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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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#HSonAir Employee Spotlight Series: Interview with Meagan Herfkens Hency of Hearsay Social

meagan herfkens hencyIn lucky episode 13 of Hearsay Social On the Air we continue our employee spotlight series by introducing Meagan Herfkens Hency (Director of Product Marketing, @mherf) to discuss how we position Hearsay Social products and services in the market to connect with new customers and to enrich the relationships with our existing clients.
We also discuss our participation in industry events with a review of the SIFMA Social Conference in New York City. Listen to the podcast below and don’t forget to join @VictorGaxiola and @ronnykerr on Twitter to be a part of the conversation using hashtag #HSonAir!
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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.


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

Insights from LinkedIn, Raymond James, and Hearsay Social at the SIFMA Social Media Seminar

Another week, another successful SIFMA Social Media Seminar (#SIFMAsocial). Executives and thought leaders across the financial services industry met in New York City yesterday to explore the rapidly evolving social media space and what it means for you, our customers.

“A Conversation with Social Media Leaders” at SIFMA Social Media Seminar, from left to right: Kristin Shevis (Director, Financial Services, Hearsay Social); Jana Friedman (Senior Sales Manager, Twitter); Jennifer Grazel (Global Head of Category Development for Financial Services, LinkedIn); Jayme Lacour (Social Media Director, Putnam Investments); and moderator Steven M. Samuels (Managing Director, Strategy Execution Client Solutions and Segments Group, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, SIFMA Private Client Services Committee)

The seminar succeeded in bringing a wide and varied range of perspectives: we heard from social network executives (LinkedIn and Twitter), we heard from financial advisors (Ameriprise, Wunderlich Securities, and Raymond James), and we heard from SIFMA and FINRA themselves.

Here are a few of our best takeaways from the event:

Share content on social media to be relevant

Kicking off the day was a session featuring social media leaders from LinkedIn, Twitter, Putnam Investments, and Hearsay Social.

Many advisors value LinkedIn most among the social networks because that’s where they find their customers. That was one of many findings Jayme Lacour (@jjlacour, Social Media Director, Putnam Investments) presented from a new Putnam survey on Financial Advisors’ Use of Social Media. Twitter is also growing in usage.

Even on LinkedIn, the way advisors use the network is in flux. The first use case, according to Jennifer Grazel (@jgrazel, Global Head of Category Development for Financial Services, LinkedIn), was building a prospect base. In addition, more advisors are using the platform to stay informed through LinkedIn Today, which serves as a custom newspaper for your industry. One specific thing she noted is that broker dealers are realizing that, to be relevant on social media, they need to be sharing content.

Our own Kristin Shevis (@SheviNY, Director, Financial Services, Hearsay Social) confirmed this, highlighting it as one of the four steps to social business success: get found, grow your network, research and act on social signals, and then–through shared content–build credibility.

Show your clients you care

In an afternoon session hosted by Mike White (CMO, Raymond James Financial and Co-Chair, SIFMA Private Client Services Committee), we heard firsthand from advisors at top financial firms, including Ameriprise, Wunderlich Securities, and Raymond James.
Betsy L. Billard (@fabulousmoolah, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, Private Wealth Advisor, Ameriprise) shared a real story of how she gained new business through social media: a college connection from years ago saw that she was speaking at a SIFMA conference and connected with her on Facebook. Now he’s CMO at his company and a huge client of hers.
Andrew Bloom (@AbloomBloom, VP, Financial Advisor, Wunderlich Securities) mentioned Hearsay Social being incredibly versatile for his social media use. If he reads something interesting, he posts it through our platform. Agreeing with earlier comments from Betsy, he also said he relies on a close relationship with compliance so that he knows he’s using social media correctly.

Another advisor on the panel, Timothy McNeely (@mcneelyfs, Branch Manager, Independent Contractor Division, Raymond James), said he researches his clients on Facebook because he believes they appreciate that he takes an interest in their lives. One example: he saw a client mention on Facebook buying a piece of art, so the next time he saw her, he discussed it with her, demonstrating that he cared about her and her interests.

Compliance wants to help, not hinder

Of course, you can’t have a social media-focused financial services event without talking about compliance. Thankfully, the conversation has shifted from “how do we prevent this” to “how do we enable this in a safe and compliant manner.”

Joseph E. Price (VP, Advertising Regulation and Corporate Finance, FINRA) compared social media to another popular communications tool: the phone. When FINRA first addressed social media, some worried social networks would make it easier to commit fraud. The truth is, however, FINRA couldn’t block people from using phones any more than they could block social media. So, instead, they provide guidance.

In a later session, we heard loud and clear that the times are changing, when Melissa Callison (VP, Communications Compliance, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc) said it’s “such a good time to be a compliance officer.” More than ever, compliance wants to play an active role in enabling social media. They’re not just saying “no” anymore.

All in all, we found the SIFMA Social Media Seminar to be extremely helpful, and we’re already looking forward to SIFMA’s next event. Feel free to share your own takeaways in the comments!