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3 strategies to overcome social media challenges in wealth management

Article first appeared on thewealthnet on Tue, Dec 9, 2014.

logoThe wealth management industry has been slow to embrace and understand how to harness the power of social networks in their organizations. However, with a billion people on Facebook and 200 million on Twitter and LinkedIn each, there’s no question that your customers – both young and old – are already there. Clients today expect their advisors to interact more often, to offer them more personalized service and to communicate when and where they want.
A recent 2014 survey by PAM Insight of financial advisors shows that, compared to last year where only 67.9% used Linkedin, this year that number has increased to 83%. The other network that was mentioned was Twitter with 54% having corporate Twitter accounts. The future also seems bright for social media initiatives with over 72% planning to increase spend in the next year.
Hearsay Social recently had the opportunity to dig behind these numbers when it partnered with Financial Services Forum to host a meeting with heads of marketing from some of the largest wealth management firms in UK. A roundtable discussion on the state of social media and the challenges facing this industry brought to light three key challenges and strategies to overcome perceived barriers:

Risk

When it comes to the biggest barriers in adopting social, compliance and risk took center stage. PAM Insight reports that “as with previous year’s survey, 66.7% of advisors stated compliance as the main concern.” But the problem here was less about specific requirements and more about the fact that there is no clarity on what the rules are, which has paralyzed many companies into taking no action.
Recent guidelines from FCA were applauded by the group to be a move in the right direction but there were still a lot of questions on what FCA will and will not accept. There was agreement that the industry can’t wait indefinitely for the rules to be clear, so companies should start by implementing some basic social media strategies:

  • Provide advisors with a pre-approved library of content
  • Enable a workflow to automate content approval
  • Adopt a third-party system to capture social conversations and archive it.

Content

Another area that sparked a lot of conversation amongst the group was content. How do you differentiate your content from your competitors? How do you ensure that your content is not “spam” for your customers? And, more importantly, how do you shape the conversation on social media?
This concern was consistent with PAM Insight’s finding that showed 64.3% of respondents were concerned about lack of control on what content is communicated. After much discussion on this topic, attendees agreed that the best strategy to overcome content issues is education. Education on how to represent yourself online in a manner that is true, trustworthy and personal. Education on the right type of content for the right audience. And education on regulatory risk and social media policies of the company.

Timeliness

Most participants feel that social media moves too fast. If you want to be on social media channels, you need to be prepared to respond in time. Many people spoke about the compliance process and the length of time it takes, often making social conversations less relevant by the time they are ready.
Since introducing any change takes time, it is imperative that companies start now to understand what social media can do for them and take incremental steps to help their people build relationships online. Creating cross-functional teams with marketing, sales and compliance and educating themselves on how social media works are a couple strategies that can help with timeliness and embracing these new channels of communication.
Overall the impact and benefits of social media dominated the conversation. This is again in line with the survey results of PAM Insight. The survey showed that 61% of advisors believed “building industry presence and credibility” was the biggest benefit. While 44% said attracting clients and retention of existing clients (80%) were important benefits of social media.
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Advisor use of social media matures, regulatory requirements are still a challenge: Recap from #SIFMAsocial

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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.

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Congratulations to the newest class of Gramercy Institute's 20 Rising Stars!

Gramercy Institute 20 Rising StarsThe Gramercy Institute, a network of senior marketers from the world’s leading financial institutions, this week celebrated 20 up-and-coming leaders in the financial services marketing industry.
The people listed below run the gamut: some are responsible for traditional activities like brand strategy and advertising while others are driving rapidly evolving projects like digital marketing and social media content strategy.

  • Jared Barchus, Marketing & Brand Strategy, Morgan Stanley
  • Kimberly Bindra, Director, Duff & Phelps
  • Wendy Buzzeo, Director, Digital Marketing, MetLife
  • Tricia Conboy, Director of Advertising, Sun Life Financial
  • Katie Cowley, Marketing & Communications Manager, Aberdeen Asset Management
  • Kathleen Gambarelli, Digital Media Manager, Ptarmigan Media
  • Claire Good, Associate Director, Sullivan
  • Rohini Gupta, AVP, Global Advertising, Natixis Global Asset Management
  • Michael Herrera, SVP, Digital Marketing, Citi
  • Tom Hughes, Vice President, Marketing, Allianz Global Investors
  • Stephanie Lynch, Associate, Goldman Sachs
  • Wendy Marcone, SVP, Global Banking & Markets Marketing, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Shantini Munthree, Head of Brand Management, Vanguard
  • Janelle Nowak, Social Media Content & Channel Strategy Manager, Capital One
  • David Partain, VP-Digital Strategist, Northern Trust
  • Justin Pesola, SVP, Digital Media, Citi
  • Hunter Ricks, Digital Marketing Strategist, Lincoln Financial Group
  • Geoffrey Sanders, SVP, Digital Marketing, Citi
  • Shayaan Seraj, Digital Media Supervisor (TD Bank Group), Starcom Mediavest
  • Chad K. Smith, Head of Global Content Syndication, BlackRock
  • Ashley Sobel, Associate Director, The Media Kitchen
  • Nicole Stonehouse, Vice President, State Street Global Advisors
  • Leah Weis, Marketing Manager, Digital, E*TRADE Financial

They’re each crucial not only to their respective organizations, but also to driving new success and innovation in the financial services industry. Congratulations to all of you who made the list!
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3 ways advisors can use social media content to connect with clients

thinkadvisor-logoSharing compelling content is the most effective way to engage an audience on social. The challenge is that there is an endless supply of material coming from every possible direction. At a certain point, it all just starts to sound like noise.
So how can advisors rise above that noise to deliver information of value to their customers? How do you decide what’s best for your social channels?
Hearsay Social recently signed content partnerships with Broadridge, Life HappensNewsCred and Trapit so that agents and advisors can always access high-value, compelling industry and general interest content to share on s­­ocial and engage their audiences.
By working with these great companies, we’ve come up with a few important tips for social media publishing that will help investment professionals clear through the clutter to drive meaningful interactions with clients.
Continue reading this article over at ThinkAdvisor.
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Social media compliance updates from FINRA’s Advertising Regulation Conference

Hearsay Social last week participated in FINRA’s Advertising Regulation Conference in Washington DC., where we learned from industry and FINRA experts about regulatory updates and clarifications and gained practical guidance on social media compliance issues.

At the panel on “Social Media and Mobile Considerations” (photo at right), the packed audience was eager to hear from Joseph E. Price (VP, Advertising Regulation and Corporate Finance, FINRA), Melissa Callison (VP of Communications Compliance, Charles Schwab), Mitchell Bompey (Managing Director, Morgan Stanley), and Amy Sochard (Director, Advertising Regulation, FINRA)

This year, social media and mobile compliance took center stage as FINRA dedicated two sessions to highlighting the importance of technology in the financial services industry.

Some of the key topics covered by FINRA and industry experts included:

  • Supervision – Compliance and marketing departments can coordinate to produce valuable and relevant content in a compliant manner. Melissa Callison, VP of Communications Compliance of Charles Schwab, illustrated that the big “a-ha” moment at her organization came when compliance realized marketing is good at creating content, but not supervision, so compliance worked closely with its marketing business partners to practice producing compliant content. As a result of marketing and compliance’s collaboration, their marketing team has a better understanding of the rules.
  • Third-party content – FINRA noted that its advertising rules do not automatically apply if a firm or broker/dealer is linking to third-party content. The rules only apply if such content is “adopted” – embraced or involved in “entanglement.” A standing link to a third-party Web page is not considered “adoption,” but firms should make sure that the third-party content is vetted. Notably, FINRA stated that firms are not responsible for everyday review of the third-party linked static content. Adoption comes from context of the post. By way of an example, if a registered rep states “hey, take a look at this article, I think it is great,” it is then considered adoption of the content.
  • Recordkeeping – Amy Sochard of FINRA stated that the core to recordkeeping is making sure that everyone understands the separation of personal vs. business use.
  • FINRA sweep – FINRA stated that the early results of its sweep do not show any major deficiencies or gaps in social media compliance. More will come when they are finished with their analysis.

The FINRA Rules, coupled with the information presented at the conference, indicate that the FINRA staff has a continuing and evolving grasp of the real-time nature of social media. We believe these updates allow organizations to better empower their employees while remaining compliant.

Forget Facebook tabs: Why Timeline and News Feed are prime social real estate for your bank

Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social Compliance Officer Ally Basak Russell, originally appeared in ABA Banking Journal.

Facebook’s recent conversion to the Timeline format for business pages should be changing the way your bank approaches social media overall.
It’s time to adjust your strategy by taking advantage of the new format, as your existing page or pages will be automatically transitioned to the new format very soon, if they haven’t been already.
With this stylistic shift, Facebook encourages companies to tell stories and engage in two-way conversation, rather than using Facebook as just another medium for one-way brand advertising.
To this end, content posted in the Timeline appears in two adjacent columns with the most recent posts at the top. Also, banks have not one but two images to convey their brand attributes–they can now add a large cover image to complement their existing profile photo. (You can view an interactive schematic of the Timeline feature here.)
Changes in the treatment of Facebook apps, and the stress that Timeline puts on content will drive some new thinking at your bank.
Facebook Banks Timeline

How apps’ status changes

But perhaps the biggest change is that Facebook apps, formerly called “tabs,” can no longer be set as default landing pages when customers and prospects visit the bank’s page. Directing customers to a social campaign tab before they’ve liked your bank’s page is a term known as “fan-gating,” and this will no longer be possible.
Now, only the bank’s timeline can be the default landing page.
Additionally, these apps no longer take up prime real estate on your bank’s Facebook page. At first displayed on your page as small buttons, the buttons must be clicked by a user before they are taken to the app’s full page.
So, if tabs were the Boardwalk of social real estate in the old format, their replacement apps have now been relegated to social media real estate more like Baltic Avenue, or when done right, Marvin Gardens.
To be fair, apps can still be effective for soliciting participation in campaigns–by clicking on something, entering information in a lead generation form, or looking up the nearest bank branch. Since apps often mimic other digital campaigns, your bank’s digital presence will be cohesive and interactive when you use apps.

Rethinking your social approach

Another thing to consider: recent studies by Facebook show that after the initial “like” or viewing of a business page, consumers are not likely to come back to your page, no matter how positive their first experience.
Ever.
Consumers are 40 to 120 times more likely to see your posts in their news feeds.
So why should banks even spend resources to maintain a dynamic social presence?
The answer is simple: Compelling content, as opposed to compelling design or digital campaigns, is more important than ever because now the Timeline is the bank’s prime social real estate.
Essentially, if your bank is like many large corporations whose agencies invested heavily in Facebook tabs, you may want to pivot your social strategy.
Engaging with consumers based on the quality and quantity of your social copywriting is a change for which bank marketers should be prepared. This can be at the corporate or local branch level, but content must be authentic and human.

Candidates for content

What can your bank talk about? There are plenty of wonderful seasonal stories, stories about corporate philanthropy, contests, and educational resources that can be shared on the corporate bank page. Posting photos of employees is another great way to humanize your bank. Also, be sure to fill in your bank’s Timeline with its date of incorporation and other important milestones, like the introduction of a new product, service, or logo, or expansion into new regions.
Sharing localized authentic content is even better. Hearsay Social research indicates a six times increase in engagement level as measured by likes, comments, and shares, when companies incorporate local news, events, and preferences into content. This may include info on a local football game, charity event, or promotions aimed at the city’s sports teams.
Educational content for customers and prospects is also a sure bet to draw engagement. Banks can post tips on how to save for college or retirement, build credit, or apply for a loan.
Inversely, stale or bland corporate content won’t show up in customers’ or prospects’ News Feeds at all. This is because Facebook employs an algorithm called EdgeRank. This algorithm takes into account views, click rates, likes, and reshares, in order to determine engagement and to prioritize what appears in users’ News Feeds.
In short, if you have lots of engagement your posts will show up in News Feeds. In regulated industries like banking, writing content that is both engaging, helpful, and compliant can be challenging. It takes collaboration between the marketing and compliance/legal teams.

Fresher than eggs…

And you need to keep the content timely. You can’t just post when the spirit moves you. Facebook agrees with this, and has implemented various new features that encourage fresh content.
Pinning a post keeps it at the top of your Timeline for exactly one week. Even if new posts are created they will appear below the pinned content. Posts you might want to pin include special promotions, such as a bank fundraiser, an open house for a new branch location with giveaways for opening a new checking account, or a financial advisor sharing his top 10 tips to prepare for retirement. Similarly, highlighting a post doubles its width across the page, making it much more visible as users scroll through the timeline.

A stark reality banks must face

Facebook’s nearly one billion users don’t come back every day to be sold products and services.
They come back to connect with family, friends, and, yes, brands.
The shift to content and away from tabs allows your bank to be more authentic and compelling than ever before–deepening your relationship with customers through two-way communication rather than just one-way advertising.
If you can engage customers in conversation, they will have a reason to keep your posts in their News Feeds. And that’s crucial for bank marketers.