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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.
Download our Executive Report on the Advisor of the Future today!
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How social media helps Wall Street regain the trust of Main Street: Takeaways from SIFMA Annual, part 2

In my previous blog post, I summarized takeaways from the SIFMA Annual Meeting, where financial services leaders, regulators, and policymakers converged to discuss the theme of the conference (“Helping Americans Succeed, Helping Main Street Prosper”) and how financial institutions can restore the public’s trust and confidence in the industry.

Hearsay Social executives Michael Lock and Kristin Shevis with President Bill Clinton at SIFMA Annual Meeting 2013. In the event’s opening keynote, Clinton said that trust is critical and must be rebuilt; in order to do this, he said that one has to “go local.”

Restoring the public’s faith in the financial industry will take some work, but SIFMA CEO and Senator Judd Gregg highlighted 4 ways to do just that:

  1. Putting clients first

  2. Investing in America

  3. Driving transparency and cooperation

  4. Educating on the importance of the market economy and financial literacy

I would offer an additional strategy to enhance and accelerate the above recommendations. Specifically, investing in technology and training for our advisors, broker-dealers, and wealth managers on using social media to better reach Main Street and clients.

Social media is a key way to drive transparency, empower the public, and re-establish trust. It can enhance how businesses reach their clients and give firms a personality.

How exactly? Here are 4 tried and true principles that existed well before Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+, but ring more true than ever in the social media era.

1. Be where your customers are

At a recent advisor conference I had the privilege to attend, it was highlighted that over 93% of US online adults who have a financial advisor have an active social media account. That’s not surprising since over 1.7 billion people now have a social network account on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+. Social media (done compliantly) is an invaluable platform to engage with clients.

Not being on social media as an advisor, on the flip side, is like not showing up to the cocktail party that your clients attended: you’ll miss out on talking to them firsthand about their lives and interests. Put another way, could you imagine if 93% of your customers were distributing information via email, but you didn’t have an email address?

2. People buy from people, not corporations

Former Senator Judd Gregg, SIFMA’s CEO, at SIFMA Annual Meeting. See more highlights on SIFMA’s website:

We’ve all heard this and, as consumers, we all know this. The same applies in the financial services world. In fact, it is actually more poignant to financial services institutions, whose brands have been tarnished by the financial crisis.

To address this, President Clinton said it best when he said trust is critical and must be rebuilt; in order to do this, he said that one has to “go local.” In the social media world, this means allowing advisors and agents to engage with their clients one-to-one over social media, as opposed to having a company page on Facebook and corporate Twitter handle that someone monitors. While required, that is not going to be the way to establish trust.

As E.F. Hutton said, this has to be done “one investor at a time,” and social media platforms like Hearsay Social enable advisors to do that compliantly and at scale.

3. Listen before you speak

In other words, “know your customer.” With over 1.7 billion people on social networks, including 98% of the US online population, there’s a wealth of information to be gained. Clients are sharing information at an increasing rate on social media that before would only surface during a face-to-face meeting. Life events like a new job, marriage, new baby, or a home purchase are all key “social signals” that can arm an advisor to better service clients and their needs.

4. Be human

In other words, be authentic, be cooperative, and be a resource. Social media allows everyone to have a voice, which can be an asset when done right but a liability when done wrong. People don’t want to be sold to on social networks. They want to hear from experts and engage with people who have interests similar to theirs, both personally and professionally.

Beginning with the end in mind, if the goal of the financial services industry is to help Main Street prosper and re-establish trust, enabling financial advisors and wealth managers to become trusted advisors means enabling them to be the credible experts they are. This requires listening (see #3 above) and then sharing information that clients find relevant, valuable, and timely. Over time, clients will view the advisor as a tremendous resource and someone who they trust and want to hear from on a regular basis both online and offline.

Social media enables advisors and their firms to educate the public in a transparent way, especially as trust and influence have decentralized from traditional institutions to individuals.

How Hearsay Social helps financial firms

Hearsay Social enables financial service firms and its employees to be compliant using social media across all devices, thereby meeting the supervision, monitoring, and record retention requirements defined by regulators such as FINRA and the SEC. In addition, by distilling social media posts and communications into relevant social signals important to a financial services professional, Hearsay Social enables financial advisors, wealth managers, and asset managers to engage the right people with the right message at the right time – a big step forward in delivering high quality service and becoming the much sought-after “trusted advisor.”

While social media is not the silver bullet to re-establish Main Street’s faith in Wall Street, it is a critical communication channel for a two-way dialogue and relationship-building that financial services firms, their leaders, and their advisors can no longer leave behind.