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Big Versus Small In Social Media: Part 2

Harriet Davies

14 February 2013

This is the second part in a feature on social media. To view the first part, click here.

Aside from improving cms systems, Haefele says the card big firms have to play is the wealth of content they already own.

“Behind larger firms you have to have very comprehensive systems for compliance,” she says. “Then a lot of the battle is training. Then the trick, the big trick, the one that everyone is trying to solve is: how do you take the rich content of the firm and put it in a place where it can be picked up by advisors and delivered to the right clients?”

This means, for instance, that if you have an advisor focused on entrepreneurial or tech clients, they are following the right groups on Twitter and posting interesting content related to the sector, that is actually going to add value to those clients in the same social space – so it is canned content, to an extent, but it is relevant and targeted.

The art of listening

It’s not just about content, though. Social media is a two-way dialogue, which is part of what makes it so distinct from traditional advertising and marketing activities. This feedback is scary, but it is also a great opportunity to show a thoughtful and creative response to criticism.

Especially for large firms, says Moock, “you’re going to have your detractors” online. “And to the people that deal with that as a problem I would suggest they make sure they have an open dialogue with their constituents, that they engage both happy and unhappy clients and ensure their voices are heard,” he says. “The easiest way to hear what the investing consumer has to say is by having an ear online.”

“Social media are both for listening and talking,” says Haefele. “It’s particularly helpful for listening, and you can do that right now.”

Wealth management: too good for marketing?

With this said, some firms are not willing to take the leap into building their profile online precisely because they feel wealth management is not something that should be engaging publicly about its business. But times are changing, and most clients now want a lot more transparency about issues like investment products and fees, and the web can be a great facilitator of that if used correctly.

“I understand the allure of prestige – the white glove service,” says Moock, “I realize that they want to retain current clients and keep clients happy but, again, the boomer exodus is happening now and a lot of investors are no longer in accumulation mode they’re in distribution, so these folks…how are they attracting new clients?”

He stresses that being a well-known brand does not mean being an attainable one. “Firms like JP Morgan, how did they grow? They grew by communicating their story to the industry and communicating their story to retail investors.”

And indeed, it is this repositioning of marketing and advertising – from something that is clear-cut and paid for – into something more fluid and built-in to a firm, that new media is effecting. Whether or not to “advertise” is no longer a yes or no question.

This has two key consequences: one is organizational, in that branding, marketing and advertising activities may become unintentionally disparate within a firm.

“It was once easy for them to manage everything in one place, but as these new opportunities have emerged - whether it be Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, you name it - what we’re seeing are different individuals within the organization, maybe based on interest, maybe based on experience, who have been assigned to work on those channels,” says Garflund. “But they end up becoming disparate silos.”

To address this, he recommends having about “a converged strategy” that encompasses earned, owned and paid media.

Moock has similar advice, and recommends to clients that they work with reputable media outlets for “earned media” coverage, especially targeting local media for small firms that want to break into local markets, and running owned content such as blogs alongside this to tell their “full story” - such as giving investment views and perspecctives on relevant events. For smaller firms paid media may not be an option yet.

Another consequence of the dominance of the web in most people’s lives is that an absence on the web may shout louder than a presence.

“Trust is the basis for everything, when it comes to building relationships, but to only rely on a few forms of building trust is not a logical strategy, especially when we’re living in a world that is dramatically, dramatically changing because of the web,” says Graflund. “And if you really accelerate into the future and think about the next generation of investors and not only how familiar they are with social tools, but how dependent they are on social tools to even be social themselves, wouldn’t it provide a clear argument that firms that aren’t embracing this are at risk of not being able to even establish trust in the future, with the next generation?”

A new survey by Accenture found that investors between the ages of 21 and 30, known as “millennial investors,” are more conservative and less trusting of financial advisors than their older counterparts, baby-boomers (age 46-70) and generation X (age 31-45). The younger generation are also more inclined to consult other sources before accepting financial advice. The survey points to unmet demand for online investor education and advisor-interaction tools that could increase millennial investing and help bridge the “trust gap” with financial advisors.

Building trust

It is here that new media converges with traditional, because trust can only be built through communication that is genuine. Though new media may be in snippets, it may appear to die quickly and be so often fickle and fatuous, for a brand to thrive in this world it must nevertheless work out what it stands for and communicate that memorably.

“There is so much money in motion right now and a lot of trust has been lost in recent years,” says Moock. “If a client is truly able to understand who they are, and describe who they are and who they want to work with, the opportunities are endless.”