Has your firm taken a hard look at its social media strategy lately? Does it even have a social media strategy? A recent report from LinkedIn and the Financial Planning Association sheds new light on the demographics of social media use, as well as the measurable impact these tools can have on business. In short, many experts agree that it’s time for financial professionals to start taking social media seriously.
“In today’s fast-paced, technologically advanced world, advisors who are not embracing social media and more dynamic ways of engaging their clients and prospects are going to lag behind those practitioners and firms that are,” FPA President Edward W. Gjertsen II said in a release about the study. “While social media and online content can be an avenue of brand development for many advisers, too many are unsure how to approach it so it will not be onerous and lead to real results.”
Perhaps the biggest barrier to adoption of social media use in a business is based on considerations of age. While it’s true that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are overwhelmingly used by a young audience (as many as 90 percent of adults ages 18 to 29 are using some form of social media), the dynamic may be shifting. According to data from Pew Research Center, social media use among those age 65 and older has tripled since 2010. In fact, this age group represents the fastest-growing userbase of social media sites, making them a prime opportunity for targeted growth.
According to the LinkedIn and FPA study, there are indeed several ways financial professionals can market themselves to various age groups in their social media strategy. One thing is universal: The study found that 76 percent of clients surveyed used a financial professional’s social media account for educational information. The type of content they preferred to see this information, though, varied by age. While all age groups showed a preference for information on attending in-person workshops, clients over the age of 55 were more likely to prefer seeing relevant articles on social media accounts.
The study also found that the timing of social media use varied depending on age. When seeking out a new financial advisor, clients aged 18-44 preferred checking LinkedIn and other similar professional networks 24 percent of the time. But this same age group reported a strong preference for doing so prior to making any contact at all with a financial professional. In contrast, most clients ages 65 and older preferred to check online after making some prior form of contact, but before meeting them in person. Few clients in any age group reported checking online profiles after meeting an advisor.
These days, there are a seemingly unlimited number of social networks in use. The FPA and LinkedIn study did find some trends among the various age groups regarding which networks these demographics preferred. Not surprisingly, the 18-44 age group had the widest spectrum of social media use. Clients older than 65, however, displayed a clear preference for Facebook compared to other respondents, with 59 percent reporting regular use of this platform. The 45 to 54 demographic showed a surprising adoption rate for Pinterest as well, with 42 percent of this group reporting use of the image sharing platform.
Clearly, financial professionals have their work cut out for them when meeting client expectations for social media presence. Perhaps the best strategy is to try to span a full spectrum of social networks to rein in as much engagement as possible, but tailor this strategy depending on the network. Knowing that a large portion of those 65 years and older use Facebook, more information on retirement saving may be appropriate. Older professionals show a clear preference for LinkedIn, so optimizing that channel to engage this group may be suitable. All in all, social media is a young person’s game, and this demographic is also the most primed for new business opportunities. Financial professionals who can take advantage of this knowledge will see measurable and sustained growth in business in the near term, as well as several years down the road.