Almost 50% of investors say social media impacts whom they hire as a financial professional and 33% report they seek financial advice online, according to a new survey from Hartford Funds.

In fact, 20% of investors across age, income and assets said that an advisor’s social media was their sole deciding factor in the decision-making process when evaluating a financial professional.

“If a financial advisor doesn’t have a social media presence, investors are starting to ask why,” Bill McManus, Managing Director of Applied Insights at Hartford Funds told Financial Advisor Magazine.  “Some 23% of Gen Z said they wouldn’t even consider talking to a financial professional if they didn’t have some type of social media presence and I think that’s only going to increase.”

During the pandemic, 74% of financial advisers who use social media for business were able to establish new prospect relationships or sign new clients, Putnam Investments Social Advisor 2020 Study found. Even as the U.S. enters the post-pandemic new normal and many Americans return to work, advisors should still expect that investors use of digital media will remain high.

“Especially as we come out of a pandemic, you have to assume the first place anyone will go to find out about your services is your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and any other social media account,” McManus said.

For firms that want to appeal to investors across generations, having multiple digital presences is critical, added McManus, who works with advisors to help them adapt strategies to a virtual environment and has worked with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Age Lab.

According to Hartford Funds’ findings, it definitely can detract if you don’t have a social media presence. “It makes people question why you don’t. Absolutely I think having a digital presence is a must. How robust it is is up to the financial professional, their client base and whether a firm is in growth mode and prospecting. A lot of that factors into  social media presence, but certainly they have to have some presence,” McManus said.

Virtual client meetings are also more acceptable than many advisors may imagine. Some 64% of respondents said they feel comfortable discussing personal information during a virtual meeting with a financial professional, the survey found.

How social media savvy does an advisor have to be? From a content perspective, consistency and of course, professionalism is important. This is how a growing number of investors and even existing clients might be evaluating your credibility and brand.

How will you know if you’re doing social media right? “It makes a ton of sense to solicit opinions from family, employees and clients and again I’d do it across multiple generations. Get as many opinions as possible. I’d even suggest having a client advisory board across look at your social media,” McManus added.

Building a social media presence can not only increase client numbers, but it can also establish additional credibility. “The one key thing we see from the data is, I don’t think an advisor’s social media needs to be perfect, but I do think it needs to cut across different platforms because everyone uses different mediums for looking for advice or services, so there should be multiple platforms that advisors should at least have some presence on,” McManus said.

According to the survey, the majority of investors (66%) still say they seek advice from financial advisors over digital media (33%). “So, I think that’s a positive thing for financial professionals out there. Investors are still seeking all the things that advisors have done for years and years--the financial advice, the soft skills, the services, the relationships. They are just finding advisors in a different way,” McManus said.