(Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM)

Social selling of financial services continues to gain traction as advisors refine both the use of technology and the content of messages.

“In a way, 2021 was the year social selling grew,” said Leslie Leach, director of marketing and strategy at Hearsay Systems. “Financial services professionals have begun to see higher returns by focusing on the quality of their messaging and through greater personalization.”

A CNBC report features financial adviser Brittney Castor who uses social media sites such as TikTok to reach female prospects. She says it allows her to expand her customer base and acquire more subscribers, and she encourages other financial advisors to use the platform. In fact, a report by The Drum on a roundtable of social media experts suggests that TikTok is ripe for use by “micro-influencers” in niche areas, such as financial services, who are able to establish “authentic connections with their audience through expert knowledge and engagement.

Yet Facebook and LinkedIn remain the mainstays of social selling. They are also the most mature social outlets for finance professionals, as they have been in place for several years, and compliance best practices have been established. Within these channels, there has been a noticeable shift towards more targeted and higher quality messages.

Instagram is a promising channel for financial services, highlighting how important quality and personalization are to audiences. It generated high levels of engagement – ​​higher than LinkedIn and Facebook combined – despite low post rates. This was largely due to content that reflected the empathy and authenticity that customers and prospects sought. Instagram has also opened a new door to connect with younger audiences, who are more likely to seek out finance-related content on social media than other channels.

By learning across channels and considering which media, content types, and combination of media and content types meet customer needs, financial services professionals can maximize the potential of social selling and drive greater returns at from social programs. It helps organizations and professionals pay attention to what works in each medium and why.

Hearsay Systems’ 2022 Social Selling Content Study found several additional trends:

Content earns the trust of customers. Clients and prospects look to advisors and agents for advice, and they want to feel like their finance professional and the company they work for have deep knowledge that meets their needs. Therefore, a regular regimen of financial education and corporate branded content worked well to establish credibility.

Not the only game in town. However, other types of content can be more effective at cultivating and maintaining trust with customers and prospects. Consistent with last year, principles-based messaging – focusing on ESG, diversity and inclusion, and women – drove the highest engagement rates. Although slightly improved from last year, it was still the least suggested type of content at 4% and the least published at 2%.

Balance is the key. Once consistent posting rates are achieved, quantity can take precedence over quality, as social program strategy naturally shifts towards a greater focus on results. This often manifests as a more powerful mix of content types. As social programs mature, they must strive to strike a balance between what they need to convey and what customers and prospects find most interesting.

And the winner is… Overall, the channel preferred by most publishers was LinkedIn, which claimed 48% of all posts, followed by Facebook, which had 40% of posts. However, Instagram was the most productive channel for financial services professionals in 2021, despite accounting for just 1.4% of all posts.

Choose the right messenger. Just as there are different types of content, used for different purposes, the different social channels available to finance professionals lend themselves to conveying messages in certain ways. For example, links, commonly leveraged in LinkedIn and Facebook posts, were by far the most used components of social posts. These were followed by images, texts and videos.

Unfulfilled promise of the profiles. By all accounts, today’s finance professionals have yet to check off the most basic step to successful social selling: a complete profile. Complete profiles should be the cost of entry for any finance professional participating in their company’s social selling program – the first step towards building a memorable personal brand.

“While there’s certainly been a lot of progress, there’s still a lot of room for everyone to improve their game,” Leach said.