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See You at the LIMRA LOMA Social Media Conference in San Francisco

LIMRA_welcome_InstaWith one-of-a-kind attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Ferry Building Marketplace  – not to mention what’s expected to be great weather – we’re excited to welcome you to our hometown of San Francisco next week for the 2015 LIMRA LOMA Social Media Conference for Financial Services (#LLSMC)!
Stop By the Hearsay Social Booth (#21)
Head over to our booth (#21) to catch up with our team members, get tips on how you can use social and digital technologies to grow your business, and pick up some great swag.
Win a Pair of Beats by Dre
Drop off your business card at our booth for a chance to win a pair of Beats by Dre. The winner will be announced Friday, August 21, during the morning break at 9:00 AM. For additional chances to win, take a photo of your hotel keycard at your favorite spot in the city and tweet us @hearsaysocial using #LLSMC.
Check Out Hearsay Social’s Presentations
We’re hosting several presentations on Thursday, August 20, including a TED-style talk with Hearsay Social CEO and founder, Clara Shih (@clarashih), a fireside chat that explores how MassMutual (@massmutual) built a successful social business program for its financial professionals, and the Silver Bowl Awards:

Thursday, August 20
9:00 – 9:20 AM

“Survival of the Fittest: The Rise of the Omni-channel Advisor”
Grand Ballroom A
As consumer expectations change with each technological innovation, every financial services and insurance company today is struggling with determining the best channel to reach the social, mobile client. Legacy channels seem inadequate, while the rise of robo-advice firms, insurance comparison sites and direct-to-consumer offerings look to disrupt the industry. Will the “digitization of everything” mark the beginning of the end for traditional agency business? Join Hearsay Social’s CEO and founder, Clara Shih (@clarashih), for a TED-style talk where she’ll share her perspectives on potential outcomes and what financial services leaders and marketers must do to help advisors adapt, be more productive and thrive in a world where technology advancements and innovation are only accelerating.

Thursday, August 20
10:30 – 11:30 AM
“Best Practices for Building a Strategic Social Business Program: A Fireside Chat with Corina Roy, MassMutual”
Regency A
In an industry built on relationships and trust, financial services firms must not only have a strong corporate presence on social media, but also a strong presence for their financial professionals to reach local communities and the clients they serve. Join Corina Roy (@corinaroy), assistant vice president of digital and customer experience at MassMutual, and Abhay Rajaram (@abhayrajaram), vice president of global customer success at Hearsay Social, to hear how MassMutual (@massmutual) developed a social media program for its financial professionals, how it’s driving higher adoption and productivity on social, and where it’s headed next.
Thursday August 20
11:30 – 12:15 PM
3rd Annual Silver Bowl Awards Presentation co-hosted by Hearsay Social and LIMRA
Grand Ballroom A
The annual #SilverBowlAwards recognize excellence, innovation and achievement in the use of social media in the financial services industry. This event is the big reveal of the 2015 winners, which this year includes some brand-new categories recognizing industry trends in social media. Come to this presentation to congratulate your peers and get an inside look into the winning campaigns.
On behalf of the entire Hearsay Social team, see you there!

Leading by example: Empowering the next generation of distribution managers at GAMA LAMP 2014

“Leadership requires us to take risks and risks help us become great managers.”

So said Howard Elias during his opening keynote at GAMA International’s 2014 Leadership and Management Program (LAMP) conference. As GAMA’s retiring president and CEO of Guardian Life Insurance’s Wealth Advisory Group, Howard drew on his decades of leadership experience as he addressed the event’s more than 2,700 attendees. His session focused on the important role distribution leaders have in delivering value to their clients and in keeping the industry relevant to future generations. This was a sentiment that was shared by speakers throughout the conference.

Hearsay Social was excited to be among the event’s participants. Thank you to everyone who came to our sessions or stopped by our booth.  For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are some of the best takeaways we discovered.

The value of transparency and trust

Robert Krumroy, founder of Identity Branding and creator and CEO of, reminded the audience that they need to build trust and foster relationships before the sales process can begin. “No one cares about your company, commodity or brand,” he said, “… you need to educate your customers. And if you’re not doing it, you have to ask who is.”

Other key points he addressed included:

  • “Stop sending drips and start sending tips.” The most effective advisors use the Internet to share financial information their clients may find useful.

  • “79% of people are more likely to buy from someone they have a connection with. You can’t set an appointment with a prospect until they have emotional safety.”

  • “Social media is not a replacement for social connection. Don’t dismiss the value of using your database to nurture relationships over time.”

Getting down at the Denim & Diamonds Bash
From left to right: Jean Paul LaBelle (Strategic Account Executive, Hearsay Social, @jplabelle), Bonnie Godsman (Vice President, Corporate Relations, GAMA), Clara Shih (CEO, Hearsay Social, @clarashih), Gary Liu (Vice President, Marketing, Hearsay Social, @garycliu) and Shawn Davis (Senior Vice President, Transamerica, @shawncdavis).

How social media and big data are transforming distribution

Next on the stage was Clara Shih, Hearsay Social’s CEO and Founder. In her session, Clara discussed how social media and big data are helping financial services firms address the challenges of the evolving industry.

“People don’t want to buy from institutions,” Clara said, “they want to buy from people they know.” Customers share over 1 billion buying signals each day and advisors who have insight into “three or more life events” are more productive, see an average of a 10% increase in sales and are more likely to get customer referrals.

Clara Shih at GAMA LAMP 2014
Establishing trust and relevancy have never been more important for financial services firms. “Social media is a key way consumers validate their purchasing decisions,” said Clara. “But consumers across all generations still prefer to engage with trusted advisors face-to-face. Today’s technologies should enhance your producers activity. Help them become more successful by encouraging them to tie their digital activities to their real world channels.”

The dawn of the superhuman advisor

In a special Leaders of Tomorrow and Today (LOTT) session, Jason Suen, Hearsay Social’s Director of Customer Success, was joined by Eileen Forrest, Head of Sales Support, AXA Advisors & President, AXA Network, Robert Keorkunian, Regional Director at Modern Woodmen of America, and Desi Doise, State Manager at Woodmen of the World. Their session focused on key tactics financial services firms could implement to drive social business success.

Not surprisingly, compliance was initially a key concern for each of the panelists and their firms. “We started our social media program three years ago as a pilot with a focus on compliance,” said Eileen. “Hearsay Social made it possible to use social media as a marketing program,” a transition that was echoed by the other panelists. As their firms began to embrace digital channels, social media training and access was offered to more and more producers in the field.

Other key takeaways included:

  • Top social networks: “Facebook and LinkedIn are the ones we use the most,” said Robert. Desi agreed. “We use LinkedIn a lot for recruiting,” he said. “By the time we speak with candidates, they already know something about our firm.”

  • Digital replaces other forms of advertising: “We’ve gone from Yellow Pages and mailers, to social where it’s all about giving our clients and prospects quick access to information,” said Robert.

  • Provide social media access and training: “We’ve rolled out our social business program to all of our advisors,” said Eileen. “But before getting access, they need to go through a three-part compliance training program. We also offer a weekly opt-in social media class that covers a variety of topics.”

  • Know your audience: To use social media effectively, advisors need to strike a balance between business, educational and fun content. “We encourage our advisors to share different types of content,” said Eileen. “There should be a 5:1 ratio of fun to business posts,” agreed Robert. “Keep your posts to a schedule and 3-5 posts per week is a good number to shoot for.”

Recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent

The issues of the aging advisor workforce, and challenges of recruiting (and retaining) new talent were discussed throughout the conference. In our next post, we’ll share the best advice we heard for attracting millennial candidates, effective recruiting strategies and empowering new advisors to be successful from day one.

Moving social business from optional to business critical: Insight from the SIFMA Social Media Seminar

Recently, we were excited to participate in SIFMA’s Social Media Seminar in our hometown of San Francisco. The event brought together industry leaders to discuss the rapidly evolving role social media is playing in financial services, share best practices for driving brand awareness, and provide practical advice on compliance and legal issues.
For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are the best takeaways we heard at the event.

The Next Digital Frontier for Financial Services

Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih presented the event’s keynote where she described how firms could use the power of social media to amplify their brands and grow business. Specifically, she focused on key challenges and opportunities the industry faces in 2014.
Key challenges:

  • Changing Customer Expectations: The rise of the digital age has fundamentally changed how consumers interact with brands, request customer support and make purchasing decisions.
  • Aging Advisor Population: As the age of an average advisor increases, firms are struggling to replace them fast enough. “Subsequently, the number of advisors in the workforce has fallen to record lows,” said Clara.
  • Broken Distribution Model: Digital is emerging as a sales channel, but it works best for selling simple products that are based on price consideration, not complex products that require advice and explanation.

Clara presenting at #SIFMASocial
Clara presenting at #SIFMASocial

“Now, more than ever, financial services firms are in the trust and relationship business,” Clara explained. “The role of social media is not about replacing advisors, it’s about enhancing their abilities, making them superhuman … by enabling them to quickly and easily find information about their clients and prospects.”
Increasingly, consumers are going online to research and validate purchasing decisions. Social media provides a unique way for producers to get insight into the needs and interests of their clients and prospects. “Advisors who know about three money-in-motion life events—such as career changes, marriages and births—see on average a 10% gain in productivity,” she said. “It’s time for producers to take those online conversations offline to provide the most value to their clients.”
Additionally, social media can help firms attract and retain the next generation of talent. “Millennials don’t want to cold call… Empower your younger advisors to use the tools they are most familiar with,” she said.
In closing, Clara spoke about the future of social business in enterprise organizations. “Social media initiatives have moved from a siloed side-project in marketing to an executive and board level priority. It’s time to take social business from optional to a must have.”

A Conversation with Leaders of Social

The next session featured a panel discussion with Jennifer Grazel (Global Head of Category Development, Financial Services, LinkedIn), Dan Greenberg (Account Manager, Financial Services, Twitter), Keith Watts (Financial Services Business Lead, Facebook), and moderator Mimi Bloom (Director, Digital and Social Channels, Charles Schwab & Company, Inc.). The participants discussed the current thinking and best practices for social media that the top social networks have observed from their financial services clients.

  • “Financial services firms are rebuilding consumer trust through the use of social media,” said Dan. “Consumers have a predisposition to make certain decisions. We see that they use social media to validate those decisions by getting feedback from their connections and to discover other service providers.”
  • “If content is currency, then context is queen” explained Jennifer. “When you’re creating content, ask yourselves how it drives utility and is relevant to your audience—what’s in it for them.”
  • The tone used for content is crucial. “The most effective work we see financial services firms doing is more personal and authentic,” said Keith. “Talk more to the emotional value you bring to people’s lives. “

Mobile device usage is also changing the way users consume social media. Content should be optimized for small screens and be visually appealing. “We’re seeing a real shift towards visual and rich media,” said Dan. “Easily consumable content, such as videos and infographics, works well.”

From left to right: Keith Watts, Dan Greenberg, Jennifer Grazel, and Mimi Bloom
From left to right: Keith Watts, Dan Greenberg, Jennifer Grazel, and Mimi Bloom

Firms can amplify their brand and messaging by enabling their employees to participate in social conversations. “Your employees have a huge impact on extending your reach,” said Jennifer. “Social media is a magnifying force,” agreed Dan. “Tie your social programs to your overall media plan to get the most insight into your follower metrics.”
But regardless of the content firms produce, it’s only valuable if it has an audience. “Social is a medium that let’s you tell your story in an authentic way,” said Keith. “But you have to find your audience.” Promotions may help make content top-of-mind, but “good organic content” is needed to make those initiatives worthwhile.
The session ended with a lightning round where Mimi asked the panelists about the biggest social media challenges financial services will face this year. Two factors stood out. First was the ability for organizations to establish a social business culture. Referencing Clara’s earlier presentation, Dan commented that, “your social programs need to be driven from the top down—exec involvement is a critical factor for success.” Keith agreed, saying firms needed “the adequate resources to do social correctly.” Additionally, firms need to work on driving the value of social media further down the sales funnel. “Right now, social is a driver in getting consumers’ attention,” said Keith. “But we know there’s value in driving long-term customer engagement and satisfaction.”

Navigating the Web of Social Media Regulation

This highly anticipated session featured compliance guidance from speakers Thomas Selman (Executive Vice President, Regulatory Policy, FINRA), Mitchell Bompey (Managing Director, Legal and Compliance Division, Morgan Stanley), Douglas Preston (Senior Vice President and Compliance Executive, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch), and moderator Barbara Stettner (Partner, Allen & Overy).
Today, clients can potentially endorse or recommend an advisor effortlessly through their social media channels. And this has been a great concern for regulatory bodies. The SEC is expected to release formal guidelines later this year advising firms how they can avoid adoption and entanglement issues related to endorsements and ‘likes.’ Until then, the panelists explained, firms must rely on current guidance from FINRA and other regulators. At a minimum, they recommended that firms prohibit their producers from enabling the ‘Endorsements’ feature on LinkedIn, and monitor archive Facebook ‘likes.’ Firms were also recommended to add a prominently placed disclaimer on advisors’ social media profiles stating that neither they nor the firm encouraged third-parties to post content and are not responsible for the accuracy of such content.

A Deep Dive into Social Media Strategies for Financial

Later in the afternoon, a panel of advisors described how they use social media to connect with clients and prospects. Panelists included Karen Kehr (Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial, Inc.), David Amann (Financial Advisor, Edward Jones), Lynn Ballou (Managing Partner, Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors, LLC and Registered Principal, LPL Financial), Scott Poore (Financial Advisor and Director of Investment Solutions, Wunderlich Securities, Inc.) and moderator Wesley R. Long (Executive Vice President, Head of Private Client Securities Group, Wedbush Securities).
The panelist reported that LinkedIn was the network they most often used for business, but Facebook was a great way to let their clients know more about them. “I typically update my Facebook page two or three times a week,” said Karen. “I publish more content on LinkedIn because my clients are more comfortable getting messages there, but Facebook is great for sharing pictures and other fun information.”
Authenticity and relevancy are key to engaging with clients and prospects. “The posts that have done best [for us] are those that resonate with our clients,” said Scott. “Before I post, I ask myself ‘Is this content timely? Is it relevant to my clients … Does it help my team be more productive?’” When asked why they started using social media, most said traditional marketing methods were ineffective. “Reaching out to clients by phone is dead,” said Scott. “But 60% of the clients I contact through LinkedIn InMail reply back. It’s a great way to [set up] follow up appointments.” Lynn added, “We started by blogging. At first it wasn’t specifically focused on business, but our clients started sharing it on social and we began reaching out to them there, too.”
For the final question of the session, Wesley asked each panelist what was the biggest benefit they got out of social media. Lynn’s answer summed up their responses. “It helps us set up more meetings, and makes client follow-up more routine and efficient.”

No longer optional

By the end of the day, it was clear that social media is no longer optional for financial services firms. As a key business initiative, driven from the top down, social business is providing firms an indispensable business advantage.
Learn more:
Proud to expand our partnership with SIFMA to help you drive social business best practices
How social media helps Wall Street regain the trust of Main Street: Takeaways from SIFMA Annual,
part 2

4 ways Wall Street will regain the trust of Main Street: Takeaways from SIFMA Annual, part 1

JFAM West: Financial services professionals build trust through social media

Trust is the most important factor to financial professionals when making their buying and partnering decisions, according to a recent survey.
With this conclusion, Daniel Rothman of the Financial Times set the stage for Friday morning at JFAM West, a forward-thinking event focused on how financial services marketing will transform in the coming months and years. Technology or not, trust always tops a financial professional’s wish list.
And yet, more and more professionals today rely on social media to establish that trust.
“Social media and the advent of mobile devices has fundamentally changed what people expect from businesses,” said Hearsay Social CEO Clara Shih. “We expect to be able to talk to our colleagues and friends before making significant decisions about what to buy and whom we choose as our financial representative or advisor.”
After her opening remarks, Clara sat on a panel with technology and marketing leaders from LinkedIn, BlackRock, Franklin Templeton, and Intuit to discuss how that fundamental shift is playing out.

For example, Eileen Loustau (Global Director, Social Media, iShares/Blackrock) shared that 89% of professionals said they are more likely to purchase a product based on their financial organization doing social media right. That’s an incredible statistic showing just how crucial the new channel has become.
Increasingly, panel participants agreed, the financial services industry must not just allow but actually expect financial representatives to share information online with their business partners. Hurdles to adoption, like compliance restrictions or the lack of tools, are slowly dropping away.
One technology breakthrough Matt Dunn (Director, Social Strategies, Franklin Templeton) and the other panelists especially showed interest in was “social signals,” messages and cues made on social networks that indicate life events, like the birth of a new baby, moving to a new home, or a job change. Such cues offer a tremendous opportunity for advisors to keep in touch with their clients and continue to offer financial guidance.
Explore our blog and website to learn more about compliant social sales and marketing for financial services.