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​New study by LinkedIn and the Financial Planning Association (FPA) reveals how high-growth advisory firms are embracing thought leadership and social media as key strategies for growth


DENVER – While 30 percent of financial advisers do not see any connection between social media activity and new business, the majority see a direct or indirect link to growth. In fact, 67 percent of high growth firms say they added new clients directly as a result of social media activity, revealed Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media – a joint study by LinkedIn and the FPA Research and Practice Institute™, a research entity of FPA.


The study, which is now available, explores how the fastest growing advisory firms are investing in thought-leadership and social media to attract and retain clients and how client behavior is influencing the way in which the most successful advisers communicate and the tools they use. While the study looked specifically at how advisers are engaging in these activities, it also sought to understand what clients and prospects are looking for from advisers. Study findings suggest:​

  • ​Client engagement is not only about the adviser's expertise, but the extent to which he or she helps clients make informed decisions through meaningful education.

  • Social media is becoming a key part of the new business development process, including an adviser's ability to attract referrals.

"In today's fast-paced, technologically advanced world, advisers who are not embracing social media and more dynamic ways of engaging their clients and prospects are going to lag behind those practitioners and firms that are," said 2015 FPA President Edward W. Gjertsen II, CFP®. "As a financial planner I know that those I work with expect that I will help them better understand their finances and their financial decisions. While social media and online content can be an avenue of brand development for many advisers, too many are unsure how to approach it so it will not be onerous and lead to real results."

The study identified a strategic response (thought-leadership) to providing what clients and prospects want and a tactical response (social media) for delivering it.

The Strategic Response to Client Behaviors – High growth firms recognize that they can respond to both client and prospect needs and behaviors by focusing on three key communications strategies. Compared to low growth firms, they are more likely to offer educational events, leverage professional networks on LinkedIn, and focus on thought leadership activities. The impact of those activities may contribute to the success those firms have achieved. Forty-one percent of the high growth firms—identified in the study—experienced asset growth in excess of 30 percent. Just 11 percent of all respondents achieved that level of growth.

The Tactical Response – While social media is acknowledged—by respondents—as an important way to communicate with younger clients, it is further seen as a way to build deeper relationships with existing clients and build credibility. The data shows that:

  • High growth firms are more likely to execute thought leadership strategies via social media.

  • Advisers use different professional and social networks to meet different objectives. LinkedIn is seen primarily as a way to find new relationships, Facebook to maintain and deepen relationships and Twitter to listen and learn from others.

  • While many advisers cite compliance restrictions as the reason they do not use social media, almost as many say they are unsure how to use the networks effectively, or they do not feel they are appropriate for business.

  • Going forward, advisers will de-emphasize passive uses of social media (e.g. listening and learning from others) and focus more on using social media to actively build credibility.

Among the study findings:

  • Education is an important driver of client engagement with 76 percent of clients saying that education is somewhat important or critical.

  • While fewer than five percent of clients used professional or social networks when they found their current adviser, 21 percent responded that this would be important going forward. That number doubles for those clients under the age of 45.

  • While 33 percent of clients age 65 or older use LinkedIn that usage nearly doubles to 62 percent among those clients in the 18 to 44 age bracket.

  • About 70 percent of advisers share content with clients or prospects in order to build credibility, raise awareness and deepen relationships with existing clients; however, they rely primarily on traditional methods of distributing that information, such as email.

  • Eighty-three percent of advisers share content to build credibility, 76 percent share to raise awareness of their business, and 70 percent share content to deepen relationships with existing clients.

  • Seventy-six percent of advisers are currently using LinkedIn and another nine percent plan to use it in the future. Compare that to 43 percent who use Facebook (11% plan to use) and 23 percent who use Twitter (15% plan to use).

  • Of those advisers who currently use LinkedIn, 48 percent use it to build new relationships, 28 percent use to build their brand, and 12 percent use it to maintain relationships.

​"The study draws an important connection between the drivers of client engagement and communications strategies that will help advisers stand out from the crowd," said Julie Littlechild, President of If Not Now Research. "By combining investor feedback with insights from the fastest growing advisory firms, it's clear that purposeful thought leadership that leverages social media will be a primary way for advisers to differentiate themselves and build more engaged relationships."

The study draws on two separate pieces of research – financial advisers and consumers. Data was gathered from 1,242 financial advisers from across the country and across channel. Respondents completed an in-depth, online survey in March 2015. The margin of error is estimated at +/- 2.78%. Data was also gathered from 1,041 consumers from across the country using multiple, established investor panels. Respondents completed an in-depth, online survey in May 2015. All respondents work with a financial adviser, make or contribute to the financial decisions in the household and meet specific criteria on investable assets. The margin of error is estimated at +/- 3.04%. Both studies were conducted by If Not Now Research, an independent research firm, on behalf of FPA and LinkedIn.

Communication Evolution: Financial Professionals and the Future of Thought Leadership and Social Media can be accessed HERE.​