Social media can be much like the Wild West. It appears to be a land of opportunity for advisors who want to prospect and post their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But the free-wheeling atmosphere of social media networks can quickly seem like the O.K. Corral for executives and compliance officers.
Now there’s a new sheriff in town.
Socialware, a seven-year-old Austin, TX-based company, helps firms in regulated markets, like financial services, harness the potential of social media while staying compliant. Their modular platform of publishing and oversight tools can bring order and structure to a firm’s social media strategy.
Building a Better Mousetrap
Social media is quickly maturing as marketing and communications channel for financial advisors. Over 80 percent of advisors use social media for business, according to a 2015 Putnam Investments survey, and 69 percent say it plays a major role in their marketing efforts.
Turning social media’s potential into real assets and revenue is a nut that many firms and advisors are still trying to crack. Socialware’s solutions are showing promise for converting social media prospects into new clients. The company reported that new advisors on average generate 12 more leads per month using Socialware than they did before.
In the case of an insurance company advisor who typically coverts around half of their leads, six new clients with policies of $150,000 would translate to $900,000 of new firm business. Multiply that across a network of representatives, and fractures will show on the shell of the social media nut.
Powerful Tools, Better Together
A major benefit of the Socialware platform is provided by its tight integration into the top three social media networks; LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. They developed separate add-ins for each network, which advisors give permission to access their social accounts. Socialware then operates invisibly in the background, continuously monitoring all of their online activity.
Firms can customize the Socialware solution using different modules for compliance, publishing, archiving and more. By licensing the complete suite, they get a powerful and fully-integrated platform to manage social media engagement by their staff.
Compliance officers will like Socialware’s automated processes for monitoring and moderating social media activity. Updates to account profiles for any employees subject to the SEC Investment Advisers Act of 1940 are flagged instantly for review. Online posts can be automatically routed to compliance desks for pre-review without any action needed on the part of advisors. These features allow a firm to create a compliance process that’s virtually airtight.
Archiving social media communications is another challenge. Social media activity can catch fire quickly, spreading by likes and comments across multiple networks. Socialware’s archiving capabilities help compliance offices contain this blaze, sweeping across the popular social media platforms to collect and store all required activity.
Social media platforms are constantly updating their code to provide new features and functionality. Any one of these changes could impact firms' compliance status. In 2014, the top three platforms introduced more than 350 updates. Some firms found themselves out of compliance due to these changes. Other updates blocked a firm’s ability to archive posts. Socialware’s engineers have direct access to the product managers at each social network to help them implement the necessary updates.
The built-in features found on the popular social media platforms—Facebook’s “like” button, LinkedIn recommendations, and Twitter re-tweets—is what makes these networks versatile and powerful. But like any tool, these features can easily be abused and misused.
With the Socialware platform, firms can help their reps use social media tools without running afoul of compliance rules. Socialware’s patented “access control” technology allows a firm to enable or disable many social media features that could get advisors into trouble. For example, removing the ability to like Facebook posts or make LinkedIn recommendations. Firms can also vary access to these features among different sets of employees or advisors.
The Socialware platform also integrates well with the way an advisor uses social media in his or her business. In many cases, advisors delegate social media tasks to someone on their support team. Socialware makes delegation easy, because the advisor doesn’t have to give another person access to their Facebook or LinkedIn account—all social media activity can be done through the Socialware interface on the advisor’s behalf.
Socialware gives users the power to publish content across multiple social media platforms simultaneously. But Socialware allows advisors to do more than speak to clients and contacts—Socialware also listens to what these contacts are saying, and shares this knowledge with advisors.
Using semantic analysis to comb through an individual’s profile and postings, Socialware gathers insights from contacts on their interests and likes, then recommends relevant content based on these insights. Advisors can share this content in customized messages, helping them build credibility and creating tighter client relationships.
There’s Gold in Them There Hills
The “Wild West” nature of social media won’t be so wild for those firms that take a smart, structured approach to compliance. Socialware’s solution deputizes investment advisory executives and compliance officers to bring order and structure to their social media strategy.
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John Clinton contributed to this article.