand and ideas, integrates your social campaigns, hosts living content and provides multiple touch points for prospects.
If you need help creating one, many services will work with your corporate brand to ensure that you are in keeping with company policies and compliant with industry regulations. By making the commitment to building a stronger, better web presence, you will grow your business.
This post was originally published by ThinkAdvisor.
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Embracing and Applying New Digital Tech Emerges as Top Theme at 2015 LIMRA Distribution Conference

At the LIMRA Distribution Conference for Financial Services last week, technology took center stage and book-ended the 2-½ day conference.  Kicking off the conference, James W. Kerley, Chief Membership Officer of LIMRA and LOMA, focused heavily on technology and challenged distribution leaders to embrace social media and digital technology to enable producers to excel in today’s digital world. Jim echoed thoughts he shared at the 2014 conference: sales is changing, and it’s changing faster than ever before. “To be a leader in the digital age,” Jim said, “you must be a digital savvy leader.”

Jim set two key takeaways for the conference attendees:

  1. The need for growth.
  2. The requirement to not only “Think Differently” but to “Act Differently”

The Future of Client Acquisition
The first outside speaker was Greg Bailey, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Athene USA, who covered The Future of Client Acquisition. It seems notable to have a marketing leader on the main stage at a distribution-focused conference, something I imagine that would have been much less likely a decade or more ago when customers where less influenced by digital channels throughout the buying process.

According to Greg, the future growth of this industry relies on a new and innovative approach to distribution. Greg shared, “4 opportunities to shape the future of customer acquisition and realize your potential”: 1. Mobile Technology, 2. Social Technology, 3. Big Data, and 4. Wearable Technology.
Here’s his recap via Twitter:

Finding, Keeping and Managing Clients: How Technology is Changing the Business of Sales

Another technology-focused session was the closing panel moderated by Knut Olson, SVP of Mission Advancement for Thrivent Financial. Knut is so passionate about technology-enabled distribution teams that he said he believes good distribution leaders should act essentially as CTOs.  For this reason, it makes sense that he brought together Michael Lock, President & COO, Hearsay Social with Jaymie Brill who leads Financial Services, for LinkedIn Sales Solutions and Simon Mulcahy who leads Financial Services for Salesforce.  In leading the discussion, Knut shared his the “dream” of a completely integrated content strategy, to empower distribution at Thrivent Financial.

Much of the discussion on the panel was around how technologies like Hearsay Social, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, and Salesforce will continue to evolve, and work together for a seamless customer experience.

Evidence that Distribution Leaders are Embracing Change
This was the third LIMRA Distribution conference that I have attended, and it has been amazing to witness the changing conversation.  Just a few years ago, there was still a focus on “proving ROI” for social and digital initiatives in distribution for financial services.  The focus on technology and evolution at the 2015 conference shows how the industry and its sales leaders recognize that the time to change is now. And, embracing and applying technology is critical for advisors and agents to reach today’s and tomorrow’s customer.

Survey: 66% of advisors report social media has helped them gain new clients

The number of financial advisors who are gaining new clients through social media is growing, according to a survey released by Putnam Investments today.
In the 2013 Putnam survey, 49% of advisors using social media for business indicated that social media had helped them gain new clients. This year that number is up, with 66% of advisors reporting that social has helped them gain new clients.
Putnam Investments 2014 Social Media Survey
The size of the new clients advisors are gaining through social media is growing too. This year, 39% of respondents who reported gaining new clients through social media gained new assets of more than $1 million, with an average gain of $5.5 million. The median booking was almost $2 million in new assets, close to triple the level reported by the 2013 respondents.
It’s also interesting to note that while the business value of social media is becoming more evident for advisors, the percentage of advisors using social has not grown year-over-year, remaining steady at 75% of respondents. LinkedIn remains the top network for advisors, with 64% of advisors reporting that they use the professional social network.
The survey also shares some interesting demographics: women and advisors under 30 are the most likely to use social networks for business. Wirehouse advisors are using social media more than independent advisors or RIAs and are the most likely segment of advisors to gain new clients.
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To learn more, check out the Putnam Investments 2014 Social Advisor Study.

Advisor use of social media matures, regulatory requirements are still a challenge: Recap from #SIFMAsocial


Last week we attended the sold out SIFMA Social Media Seminar in New York City, a one-day event in the heart of Wall Street that brings together experts from a variety of business roles including marketing, business, compliance, and legal, as well as financial advisors, to discuss the expanding use of social media for financial services.

Major themes from the conference included:

  • The financial services industry has greatly advanced its use of social media in recent years, but there is still a lot of opportunity for social media to impact the business.

  • Interpreting regulatory and compliance requirements continues to be a challenge for firms and financial professionals.

  • Social media can be a truly valuable tool for advisors and branches to build their business, especially if they leverage it to expand their client base in a target niche.

Michael Lock (President & COO at Hearsay Social, @michaelhlock) kicked off the seminar with a lively perspective on technology trends and how consumer expectations are changing. In his session, Michael shared some ways in which financial professionals are using social media to build customer relationships. Harking back to a lesson familiar for every good salesperson, he reminded us that social media is about listening first. OnWallStreet author Andrew Welsch (@AndrewWelsch) published a great recap of Michael’s session here.

Here are more key takeaways from the event:

Updates from the social networks

The next session was a panel moderated by Mike White (CMO at Raymond James, @MikeRJF) with financial services industry leaders from LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Mike set the stage with learnings from a roundtable conversation that a group of SIFMA members had shared the day before: “We’ve come a long way over the past few years, but there is still a lot of opportunity,” he said, however, noting “the importance of not looking to social media as a standalone panacea. […] The most successful advisors and firms are looking at it as a piece of an overall marketing program.”

The following conversations from the respective social networks followed these same themes. Some of their insights included:

  • Brad Murphy (Client Partner, Financial Services Vertical at Facebook) described how the Facebook platform has evolved over the past 18 months. Although many business owners have seen a decrease in the organic reach of their pages, Facebook has greatly expanded its targeting ability with its evolving advertising program. Brad specifically referenced new data partnerships, such as with Acxiom, that help financial professionals reach exactly the audience they’re targeting.

  • Jennifer Grazel (Head of Category Development, Financial Services at LinkedIn, @jgrazel) provided insight into the core pillars of focus for LinkedIn: “identity, network and knowledge.” She also explained how the network’s continued push into content publishing and sharing is intended to support the “knowledge” pillar. In addition, she said that LinkedIn’s acquisition of Bizo will support the company’s plans to enable marketers to run nurture programs.

  • Michael Wong (Head of Financial Services at Twitter, @mw145) said that when it comes to content, timing and quality is more important than frequency and volume, citing Vanguard and Motley Fool as two organizations that excel at sharing good content during volatile times. He also predicted that, going forward, the focus will be on developing a mobile experience for end users as well as better analytics to measure effectiveness of campaigns and activity.

Static vs. dynamic content and other regulatory requirements

In the second panel, “Navigating The Web of Social Media Regulation,” Rick Apicella (Morgan Stanley Wealth Management), Thomas Selman (FINRA), Doug Preston (Bank of America Merrill Lynch), and Melissa Callison (Charles Scwhab) discussed the regulatory requirements that govern social media use.

Selman, who is responsible for advertising policy at FINRA, summarized how the regulatory authority thought about social media. They “took a principles-based view of social media,” he said, in order to write regulation that would not have to be changed every time the technology changed. And they “tried to leverage existing rules and terminology” wherever possible instead of introducing new terms. This approach lead to FINRA Regulatory Notices 10-06 and 11-39, which directly address social media.

Supervision and review requirements for social media address two key content categories: “static” content and “dynamic” content. FINRA requires that all static content be pre-reviewed before it is published, and therefore what is categorized as dynamic or static is often a hot topic in conversation amongst legal and compliance professionals.

At this event, Thomas Selman notably commented that “a case can be made for why a tweet is considered dynamic content.” Somebody from the audience even asked him to repeat this because this opinion was in contrast to other interpretations of the regulation that we’ve heard.

“Content is king, and context is queen”

After spending the first half of the day discussing mostly advisor use of social media, the panel “Social Media Strategy & Use at the Corporate Level” specifically zeroed in on corporate and brand use of social media.

Ruth Papazian (HD Vest Financial Services) moderated a discussion with Joe Corriero (Bank of America Merrill Lynch), Kraleigh Woodford (UBS Wealth Management Americas), Jon Pauley (Ameriprise Financial), and Melissa Socci (LPL Financial). This conversation kept coming back to the importance of content, with each team member describing how their respective organization sources, develops and distributes content.

It was especially interesting to hear how firms of different sizes deal with the challenges of creating social content. Joe Corriero, for example, said that Bank of America Merrill Lynch created a “social media newsroom,” which is a regular meeting bringing together all the disciplines (including research, marketing, legal and compliance) to brainstorm and plan their content timelines. And sometimes internal teams aren’t enough. For example, Melissa Socci explained that they occasionally turn to contractors to create additional content pieces like infographics for social media because their traditional, print-first content team doesn’t have quite the right skillset for that. With a much leaner team, Ruth Papazian and her team rely upon the integration of Trapit and Hearsay Social to curate a regular stream of social media content.

Kraleigh Woodford from UBS Wealth Management Americas pointed out that, in additional to the common adage “content is king,” “context is queen.” Kraliegh argued that “it’s the ‘why do I care’ factor” that leads to successful social content. Companies don’t have a shortage of content but they have to be thinking about what people want to consume through social media; feeding them the wrong content, like “linking to a 60-page report,” might not be the be the most effective strategy.

When it comes to a corporate presence and approach to social media in financial services, Melissa Socci said it best: “We are not social media marketing, we are marketing in a social media age.”

Social media strategies for financial advisors and client communication

In the second panel moderated by Mike White (CMO at Raymond James, @MikeRJF), five financial advisors representing Raymond James Financial, Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, Ameriprise Financial, LPL Financial, and Robert W. Baird & Co. shared some of their most successful social media strategies for enhancing communication with clients and prospects.

One theme that stood out? Each of the panelists has found success using social media a little bit differently–depending on their target clients, location, and team structure.

Evan Shear (Branch Manager with Raymond James Financial) uses social media to stay up with what is happening in the lives of his client. One anecdote he shared: he saw via social media that his client had lost a family pet, and so he sent a thoughtful sympathy card and gift. Fueled by what he learns through social media, according to Evan, this type of activity strengthens client relationships and builds deep client loyalty.

Charles Camilleri (Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services) uses social media to stay top of mind and to get the word out to his extended network that he is a financial advisor. Within a week of using social media for business, Charles got a new client referral from a friend of a friend, simply due to the fact that they learned Camilleri’s profession after connecting on LinkedIn.

In addition to the financial advisors on the panel, Dan Swift (Director of Financial Services at LinkedIn, (@danjswift) shared insights into social selling and some of the exciting functionality that LinkedIn Sales Solution provides to help financial professionals. Dan described how LinkedIn Sales Navigator solves for the “now what?” feeling that often accompanies users who are new to social media. He recently spent three months on the road training 160 advisors on social selling with LinkedIn, and they saw some amazing success. Within that same time period, a subset of those financial professionals won over $100 million in new investable assets–impressive ROI for a program that was just getting started!

With the various success stories that can be correlated to a social presence, we think financial professionals would do well to take advice from one other participant on the panel, Jamie Cox (LPL Financial): “You don’t have time to not be on social media.” We would agree.