Financial advisors at Raymond James are now able to use social media tools including LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter through the Actiance compliance tool, Socialite. Advisors also have optional access to a library or pre-approved content and tools to measure engagement.
Mike White, marketing director at the Florida-based financial services firm, said the Actiance alliance fulfills a commitment made early in the year to provide social media tools for advisors.
Financial firms have been slow to adopt social media, he said, and they have watched to see how regulators would interpret social media communications.
“In addition to incorporating the technology and archiving platform with Actiance, we have developed guidelines, training sessions and marketing and communications support to help advisors leverage social media in their client engagement and new prospecting activities,” added White.
In the two months since the Actiance rollout, 1,200 of the firm’s 5,000 advisors have signed up. The company offers interactive video training to show advisors how social media can be used properly.
“We know there have been a lot to mis-steps [with social media] by public figures and we want out advisors and our brand to be protected in the process.”
Early adopters at Raymond James spread across all ages; the fastest to move to social media are the advisors who are most marketing oriented, White said. As the technology becomes easier to use, the age skew is not as pronounced as it once was, he added. Grandparents are among the most active users of Raymond James online services.
White thinks advisors will use social media both to stay in communication with existing clients and to prospect for new ones.
Raymond James has several people in its 200-strong compliance group who review all social media content before it goes out, with the result that approvals can usually be done the same day content is submitted. Tweets and posts go through a workflow process to provide the firm compliance oversight while allowing advisors to offer a personal touch.
“Our understanding [of the regulations] is that we do not have to review communications ahead of time, but we are being conservative.”
White said that in addition to approved canned content the company offers Tweets and posts from its economist or stock strategist.
“One great thing about Actiance is they were relatively early to the game of social media so they understand the importance of providing flexibility and insight to the communications.” The company also reviews blogs by its advisors before they are posted, a process which White said is now at the point social media was a few years ago.
“We treat blogs as ads that have to be pre-approved.”
The Aite Group, a financial research firm, entitled a recent report on social media for financial advisors “The Bloom is off the Rose.” Roughly 7 in 10 financial advisors use social media for personal purposes and half use it for business, figures which have increased since 2009, said Ron Shevlin, senior analyst with Aite Group and co-author of this report.
Use of LinkedIn has increased for business purposes and the time spent on Facebook, Twitter and blogs has declined among financial advisors. Advisors don’t spend much time on leading social media finance sites such as Stockpickr or Wikinvest; only a third of the advisors surveyed were even familiar with them.
Advisors are seeing diminishing returns from social media, according to Aite. Reaching new prospects was cited by only 19 percent, half the percentage in 2009 while increasing revenue or fees linked to social media declined from 16 percent to 6 percent.
Just six percent of advisors who don’t already use social media plan to do so over the next year. Thirty-eight percent said it wasn’t worth their time and 34 percent just don’t like to communicate with customers that way. Nearly three-quarters said their firms have policies that limit or ban the use of social media.
Vendors had some suggestions for the best ways to use social media. Actiance told Aite Group that responding to clients’ postings, such as a new child or a new job, with an appropriate messages is effective. Echoing what White said about early adopters eMoney Advisor noted that advisors who are good at marketing are good at using social media. Financial Social Media’s recommendations suggest why some advisors are losing interest — they recommended Tweeting three to five times per day and updating LinkedIn and Facebook at least twice a day. That suggests a substantial time commitment. Other vendors of social media tools including SocialVolt, Socialware, SocMediaFin, SunGard, ThomsonReuters and Wired Advisor had a variety of suggestions about defining an approach to marketing, listening to the market and building out social networks.
Aite concluded that many financial advisors have decided that social media is not living up to its hype.
“The absence of tangible benefits from social media is muting advisors’ perception of its potential importance,” said Shevlin. Financial firms should expand their focus beyond compliance to look at effectiveness, added Aite, offering several specific suggestions for defining messages, choosing the proper platform and improving marketing skills.
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