As the stay-at-home and social distancing orders took hold during the pandemic, financial advisors hopped on social media and kept their business going. In fact, 74% of U.S. advisors who used social media for business initiated new relationships or on-boarded new clients, according to a Putnam Investments study.

The investment management firm’s 2020 “Social Advisor Study” surveyed 252 financial advisors across the U.S. The study found 55% of advisors who initiated new client relationships had increased their use of social media during the pandemic.

Most advisors in the survey (74%) relied on direct messaging through key social network platforms to communicate with clients and prospects, and 94% of those advisors reported gaining new assets. Fifty percent of advisors engaged in direct messaging on LinkedIn, with 92% of those gaining assets; 38% used Facebook, with 98% of those gaining assets; 33% used Twitter with 98% gaining assets; and 26% used direct messaging on Instagram, with 98% gaining assets.

“Advisors’ active use of social media during the pandemic has been critical to their success, not only in communicating with prospects and referrals, but also in advancing their ongoing relationships with clients,” said Mark McKenna, head of global marketing at Putnam Investments.

Putnam noted that all the platforms in the advisor study have seen increased use since the firm first did the social advisor study in 2013 (also, more advisors are using multiple platforms). But LinkedIn remains the clear leader with 85% of advisors’ engagement. Facebook followed with 65% and Twitter with 57%. YouTube came in at 53%, Instagram with 46% and Snapchat with 31%.

The investment management firm further noted that nearly half of advisors who initiated new relationships (48%) indicated they used LinkedIn’s InMail feature to contact out-of-network prospects, and 36% said they have hosted or participated in a LinkedIn Live session. Additionally, 80% of advisors who initiated new relationships since late February used one of LinkedIn’s premium memberships.

McKenna explained that LinkedIn ranked ahead of the other platforms because it was one of the earliest B2B tools. “LinkedIn has been more of a core business professional relationship tool, and it was among the first that advisors adopted,” he said.

Ninety percent of advisors said social media has changed the nature of their relationships with clients during the pandemic, according to Rene Taber, Putnam’s director of research. “It became clear during the pandemic that advisors were going to need a different business model, and using social media, it became easier for them to reach out to their clients, maintain relationships, on-board new clients and increase their assets,” she said.

Another noteworthy finding is that 90% of advisors gave credit to their home offices for laying the groundwork for their social media efforts while working remotely. “This is a big shift,” Taber said, noting that home offices were not as supportive in the past of advisors using social media because of the compliance roadblocks.

McKenna said he was surprised by the large percentage of advisors who gave kudos to their firms for stepping up to the plate and providing support. “The pendulum has really swung there,” he said.

Additionally, the study found that 84% of advisors expected that the changes made to their communications methods will largely be kept intact in the future.