EXCLUSIVE: Social Media: The Real "Need To Know" - Part 1

Wendy Spires Group Deputy Editor London 7 September 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Social Media: The Real

The wealth management industry has seriously lagged others in its social media provision, but being “late to the party” means that firms can make use of what others have learnt. Here, wealth management marketing and social media expert April Rudin explains what firms should be doing to make the most of social media channels.

The wealth management industry has seriously lagged others in its social media provision, but being “late to the party” means that firms can make use of what others have learnt. Here, wealth management marketing and social media expert April Rudin explains what firms should be doing to make the most of social media channels. This is part 1 of a two-part feature; part 2 will follow in Monday's edition.

1. Which social media channels do you think it is essential for wealth management firms to have a presence on? What are the reasons which make each of these a “must”?

Firstly, wealth management firms must realize that not having a social media presence is not an option anymore. While wealth managers have long relied on their history, tradition and reputation for new client acquisition, this is no longer enough. Not only are baby boomers transferring wealth to younger generations, but there are also swathes of IPO/technology entrepreneurs, hedge fund managers and the like who have created significant wealth. These sorts of people are the new high or ultra-high net worth client, and they are not interested in the leather couch, library or 100-year old history of a firm. They have different value propositions including mobile, digital, sustainable investing and many more unique engagement points. I say: it’s adapt or die for old school thinking. Finally, there is a misconception the HNW/UHNW individuals are not “on” the internet. Nothing could be further from the truth - they have more gadgets and are more wired and mobile than ever before. 

With that in mind, it is essential for wealth management firms to maintain a robust and fresh presence on all/any social media platforms where potential clients, sources of referrals, or other centers of influence might maintain a presence. Successful social media marketing plans create visibility by consistent and constant messaging on each channel while leveraging the distinctions which are unique to that channel. 

It’s ironic that most firms which are charged with managing the affairs of HNW/UHNW individuals and families frequently lack their own plan as to how to evolve to changing needs of the next generation of clients.  The “must” is a detailed marketing plan (inclusive of social media and other channels) which contains elements such as core messages which are executable on a firm-wide basis or at the local/wealth manager level. 

At the same time, this is further complicated as social media platforms are still emerging and fluid. Regulations and compliance are less specific and causing wealth management firms discomfort as all of these changes are thrust upon them. They are accustomed to being cloaked and opaque while "next gen" clients demand transparency and authenticity.

As for each channel which is currently available, let’s look at the numbers. Facebook (900 million global users) has been re-imagining some of its features to make it more “business” and brand-friendly. As a corollary, LinkedIn has been leaning toward being able to add more personalized business profiles by creating features like volunteer activities, passions and more. 

Also, whereas Facebook and LinkedIn are generally thought of more as “relationship” platforms, Twitter continues to impress me with my own customized, curated newstream of content and news.  This is another example of a dialog which is occurring in a real-time way. Recent entrants to the social media platform space such as Pinterest should be noted as its format is visual and pictorial (think infographics or charts for financial services firms.) I expect further trending to visual presentation of information as more videos and pictures will be used to supplement or even replace reading words.

It should also be remembered that blogging is a proven way to create visibility and thought leadership for wealth management firms. Writing about seminal and timely topics allows firms to platform and position their brands by communicating their point of view and underlining their differentiators to current and future clients, influencers and media. 

Given the changes in next gen value propositions and their propensity to use social media, multiple technologies and rising UHNW wealth status, it's essential for today’s wealth manager to adopt and embrace new technology and other operation/communications ahead of clients. Mobile also continues to be key to reaching clients who are increasingly craving access to real-time data from anywhere at any time.

2. Which social media channels are a “nice to have” or which may be the leaders of the future?

There is no easy answer to this question. For each firm and individual the answer is different. That is why the “plan” is essential. Firms should precisely target the market by identifying their own core strengths and matching these to target clients.

The new opportunity is to be transparent and engage on as many levels as possible – but this is a foreign concept to most “old school” wealth management firms. 

Social media marketing, networking efforts and commitment to each channel should be an iterative process. Today, there are many tools for measuring engagement and impact. Social media archiving systems and other analytic tools will help firms understand which platforms are more effective for their individual practices or target prospects. Expect to make continual changes and refinements to your social media strategy as it’s an emerging area. I think that the minimum digital presence for most wealth managers and firms must include compelling and differentiated LinkedIn profiles plus a robust blog which adds value and amplifies reach.  While a website is essential, its relative importance is decreasing when compared to other social media hubs.  The new website credo is “less is more,” with increased use of graphics and video. 

As for channels or platforms of the future, my own opinion is that they will be more integrated and less “siloed.” For example, there are many platforms/channels now and I think in the future there will be less emphasis on the platform and more on the engagement and content. While no one knows for sure, I can imagine that there will be a “place” on the web where each person can build-out their own “page” with the design, and details that represent them. Also, there will be increased use of mobile platforms as people want/need to communicate and receive information remotely. 

I can confidently say that those firms who have a more built-out digital brand will have a greater opportunity to engage and attract younger wealth-holders. It has been well-documented that the value propositions, buying habits, and passions are vastly different between Gen X and Gen Y and their baby-boomer parents.

Register for WealthBriefing today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes