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Research: Financial advisors improve client retention and increase AUM with digital and social tools

Digital Wealth Management researchAt Hearsay Social, one of the most frequent questions we hear from the financial services industry is this: “What is the ROI of social media?”
Depending on who you ask, there are a few answers. What we’ve seen is that social media ROI is largely qualitative, with a social media presence alone resulting in new business or better relationships with existing clients. Additionally, the ROI for each firm will depend on the goals associated with that firm’s particular social strategy. For many firms, the first measure was growth, connectivity, and having a compliant social presence with little to no infractions.
Beyond that, however, we’ve heard countless anecdotes directly from financial advisors attributing increased business to their use of social media. Backing up these anecdotes, Accenture recently published a report entitled Reimagining Wealth Management for the Digital Age, which explores not only how digital technologies and social media are changing the wealth management industry, but also what results have been seen.
Here are a few of the best results:

  • Over half of financial advisors have found and/or converted clients via digital channels
  • 77% of financial advisors have improved client retention via digital/social tools
  • 74% of financial advisors have increased assets under management (AUM) via digital/social tools

Besides these and other eye-opening statistics, Accenture’s 20-page report analyzes how digital technologies and the new “digital generation” have disrupted traditional ways of doing business in the wealth management industry. Near the report’s conclusion, the consulting firm offers three essential components that will help financial firms, advisors, and their clients find success in the new digital era:

  1. Empowerment: of both client and advisor, building trust by making clients better informed
  2. Engagement: to enable a more collaborative relationship between client and advisor
  3. Agility: of both mindset and business model, to adjust rapidly to the speed of change

To learn more, download the full Accenture report here.
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3 key steps to jump-start your business using social media

thinkadvisor-logoAt a family reunion last year, I caught up with my cousin who has been a financial advisor for the past 15 years. The topic of social business came up, given his work and mine as a manager of customer success at Hearsay Social. An avid proponent of social media for business, he was excited to share some of his recent success stories with me.
First, he said that his favorite thing about social business is the fact that “it works while he sleeps.” In fact, his two single largest accounts originated simply because he managed an up-to-date and compelling social presence. After finding him through an advisor-search tool on his company’s website, these clients researched him on social media before proactively contacting him.
Second, my cousin explained that he actually spends very little time on social media. Like most other successful financial advisors, he aims to spend most of his time with clients. But he does set aside a small amount of time to keep his profile up to date, grow his network, listen for key buying signals from his prospects and clients, and share relevant content.
Not everyone has mastered social business in the way my cousin has. In fact, my team at Hearsay Social is specifically dedicated to coaching advisors on how to optimize their social media usage for measurable business results. What we’ve learned over the past few years is that there are three key actions that you can take today to jump-start your social business.
Continue reading this article over at ThinkAdvisor.
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One tweet leads to $4.1 million sale: Gary Vaynerchuk at #LLSMC

For more #LLSMC updates, see our recap of day one or learn why LIMRA selected Hearsay Social as its Elite Strategic Partner for social media.

We’re glowing after a fantastic second day at LIMRA’s Social Media Conference for Financial Services. After our team closed out the day with a discussion on the path from compliance to ROI, we hosted all our customers and partners at a dinner over the Boston skyline. Thank you so much to everyone who attended!

Earlier in the day, Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia and a well-respected social media thought leader, keynoted the conference with a presentation bullish on the power of social sales.

Obsessed with social selling, he said the only reason he believes in social media is because it helps sell.

Gary’s chief belief is that every person’s job is to be a storyteller. (Fittingly, much of his talk drew on his own personal experiences of growing up in the Soviet Union, emigrating to the U.S., and eventually establishing a presence in technology and social media.) Relationship managers like financial advisors and insurance agents are successful when they are telling stories, not just trying to sell directly. And they distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack by telling different stories and by telling them in different ways. That’s where social media comes in.

One of his friends, who tweeted “thinking about moving,” eventually bought a $4.1 million apartment after a progressive insurance agent reached out in response to the tweet. This is just one of many successful social sales examples, and it’s a sign of the times we live in.

“We are living through the biggest culture shift of all time,” said Gary, referring to the unstoppable proliferation of the consumer Internet over the past two decades and social technologies today.

Gary Liu (VP Marketing, Hearsay Social), Paul Desimone (VP, Compliance and Regulatory Services, LIMRA), Erik Qualman (author of Socialnomics), and Augie Ray (Director of Social Media, Prudential)

Gary Vaynerchuk’s keynote set the stage for several great presentations throughout the day by executives from John Hancock, Mass Mutual, Prudential Financial, Fidelity Investments, Northwestern Mutual, Google, LinkedIn, LIMRA, and more.

In his session, Augie Ray (@augieray), Director of Social Media Prudential, called attention to the fact that, though banks and insurance companies are in the “trust” business, they are at the bottom of the trust rankings, according to a study by Edelman. Fortunately, social networks provide a way for real advisors and agents to correct that gap.

Ameriprise, as an example, allows people to find advisors that they have shared connections with on LinkedIn.

In a later session, a representative from LinkedIn confirmed the power of your professional network. Ben Ortman (@ortman_social), Social Business Connector and Innovator, Global Accounts, LinkedIn, explained that the key is to find individuals with relevance in mind. Build trust and strengthen your relationships so you can reach out at just the right time.

All in all, a very informative day at #LLSMC! To read more, see our recap of day one or learn why LIMRA selected Hearsay Social as its Elite Strategic Partner for social media.

Greg Bailey (VP Marketing, Pacific Life), Clara Shih (CEO, Hearsay Social), Jim Kerley (President, LIMRA Services), and Michael Lock (COO, Hearsay Social)

Smiling faces en route to Hearsay Social’s #LLSMC dinner on Thursday.


https://twitter.com/SEIAmyS/status/370686656829214720

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.

How to achieve social media ROI in financial services

Ed. note: Missing social media ROI? Hardly. In the below article, you’ll read about Thrivent Financial, a Fortune 500 financial services organization (and Hearsay Social customer) that has been “able to show a strong correlation between online engagement and reduced churn, greater assets under management, and greater brand loyalty.” We’re proud to provide compliant and successful social marketing capabilities for Thrivent Financial through the Hearsay Social platform.
This article first appeared in the August 2012 edition of SocialEyes: The Insurers’ View of Social Media, a monthly newsletter published by The Customer Respect Group.

Social Success Needs a Bond, a Common Bond

Thrivent and Its Social Media Gold Fingers

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organization with approximately 2.5 million members serviced by 2,500 financial representatives. The company sits firmly in the Fortune 500 with more than $75 billion of assets under management. As a fraternal benefit society, it plays a far broader role with its customers, or members, than do most financial services companies. As part of Its charter they must service a common bond, in their case Lutheran, insurance, education, volunteering and opportunities for social interaction.
It is natural therefore for the social media strategy to focus on the community, the common bond and beliefs. The social media program has its roots in 2009 but in the past 12 months, the Facebook fan count growth has accelerated 400% to over 110,000. Continuous member recruitment is critical to the strategy, and the company has used a blend of organic growth, Facebook ads, and promotional campaigns. However, Gene Smaciarz, director of social media, stresses that “there is no desire to get as many fans as possible but we do want to engage members who have a close affinity with the organization and its mission.” The most recent promotional campaign, “Raise the Praise,” provided funding to youth ministries in exchange for page likes. This campaign appealed directly to members who want to strengthen their communities, encouraging existing fans to share the campaign with like-minded friends.
The driving reason for recruiting and engaging fans on social media is based on solid research and business objectives. Thrivent has hosted an online community, LutheransOnline.com, since 1998  (well before Facebook was prominent or even dreamed of) and they have been able to show a strong correlation between online engagement and reduced churn, greater assets under management, and greater brand loyalty.
With social media platforms such as Facebook, the available data is insufficient to directly demonstrate the same effects but the company conducts ongoing surveys with members and the findings indicate the same trends. Members that actively engage with the company through social media have generally higher Net Promoter Scores, deeper product relationships, and greater trust in the organization, with many already strong brand advocates. Many of these attributes are normally attributed to members that enjoy a strong relationship with a local financial representative:

Engagement is therefore critical to success, and Thrivent is constantly fine-tuning the content strategy to build involvement. In the past 12 months, the number of interactions per 100 fans exceeded the industry average every month and despite the growth in fans, the interaction rate has almost doubled in the same period. Engagement is now about 14 interactions per 100 fans, putting the company in the 87th percentile for the industry.
While the content strategy is to offer financial education, tips, and advice, this is social media and the overriding objective is to be engaging, and even fun and entertaining. Thrivent wants to be part of the community, not seen as selling products. The company posts about community fundraisers, religious celebrations, tributes, and volunteering and these posts invariably outperform financial education in terms of engagement. Smaciarz and his team are well aware that a blend of topics is required – not only to keep members engaged but also to maintain high EdgeRank scores.
As the value of social media gains recognition internally, especially with senior leadership, there are now growing demands to explore new opportunities. To be able to scale and respond,  a hub-and-spoke structure has been implemented and at its core is a “center of excellence” cross-functional team that includes members from legal, compliance and IT managed by Smaciarz. Aside from managing the corporate presence, they consult, train, and advise groups within the company. They also become integral members of various project teams.
Smaciarz and Thrivent are firm believers that, while community is the key to success, a multiplier effect comes into play once you include a local effect. Pilot projects have been ongoing on two initiatives – one involving financial representatives and the other on local communities based around chapters.
Compliance was always the major obstacle that prohibited rolling out a distributed model earlier. After testing various solutions, Thrivent settled on Hearsay Social. The product was able to meet the need for efficient content distribution and metrics but, more critically, it directly addressed the fears and concerns of the supervisory group.
One key lesson learned from pilot programs was that while social media is a very powerful tool, it is not for everyone. While some representatives really get it, others have struggled to see the value. One key indicator for predicting success is finding financial representatives that already use social media in their personal lives. This will naturally increase over time. The program will soon be available to all 2,500 financial representatives but it is provided on a cost-share basis to restrict access to representatives that see the value and are prepared to invest time.
As to whether the long-term success for social media will be at the corporate or local level, Smaciarz believes in the local option, but success requires a cooperative approach with the center of excellence providing valuable compliant content, training and expertise.

Fan count and normalized interaction rate for Thrivent’s Facebook page over 12 months.

To date, Facebook has been the focus of the strategy for corporate and local initiatives, pragmatically based on surveys of where members are active. But as the social media role expands, so does interest in other platforms. While the corporate Facebook page will continue to be the central repository, Thrivent are careful not to overload members’ newsfeeds, and the consequential limitation for posting frequency can be restrictive. Twitter, utilized today as a feeder to the website and Facebook page, is poised to play a stronger role during the latter half of 2012, allowing communications to new audiences without the same posting constraints.
LinkedIn also has a larger role to play. Currently valued for its recruiting opportunities and by financial representatives for data mining, it has the potential to help connect the important volunteer networks, linking members and volunteer opportunities.
Regarding how social media will change, Smaciarz predicts that as social platforms increasingly connect members with the company and local representatives, it will play a larger role for all communications, including lead generation and customer service. This will be especially true when members who have grown up using social media move into product ownership. Demand for customer service on social media today requires little more than monitoring with occasional intervention. However, the creation of processes to initiate service on social media will inevitably move up the priority list.
At 110,000 fans, Thrivent has plenty of room for growth without compromising community relevance. The hub-and-spoke structure looks able to manage inevitable expansion through marketing, sales, corporate communications, and customer service without the “turf wars” now common in many financial services companies.

Thanks for reading! If you want more, check out this other SocialEyes case study on Farmers Insurance agent and Hearsay Social user Joel McKinnon.

The social media ROI journey

Ed. note: This post is the fifth in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Although social media has been around a few years, most businesses are just beginning to learn how to harness its power to build sales and customer loyalty. Most of the companies we studied had already made forays into social media, typically by launching a corporate Facebook Page. Early marketing tests also convinced executives of the value of extending these social media initiatives to branches and affiliates in local markets.
But often these efforts stalled after executives confronted the complexities and costs of building a broader presence at the local level. For regulated companies — including banks, insurers, and educational institutions — the prospect of turning agents, advisors, and school administrators loose on Facebook and Twitter raised compliance concerns.
Companies in non-regulated industries, while less focused on legal and compliance issues, wanted to protect their brands with message and brand consistency but still allow for authentic content. The logistics and expense of distributing corporate content to local networks, enabling staff, and monitoring local communications presented a daunting challenge.

The Social Media “Chasm’”

We refer to this set of obstacles as the social media “chasm”—and each company in our study overcame it through a combination of innovative strategies and investments. The below figure illustrates the chasm as faced by regulated companies. Non-regulated companies face a similar journey, minus the compliance issues.

Accelerating Value

Marketing executives agreed that implementing an integrated social media marketing platform helped their organizations overcome the social media “chasm” and achieve value sooner than if they had continued to rely on fragmented social media environments. Lacking an enterprise platform, most organizations would have delayed rollouts to branches, agencies, stores, and local affiliates, or they would have spent too heavily on technical and marketing staff to maintain corporate- local networks. Specifically, the Hearsay Social platform:

  • Eliminated compliance as a barrier to social media
  • Simplified and optimized creation-to-post process
  • Accelerated local adoption of social media
  • Supported scale-out of social media programs

As shown below, companies investing in Hearsay Social’s enterprise social media platform passed over the chasm earlier than otherwise and realized business value sooner. Moreover, by promoting greater adoption and innovation (more than just compliance) at the local level, companies saw value beyond what was expected.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

The legal and compliance impact of social media

Ed. note: This post is the fourth in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Comprehensive Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Financial services and insurance companies are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which consider all “static” content (including social media posts) to be marketing material. As such, companies are required to conduct pre-reviews of social media communications and retain copies of content published on Facebook and other channels.
“We worry about fines all the time,” a representative of a major financial institution told us.
Educational institutions as well as companies in a range of industries (e.g., fitness clubs) are also subject to state advertising regulations and labor laws. These range from restrictions on how institutions are allowed to advertise and market educational programs (including via social media) and rules that require only full-time employees to publish posts on behalf of businesses.
Findings

  • Regulated companies reported easier compliance with government and industry regulations due to their social media marketing platform’s built-in monitoring, workflow, and archival systems
  • Companies said that the platforms substantially lower the risk of incurring regulatory penalties and becoming the target of legal action

Streamlined Compliance Supervision Effort

Regulated companies that introduced compliance automation capabilities said it helped them move more confidently into local social media markets. Marketers at an insurance company, for example, said they were better able to focus on building customer relationships rather than worrying about legally allowable content. The platform’s monitoring, alert, and data management capabilities all contributed to reducing administrative overhead. Adoption of the platform resulted in a 65% reduction in the number of full-time employees needed to manage data compliance.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

The huge productivity advantage of social media

Ed. note: This post is the third in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Increased Employee Business Use of Social Media and Productivity

While most of the businesses previously had local social media presences, Hearsay Social offered a level of convenience and scalability that attracted agents, advisors, and local-branch marketers. Access to corporate content libraries, auto-scheduling, compliance tools, analytics, and the flexibility to customize each post were all features that appealed to users. Uptake of the solution was rapid across the companies studied and training needs were reported to be minimal.
Findings

  • Average of 4X increase in employee activity on social media across companies studied
  • 90% of advisors at financial firm joined a pilot rollout of Hearsay Social and 87% continued to use the platform after the pilot, demonstrating strong buy-in, adoption, and ease of use
  • 75% of advisors said the platform improved how they used Facebook as a business tool

Faster, More Efficient Delivery of Corporate Content to Local Networks

At the corporate level, marketers noted the productivity advantage of an enterprise-wide platform for managing social media programs. Reusable content libraries, automated compliance checks, and other management tools were key to streamlining production and delivery of content to field networks. Ease of integration with back-end systems (e.g., ERP systems, compliance supervision and archiving systems, and monitoring tools such as Lithium) contributed to minimizing maintenance and support costs.
Findings

  • More than 70% reduction in steps to convert, package, and deliver corporate content to local networks
  • Creating and leveraging content library reduced compliance administration, content reviews, and rework

Easier Creation of Content at Local Level

Local teams leveraged the social media platformto access corporate content and marketing ideas, customized to local needs. By providing a common, easy-to-use platform across all channels, Hearsay Social enabled more frequent use of social media. On average, companies reported a 50% reduction in effort needed to create and manage social media content at the local level.

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.

The sales and marketing impact of social media

Ed. note: This post is the second in a series drawing from Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise. Download the entire report for free here.

Expanded Marketing Reach

Companies embracing social media marketing solutions reported a significant increase in the number of people reached through various channels, notably Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. One insurance company, for example, saw a 150% to 420% increase in its local Facebook fan base, largely because the platform’s simplicity enabled agents to post more frequently and effectively.
A major educational institution reported a 189% increase in its fan base because teachers and administrators could post more customized, relevant content and build a “feeling of community” among current and prospective students. Feedback through the platform’s analytics also helped fine-tune the content to focus on messaging that generated strong local-consumer engagement.
Findings

  • Local agents and branch managers that adopted Hearsay Social’s platform saw a two-to-five times increase in their local fan base over locations without Hearsay Social
  • 95% of local financial advisors said they now reach more customers through social media
  • 40% of the study participants reported a “positive sales impact” from adopting the social media marketing solution

Surge in Consumer Engagement

As companies established integrated corporate-local social media networks, they not only saw more fans signing up, but these fans and followers also responded more frequently to communications from the company. Marketing managers said that the platform’s automation and scheduling features allowed local marketing staff to “concentrate on crafting more pertinent and appealing posts,” thus attracting more engagement (including clicks, comments, views, and check-ins) from local fans and followers.
Findings

  • An educational institution adopting Hearsay Social saw a 13X increase in online consumer engagement as measured by the number of Facebook “likes” recorded per page
  • Businesses saw a doubling of customer check-ins (Facebook, Foursquare) after implementing Hearsay Social
  • Agents at an insurance company reported a 5X increase in Facebook “likes” after adopting a social media marketing platform, as shown in the figure at left.

Drove Transactions

Better outreach and engagement of consumers at the local level positively impacted sales and other measures of business growth at the companies studied. Several companies reported jumps in sales conversion rates, with one retailer doubling sales tied to specific promotions, largely due to the ability of marketers to design more attractive deals with targeted local social media offerings.
As shown in the figure below, an insurance company adopting Hearsay Social saw business improvements in several areas, including a boost in lives insured, premiums, and total assets. The volume of posts and tweets increased overall, but especially among junior advisors who adopted social media as their primary channel for stimulating sales growth.
Findings

  • 50% to 500% increase in revenue performance measures at insurer adopting social media marketing platform
  • Sales conversion rate jumped from 1.5% to 3% at retailer due to targeted offerings

Thanks for reading! If you want to learn more, download Mainstay Salire’s study on Social Media ROI: Quantifying the Benefits of Social Media Marketing Platforms for the Enterprise.