LinkedIn and Facebook still dominate social channels, but Instagram is gaining ground among advisors and agents
Principles-based messaging unlocks new engagement potential
Hearsay Systems, the trusted global leader in digital client engagement for the financial services industry, today announced the findings of its 2022 Social Selling Content Study. Now in its fifth year, the study remains the most comprehensive of its kind, analyzing the social media activities of more than 200,000 advisors and agents from 100 leading global financial services firms who used the Hearsay platform during the 2021 calendar year.
This year’s study examined more than 15 million texts, and 14 million published social media posts, which garnered more than 16 million engagements across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. It also included in-depth analysis of social media content across specific lines of business, including asset management, wealth management, banking, life insurance, and property & casualty insurance.
“In some ways, 2021 was the year social selling grew up. Financial services professionals began to see higher returns by focusing on the quality of their posts and through greater personalization,” said Leslie Leach, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer of Hearsay Systems. “At the same time, channels like Instagram gained a foothold in financial services as advisors, agents, and firms increasingly leveraged the social medium to share with clients and prospects in new ways. While there has certainly been a lot of progress, there is still plenty of room for everyone to up their game.”
Social Selling is Growing Up, But It’s Not There Yet: Key Findings
Facebook and LinkedIn remain the mainstays for social selling; all told, 88% of all posts published in the Hearsay network originated from these two channels. These are also the most mature social outlets for financial professionals, as they’ve been in place for several years and best practices for compliance have been established. Within these channels, there was a noted shift towards more targeted, higher quality posts.
Instagram is an up-and-comer channel for financial services, underscoring how much quality and personalization matter to audiences. It yielded very high levels of engagement – higher than LinkedIn and Facebook combined – despite low publish rates. This was largely due to content that reflected the empathy and authenticity clients and prospects crave. Instagram also opened a new door to connect with younger audiences, who are more likely to seek out financial-related content than across other channels.
By learning across channels, and considering which mediums, content types, and combination of medium and content types meet client needs, financial services professionals can maximize the potential of social selling and generate bigger returns from social programs. It behooves organizations and professionals to pay attention to what’s working on each medium and why.
To this end, key findings from this year’s Social Selling Content Study include:
Evolving from Quantity to Quality
- Steady Drumbeat of Financial Education and Corporate Branding Content Earns Trust: Clients and prospects turn to advisors and agents for guidance, and they want to feel like their financial professional and the company he or she works for has deep knowledge stores that can map to their needs. As such, a steady diet of financial education and corporate branding content worked well for establishing credibility. In fact, these types of content had the highest suggest and publish rates. It is critical, however, that financial professionals aren’t just spitting out the exact message coming from corporate marketing teams. To maximize effectiveness, administrators must double down on creating pathways for personalization, for example by requiring modification of content prior to publishing. Keeping posts advisor- and agent-centric (vs. brand-centric) helps set the stage for relationship-building.
- Not the Only Game in Town: Other types of content may be more effective for cultivating and sustaining trust of clients and prospects, however. Consistent with last year, principles-based messaging—focused on ESG, diversity and inclusion, and women—drove the highest engagement rates. Although slightly improved over last year, it was still the least suggested type of content at 4% and least published at 2%. These findings reinforce the ongoing preference of clients and prospects for brands that can articulate what they stand for. Purpose-driven companies that enable the field to activate their vision and beliefs at a local level are the ones that will sustain a competitive edge; those who fail to do so miss a huge opportunity to connect with individuals in a more meaningful way.
- Balance is the Key: Once consistent publishing rates are achieved, quantity can take a backseat to quality as the social program strategy naturally pivots to a greater focus on results. This often manifests itself in a more potent mix of content types. For example, a program might combine a high volume of posts dedicated to financial education and corporate branding (which help build awareness) with a more targeted stream of posts that are more local and specific in nature (to cultivate and sustain authenticity and trust). As social programs mature, they should strive towards a balance of what they need to convey with what clients and prospects find most interesting.
Mapping the Message to the Medium
- And the Winner Is: Overall, the channel favored by most publishers was LinkedIn, which claimed 48% of all posts, followed by Facebook, which had 40% of posts. This makes sense because many financial services professionals and firms have had social selling programs running on these channels for years now. Despite this, Instagram was the most productive channel for financial services professionals in 2021, even though it represented only 1.4% of all posts.
- Choosing the Right Messenger: Just as there are different types of content, used for different purposes, the various social channels at financial professionals’ disposal lend themselves to convey 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, text, and video. Links were used at 1.5x the rate of images and 22x more frequently than videos (both of which are more common to Instagram), even though overall links have the lowest engagement rate at 0.3. By considering which mediums, content types, and combinations of medium and content will satisfy client needs at important moments, firms can meaningfully connect with clients and prospects, reinforcing social selling’s standing as a critical business lever for growth.
The Unfulfilled Promise of Profiles
- Back to Basics: By all accounts, today’s financial professionals have yet to check off the most basic step of successful social selling: a complete profile. Less than 45% of LinkedIn profiles had a background photo and just over 75% of profiles had a summary. Over 52% of Facebook profiles lacked a description. Complete profiles should be the cost of entry for any financial professional who participates in their firm’s social selling program — the first step toward creating a memorable personal brand. Authenticity — or lack thereof — accorded to a social media post ultimately traces back to the online profile of its creator. Tools like Hearsay’s profile suggestions and review make it easy for program administrators to help in strengthening their financial professionals’ profiles.
Learn more and see all of the results, including those according to line of business, by downloading the full 2022 Social Selling Content Study here.