To meet consumer demands and everyday expectations, 6-in-10 financial services companies now have programs in place to assist their advisers and representatives with their social media apptitude and participation.

The support for advisers is coming in a variety of sizes and shapes, the LIMRA report of 36 financial companies found. Companies are providing examples, guidelines, content and training. The training formats vary, from online webinars to in-person groups to one-on-one assistance, LIMRA says, and topics covered include compliance, company policies and tools training, but also marketing opportunities and best practices.

“We already know that almost all financial services companies are using social media,” says Norah Denley, senior research analyst at LIMRA and the report’s author. “That’s been the case for some time. But this study reveals the extent to which companies are helping their advisers and representatives capitalize on their social media presence and engage in best practices.”

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There are a couple of factors driving social media use for advisers, Denley says. Customer expectation is key among them. “Social media is a great convenience for consumers and they tend to expect people they do business with to be online and on social media,” she says. “They check [social media sites] to see if this is a fly-by-night organization or if there is something there. It helps to build trust.”

For advisers, social media also serves as a research tool, she adds. It allows them to keep in touch with clients and see their life events. It also lets them research prospects to understand them better and see if they are a good fit for an adviser’s portfolio.

Just as e-mail capabilities and having a website became de facto business processes within the last two decades, the same thing is happening with social media; it will be a requirement for all businesses to prosper and compete, Denley says.

3 factors to success

Similar to other company-wide initiatives, three factors are critical to social media success, according to LIMRA: executive buy-in, internal training and awareness.

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“Executives need to support the financial and staffing resources needed to be effective,” Denley says. “Compliance and sales teams should be users of social media in addition to knowing how it works. Finally, home office staff must be made aware of their company’s social media programs to better understand their potential.”

In addition to lack of knowledge, the most common impediments are a shortage of content and slow review processes of the content, the study found, as it often must pass through many hands. This makes the process resource-intensive and the content less timely, Denley explains. “Unfortunately, that’s the current reality of communicating via a lightning-fast medium in a highly-regulated industry.”

Additional reporting by Chris McMahon, senior editor, Insurance Networking News.

Financial services companies, however, also are getting a clearer understanding of what the optimal results can be. “Companies and financial professionals successful with social media know it is not a magic bullet,” Denley says. “They realize it’s a powerful tool to establish and nurture relationships, part of their broader marketing efforts, and that over time it can help contribute to success.”

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