Social Media Presents Major Benefits, Challenges for Firms

Social media as a marketing tool is nothing new. However, the use of social media in a professional setting continues to be underestimated in two key ways. While the right social media strategy can provide measurable value for financial service firms, its implementation involves challenges that are still being realized and studied.

“Social media platforms provide powerful marketing tools.”

When we think social media, it’s not taken all that seriously as a valuable tool. Statistics regarding social media demographics, however, paint a different picture. According to social marketing firm We Are Social, the number of social media users is growing faster than the number of total Internet users, and comprises around 30 percent of all web traffic.

The stereotype of nonprofessional social media use is also quickly changing. As reported by studies from the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of all American adults are active Facebook users, while 22 percent are on LinkedIn. Facebook users are also trending older and wealthier. Seventy-eight percent of Internet users making more than $75,000 per year were on the popular social network, while 64 percent are between the ages of 50 and 64.

Making the most of social

To get a better sense of how financial professionals were using social media, LIMRA surveyed a number of firms and aggregated their input. Overall, LIMRA found that the majority of financial professionals are warming up to the idea of an active social media presence. With wider adoption, the next question is exactly how these platforms can be used to help firms reach their marketing and sales goals.

According to LIMRA, more than 90 percent of financial professionals were either already using social media or had plans to do so in the near future, most of them with more than one service. The clear favorites so far include LinkedIn and Facebook, with these platforms in use by 67 percent and 56 percent of respondents, respectively. Twitter trails these frontrunners at 44 percent, while Instagram, a relatively popular image sharing service, grabs just 8 percent.

“With the right strategy, social media can serve as a powerful tool for financial professionals.”

While the basics of social media are notoriously easy to grasp, using these services in a professional setting requires more strategy and nuance that isn’t always easy to come by. Respondents to LIMRA’s survey cited this as one of the biggest challenges regarding social media. Many explained that they underestimated how much time, training and compliance would take in the course of forming a social strategy. Furthermore, some respondents lamented a lack of understanding from the home office or higher management regarding social media best practices.

In tandem with these issues are concerns revolving around staying timely with social presence while still adhering to overall corporate strategy and compliance. One respondent quoted in the LIMRA study explained the time-consuming process required for full review of social media posts, which can ultimately undermine social engagement and effectiveness. At the root of this issue is a simple lack of awareness regarding how social media services operate, or how exactly they contribute to strategy.

For firms that want to make the most of social, LIMRA stressed that engagement from executives is essential. Firms must be aligned from top to bottom in their understanding of social media to really gain the most from it. With commitment to a strategy, the chances of success begin to rise considerably.

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