After hearing a growing chorus of requests from its financial advisers, INVEST Financial Corp., has moved forward with its initiative to build a bigger social media presence.
The Tampa, Fla.-based broker-dealer that serves more than 150 banks and credit unions and more than 1,100 representatives nationwide, recently launched its Facebook and LinkedIn pages. The social media channels aim to provide representatives with a new platform for information on best practices, product announcements and industry news.
Increased communication with INVEST’s existing representatives, as well as allowing prospective advisers to learn about and interact with the firm are other motivations.
“Our drive to become a leader in social media started with our reps,” said David Johnson, internal account manager at INVEST. “They’re younger, forward thinking and progressive. They asked us for it and we found a compliant way to do it.”
INVEST is a subsidiary of National Planning Holdings Inc. NPH is an affiliate of Jackson National Life Insurance Co.
The company’s social media team will be responsible for tracking website analytics, drafting new guidelines and usage manuals for home office staff members and coordinating the implementation of INVEST’s social media strategy.
The $1.3 billion Royal Credit Union in Eau Claire, Wis., applauded INVEST’s move to build its Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
“I think it’s wonderful that they are taking a lead in this,” said Rachel Risberg, executive vice president of member experience at Royal Credit Union, a client with INVEST for three years. “It’s one of those things that anytime you’re talking about financial information, it can be cumbersome to spend the time and figure out how to do it well."
INVEST launched its social media pages in mid-May, Johnson said. Since then, the number of reps who have launched their professional Facebook and LinkedIn pages went from eight to 40. Before posting, content is reviewed by a content committee. Reposting has started to take off. For instance, one rep was recently interviewed by The Wall Street Journal online. In addition to posting the story on his page, INVEST posted it on its corporate Facebook page.
Indeed, that content committee is keenly aware that reps must adhere to the company’s compliance standards. Johnson, who worked in INVEST’s compliance department before moving into his current position, said common sense always prevails.
“There are a lot of concerns about social media that are maybe a little misplaced. People can say whatever they want on social media,” Johnson said. “If there’s a troll or if it’s something crazy, we won’t post it. With us being there, it doesn’t add any risk. It allows us to be a part of the conversation.”
With that said, comments are still previewed and INVEST has partnerships with third-party firms to ensure that layers of protection are in place, said Paul Coffin, vice president of practice management at INVEST. Those alliances ensure that that there is a substantial compliance arm engaged in all aspects of content.
Coffin said as part of the company’s social media strategy, Twitter usage is the next channel to tackle. While themes and the type of venues to engage reps have already been decided, the final approval to move forward is pending.
“When it happens, that will be a substantial part of social media for us. There, you can really be active all the time,” Coffin said about Twitter.
Relationship building is a key component for the reps who serve members at Royal Credit Union, said Matt Mink, eServices coordinator at the cooperative. Compliance is critical particularly when it comes to what financial advisers post.
“Investments and insurance are bound by strict regulations. That tends to scare off a number of financial institutions,” Mink said. “Right now, our credit union is at a point where we are narrow in who is participating in social media. That would be me and a backup person when I’m not around. Opening it up to reps is a big step.”
Royal’s Facebook page has been up for over a year and while its LinkedIn page is accessible, it’s pretty static at this point, Mink said. Risberg said the credit union surveyed members last year on which social media channel they used the most. Twitter trailed Facebook and LinkedIn, but she suspects that tweet usage may have since increased.
Surrounded by several universities and colleges, Royal sees the importance of having a social media presence, Mink said. He will be curious to see the results after the next usage survey, which is scheduled to occur in September or October.