Potential clients are broadcasting “buy” signs through social media, and advisers need to find relevant signals through all the noise and deliver a message or experience.
"It's about listening and interacting with those in your network," Clara Shih, co-founder of Hearsay Social, said at a LIMRA social-media conference in Boston today. "A lot of the benefit is from advisers connecting to those who you know but aren't yet clients."
Advisers used to listen for buying signals by reading local business newspapers, scanning obituaries and looking up documents at courthouses, she said. Today, people listen for news of job changes, new babies, new marriages and deaths on social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
Of course, as advisers' social networks grow, they don't have the time to "scan through cat videos and what they had for breakfast," she said. But technologies from the networks themselves can help advisers do that, as well as companies such as Hearsay Social that can help firms establish a social-media strategy across platforms.
Hearsay Social, which Ms. Shih co-founded four years ago with Steve Garrity, signed 30 new financial services companies this year. Ms. Shih said a cross-section of advisers — not just those who are young and tech savvy — are using social media to enhance their businesses.
Established advisers who have cultivated large personal networks through their careers should move that online and take advantage of the "transitive trust" evident on social media, where contacts are willing to add someone to their own network just because a friend knows and trusts the person.
Neil Hiltz, head of vertical marketing for Facebook Inc., said his social network is an ideal place for advisers to provide content that helps ease the stress that people feel about their finances "because no one knows if they have done it well enough."
Facebook has 179 million U.S. users every month and 101 million Americans check Facebook on their mobile phones every day, spending 25 minutes there each day.
"That is a lot of time to engage them with the content that matters to them," Mr. Hiltz said. "It's never been easier for you to reach your customers and drive business results through Facebook."
While many advisers use Facebook because many of their clients are also friends, some financial professionals are more hesitant to jump on this social network because they want to have separate personal contacts versus business relationships, Mr. Hiltz said.
That divide will change with coming generations as they see connecting on Facebook and all social networks as a normal part of life, he said.