Social media use is presently not a priority in choosing a financial advisor, according to a new 2011 “Relationships with Advisors” study conducted by Millionaire Corner. But this could change as social media becomes even more pervasive and more firms take a pro-active approach in using it to market themselves to new clients and connect with existing customers.
Between compliance considerations and learning to navigate the ever-changing social media landscape, financial firms have been “slow to embrace” social media, Todd Colbeck, president of Colbeck Coaching Group and author of the book author of the book, How to Get New Clients Using LinkedIn, told Millionaire Corner. “Most financial professionals have not figured out how to use these things to get clients yet,” he said.”If you’re Colgate, everyone buys toothpaste, so you get on Facebook where everyone’s a potential customer. For a financial advisor trying to narrow in on qualified prospects, that’s not really the case. When you send out a tweet, maybe the (recipients) are qualified and maybe they’re not. LinkedIn is by far the most targeted (to professionals).”
Wealth management company Raymond James Financial Inc recently announced that it would let its advisors use LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, a site restricted by most other wealth-management firms venturing into social media, Financial Planning magazine reports.
“Only connect” wrote E.M. Forester, and that is the potential value of social media to financial advisors. Ideally it allows them to communicate more frequently and less formally via increasingly pervasive platforms. Currently though, social media isn’t a primary factor in choosing an advisor, according to our study of millionaire households. Only five percent overall cite use of social media tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn as a reason to choose an advisor.
Part of this might be that social media is not yet routine for many people, Colbeck said. “You pick up the Wall Street Journal or USA Today, or you go online to Yahoo Finance. Or you pick up the phone to talk to your advisor. I don’t think social media has been around long enough to become habit.”
Compliance is also an issue for financial advisors treading into social media waters. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has issued guidance on social networking websites and business communications. Tweets and posts, for example, are considered to be akin to emails, which have to be monitored and stored. Firms, also, cannot establish a link to a third-party site that the firm knows or suspects contains false or misleading content.
Another issue is a debate over whether advisors should be able to use social media to keep in contact with clients once they leave a firm. In our survey, 61 percent of millionaire households said they would follow their advisor to another firm because they put a greater premium on their relationship. Firms, understandably, would like to restrict access “as they are the ones that provided the resources and to make those connections possible,” Financial Planning noted.
In seeking an advisor, potential clients place more importance on a company website. Social media, Colbeck observed, “is more of a conversation once that relationship has begun and is a way to build that relationship. LinkedIn users are there to network professionally and Facebook users to network socially. Twitter users are there to have quick conversation, while readers of blogs want to take a deep dive into whatever content you’re publishing.”
But through social media, Colbeck said, “they’re getting to know you and trust you, and hopefully you can progress the relationship to where you have an ideal customer who is buying from you all time and telling their friends about you.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.