As the debate about the role of social media within the adviser industry continues, it's starting to feel older than the media itself.
On one side there are the adviser firms that don't see the value in having a social media strategy.
With life expectancy growing steadily and wealth staying locked in with the baby boomers, the expected trickle-down to the next generation isn't happening as expected. So why chase a generation through social media that prefer a handshake over a Tweet? Why not just stick to a more traditional business model and follow the money.
On the other side there are adviser firms who at their core believe in attracting new clients through a strong, attractive social media presence.
They want to meet the demands of millennials who are looking for something more innovative from adviser firms and want to be spoken to through this media. A new generation that will be the clients of the future.
But is this argument distracting from one of the real benefits of engaging with social media?
Being 'on' social media doesn't necessarily mean endless hours of tweeting clients and updating the company Facebook page.
It can be as simple as being part of a new meeting place that's a hub for leading economic commentators, policymakers and their followers. A place that gives real-time access to financial publications, valuable insight into the latest economic trends and acutely reflects public sentiment minute by minute.
A change in consumer behaviour
In March 2015, The Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn conducted a joint research survey that formed the basis of the report 'Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media'.
The report focused on financial consumers' changing relationship with social media, and how this change in behaviour was influencing the way financial advisers were approaching social media.
It revealed that changes in client behaviour and expectations were driving advisers to invest in thought leadership strategies, executed through professional and social networks.
When clients engage financial advisers, it's normal to assume that they'll rely on the expertise and experience of the adviser to make financial decisions.
However, the Communication Evolution report found that even after engaging an adviser, clients still wanted meaningful financial education and thought leadership to increase confidence in their own decision making.
The Communication Evolution report found that even after engaging with an adviser, clients still wanted meaningful financial education and thought leadership to increase confidence in their own decision making."
When clients were asked, 'How important is it that your adviser provides you with education related to the market, investments or other financial topics?', 50% stated that education was 'somewhat important', and 26% stated that it was 'critical'.
In addition, the way they wanted to consume this information was increasingly through social media networks.
While the established formats of in-person workshops and seminars were popular for delivering educational content, 44% of the 45-54 age group found communication through blogs 'somewhat or very valuable', with 40% having a preference for information shared through professional networks.
At the time many clients started working with their adviser, the opportunity to identify one through professional networks and social media platforms may not have been an option.
But while fewer than 5% of clients used professional or social networks when they found their current adviser, 21% responded that this would be important in the future. That number doubled to 42% for clients under the age of 45.
Just as existing clients were demanding more thought leadership from their advisers, prospective clients were highlighting that an online social presence was also a very desirable proposition when looking for a new adviser.
And it seems that advisers are beginning to take note.
Financial Planning Today recently reported that a January 2018 survey by LifeQuote found that of the 60% of advisers using social media professionally, 62% use it for networking, 42% to keep abreast of business trends, 41% as a source of information and 41% to proactively position themselves as a thought leader.
Of the 60% of advisers using social media professionally, 62% use it for networking, 42% to keep abreast of business trends, 41% as a source of information, and 41% to proactively position themselves as a thought leader."
Tellingly, only 28% of advisers actually use social media to connect with their clients.
But, ultimately, is there value in a social media strategy focused on thought leadership and education? After all, a business can't survive on ideas and theories alone.
When the Financial Planning Association and LinkedIn tied their evidence into key engagement markers such as referrals and 'share of wallet' – they found a direct correlation.
When clients were asked 'To what extent do you agree or disagree that your adviser provides you with education related to the market, investments or other financial topics?', 69% of 'engaged clients' - those clients classed as 5 out of 5 on overall satisfaction with their adviser - completely agreed.
And crucially, these 'engaged clients' were also those who had provided a referral within the last 12 months.
Join the conversation
Clients now have unprecedented access to the thoughts and conversations of some of the world's leading economists and thinkers through social media. And as the role of traditional media changes, social media will become an ever larger presence in their lives.
They want to be educated so they can play a part in their financial journey, to collaborate with their adviser and be confident in their conversations. And, to do this they'll continue to 'like', 'share', 'tweet', 'comment' and 'follow' in increasing numbers.
So is it now time to get connected, and at the very least, join the conversation?