If there has been a silver lining for advisors at all during the COVID-19 pandemic, it would be that social medial has allowed them to continue prospecting for new clients.
The pandemic stopped much of the world in its tracks when it came to social distancing measures and stay-at-home orders—but digital platforms, including social media, kept certain business operations such as prospecting and client engagement going.
Overall social media engagement increased by 61% during the pandemic, according to Kantar, a data and consulting company. The firm defines engagement as time spent logged on to social media. Even those adults 35 years and beyond increased their usage by 40%.
Putnam Investments announced the findings of its own "Social Advisor Survey: 2020 Pulse Edition" on Thursday. The firm, which surveyed 252 advisors, found that during the first few months of the pandemic, 74% of advisors who use social media were able to obtain a lead or onboard a new client and 55% of advisors who received a lead from social media did so by ramping up their social media usage.
In March, Todd Pouliot, co-founder of Gateway Financial, a state-registered advisor in Northfield Center, Ohio, said he saw the economic fallout from the pandemic as a moment for advisors to shine. He worked overtime to reassure his existing clients by creating content that answered their most common questions and worked on his digital marketing strategy for prospects.
“I'm trying to capitalize on people who are sitting at home looking at social media and people who are saying to themselves 'I may not be with the right advisor,'” Pouliot said then.
Pouliot, who has been in the advice business for 15 years, conceived his plan of action based on his experiences during the 2008 financial crisis. The looks of uncertainty on people’s faces had stuck with him, he said. So this time around he wanted to provide answers before clients and prospects could ask them.
By October, Pouliot said he had picked up 10 new clients: six from referrals and four from social media. All four of the latter came from LinkedIn, a social media platform where he receives the most clicks—three clicks for every one click he sees on his Facebook posts.
While Pouliot declined to disclose the amount of assets he now manages, he did say that Gateway Financial’s revenue had risen by 70% since March. Because business had picked up so much, he said he is considering hiring an additional person for his three-person team, which includes himself and two virtual assistants.
Rene Taber, Putnam’s director of research, said that the average assets advisors gained through use of social media was $2.4 million in 2019, and cumulatively, that average jumped to $7 million from 2019 into 2020.
The conversion method that’s working best for Pouliot involves content gating. When an advisor shares a post linking to an article or video and someone clicks the link that leads to a new page, a pop-up will appear requesting an email or other contact information before the visitor can view the content. If the visitor decides to input their contact information, their information is then added to a mailing list for further communications about the advisor’s services.
Even though all social platforms saw an increase in usage, LinkedIn has become a popular place for capturing leads, according to Putnam. Out of those 252 advisors it surveyed, 85% used LinkedIn, beating out Facebook (65%), Twitter (57%), Youtube (53%) and Instagram (46%).
Cameo Roberson, a business coach and operations strategist at Atlas Park Consulting & Finance in Oakland, Calif., saw an uptick in the number of advisors needing her marketing know-how. Advisors who hadn’t been taking advantage of these platforms all of a sudden took interest in how to use them, she said. So, she helped many of her clients draft social media strategies so they too could capitalize on the freefall of investors searching the web for an advisor.
Roberson recommended LinkedIn and Facebook groups to her advisor clients, telling them to join professional groups where they might find their target clients. If an advisor preferred start-up professionals, then join groups that fit that theme. And once an advisor joined the group, they should answer questions that touch on their expertise, or they could direct message individuals in the group and make sure to mention the group as commonality.
“It takes the pressure off of both people when you have something in common and it helps to bring down that defense people have when connecting online,” Roberson said.
Both Roberson and Pouliot said generating leads from social media is a long game. Pouliot committed to his social media strategies for several months before he saw any return. For Roberson, social media is about relationship building and putting yourself in a position to be referable, she said.