The 4th annual Social Media Conference for Financial Services held in Boston, Mass., hosted by LIMRA and LOMA, was jam packed with experts from within and out of the industry, including speakers from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google.  

Here are some of the best pieces of advice shared from nine presenters:

John Ploumitsakos, director of online sales at Twitter, shared that their research shows that brand favorability increases while tweeting in the moment. “Key ‘now’ moments can be planned,” said Ploumitsakos.  He encouraged the attendees to think of possible outcomes and prepare for them.  For example, in a game, one of two teams is going to win and one is going to lose.

Twitter amplifies a message, shared Ploumitsakos. He gave an example of NBA replays being retweeted out in real time. His data shows that sponsored tweets get some lift for the brand using them.

One of his best examples of good tweeting in the industry is Vanguard’s CEO tweeting live.

“95% of the conversation happening about TV is happening on Twitter,” said Ploumitsakos.  He explained that the water-cooler conversations had a time delay, but with Twitter those conversations are happening while the shows are aired.

Even with advertising, Ploumitsakos said the commercial is a jumping off point for the conversation that will take place on Twitter. There are new rules to marketing.  “The reality is that the golden age is now,” said Ploumitsakos, stressing the need for well-integrated marketing campaigns.

Real-World, Online Marketing Engagement Combined

Dipayan Gupta, director of social media marketing at New York Life Insurance Company, acknowledged that the modern-day consumer wants to make their own decisions. “They base their level of trust in how the company conducts itself,” stated Gupta.  Social media is the place that customers can get to know more about a company.

His organization focuses on the human moments.  If the consumer can understand it, they can engage with it.

Gupta stated they have 80,000 followers on Twitter and that they have high engagement of four to five percent with all followers.  “They are sharing their stories back with us,” he added.

“No one wants to hear about a company that is just talking about themselves,” said Gupta, so his organization focuses on education.  The “living in the moment” branding approach uses life lesson ads that are adapted.  “Pictures do so well on Twitter.  So do videos.”

By having something of value and/or something entertaining, more success can be achieved.  

He gave an example of how their real-world marketing, with a hashtag on a float they had in a parade, created Twitter conversations.  He sees that engagement on Twitter leads to website traffic and real benefits.  His advice was that marketers should support their real-world presence.

“Twitter is a great place for us to engage with consumers,” said Gupta.

Joining Online Conversation

Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia, noted that Twitter was a very open forum. “You can jump into a conversation that you are not a part of and be welcomed.”  Conversely, imagine if a cold caller jumped in on two people’s phone conversation.

He believes if you make it 98 percent about them then you can eventually sell to them.  It takes some patience and that is why he sees sales folks fail with social media.  They are sprinters, not marathoners.

He gave an example of how this approach worked with his friend who posted something about buying an apartment. Three progressive real estate agents wrote to his friend and one eventually sold a $1.4 million apartment. Just one story of how Twitter engagement can work.

Read more what Gary Vee said in his keynote address in the article “15 Suggestions About the Future of Marketing.”

Social Media, Mobile Increasingly Integrated

Glen Reardon, head of industry for financial services at Google, spoke about game changing digital trends caused by the Internet, mobile and cloud computing.

“Things that we think are futuristic are not that far off,” said Reardon.  He spoke about:  

·      Google Fiber that will create bandwidth that has 200 times more capacity, allow for much more computing.

·      Google Now that will provide answers to questions without asking them.

·      Project Chauffeur that will have computer-driven cars.

·      Google Glass which is in a category of seamless devices. (There was one attendee wearing his glasses throughout the conference.)

The pace of change is exploding and the PC era is ending.  Reardon gave an example of this happening, stating that one of every three searches are now coming from mobile devices and that is expected to be one of every two searches by the end of the year. He added, “Thirty percent of traffic is coming from mobile and that is projected to be 50% by the end of the year.”  He stated that there is a massive gap – marketers are not where the consumers are.

“Mobile is going to grow social growth,” said Reardon.  “Social video ads will power the next leap forward in social monetization.”

He encouraged the attendees to do a better job of social media management, with better marketing across all channels and the convergence with service.

“Social media is growing so fast.  It is embedded in the fabric,” explained Reardon.  

Google+ is their effort to social be engrained in all other Google experiences.  Of all the Google+ features, he shared hangouts are the biggest success story.

“The path to purchase has permanently changed,” said Reardon.  “Brands cannot not just talk to customers; they need to talk with them!”

Social Media Provides An Identity

Ben Ortman, social business connector and innovator in global accounts at LinkedIn, stated that there are over 238 million members worldwide, of which 35 percent are in the U.S.  Linked In is growing at greater than two new members per second.

He quoted Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, saying, ‘The future belongs to networkers.’

“Now you can brand yourself,” said Ortman. With over five billion search queries, the LinkedIn profile is becoming even more important.

He stated that on LinkedIn, people want to invest time, but also expect something in return.  For business people, delayed gratification can make LinkedIn better than other social networks.  Users want their time on LinkedIn to make them more successful.

Regarding LinkedIn sponsored updates, Ortman believes they allow advertisers to find the right individuals.

Overcoming A Lack Of Trust

Augie Ray, director of social media at Prudential Financial, pointed out that the Edelman 2013 Trust Barometer had the financial services industry at the bottom compared to all other industries.  He focused his presentation on how to use social media to get over this hurdle.

“Trust is best created person to person,” said Ray.  “We need to get other people talking.

He showed how Ameriprise’s website allows a prospect to search for an advisor that is closely LinkedIn to one’s network. This is a case study of how to tap into peer-to-peer trust to find a “trusted advisor.”

Ray advised, “It is important to be transparent.”  He liked how Vanguard makes their CEO available, as trust can be built through these type of interactions.

“We are entering an era of rapid transparency,” said Ray.  “Build trust, not likes.”

A More Connected World

Neil Hiltz, head of global vertical marketing for financial services at Facebook, said, “You can now reach more people.”

He believed that organizations should use Facebook for efficiency, scalability and profitability.  Brand equity can be strengthened using Facebook and it is great at retaining the customers an organization has.

Today people can connect more easily than any other time in history.  Hiltz said there is now more data, which means more opportunity to impact the bottom line.  If you think about Facebook users, they share their real names and their real lives.

Promoting advertising on Facebook, Hiltz said, “Nine out of 10 times our targeting is accurate, because people share their lives.”  He showed a statistic that this data can be a 71 percent cost savings compared to other online advertising that is not as accurate.

He noted that technology is replacing in-person activities, so reaching people where they are is more important than ever.  Smart marketers can leverage this trend to connect on a massive scale.

While many do not trust the financial services industry, they do trust the financial professional they know.  That trust can be leveraged through Facebook and its 179 million users in the U.S. that are using the social network every month.

Facebook also has huge share of mobile time spent on the Internet.  Hiltz said that smart phone users check their phones 150 times per day.  “This is the kind of marketing that is transformative,” said Hiltz.  He advised, “Get your website ready for mobile.  Then think about how to scale up.”

Transitive Trust

Clara Shih, CEO and co-founder of Hearsay Social, opened her presentation by saying that 1.7 billion people are spending billions of minutes online.  She noted we are staying in touch with more people.  “We have to be where the customer are,” said Shih.  

The problem is that companies can send lots of spam because it is not costly to do so online.  However, with social networks it is an opt-in approach.

Shih believes purchase decisions are about life events and with them come social signals.

She stated that more than half of buying happens before contacting an organization selling a product or service.  If this is the case, the question then becomes, ‘How do we surface the right information before they have made their purchase decision?’

In the financial services industry, Shih said, “We have never seen greater distrust.”  The human relationships can build and strengthen the trust and it can increase over time.  Social networks can help as they create “transitive trust.”

Content online can create credibility with your network and that content can be shared with hub after hub.  “Great content is the new currency of the social web,” said Shih.

A Peek At The Future

Greg Bailey, vice president of marketing at Pacific Life Insurance Company, who was master of ceremonies for the conference, believes the financial services industry will have better integration of sales, marketing and service.  He thinks those that are successful in this space will figure out how to converge the back office and front office.

“With the concept of social selling, the effectiveness of sales people will have huge upside potential,”  he told attendees.

Bailey recapped each speaker’s presentation. One of his best summaries was after the Google presentation, when he said, “Consumers no longer differentiate between offline and online. Online has become so natural, we just consider it life.”

Mike Byrnes is the owner of Byrnes Consulting LLC. His firm provides consulting services to help advisors market their services and can be reached at