Recently Putnam Investments released its fourth annual Social Media Advisor Study, one of the largest surveys focused on social media for the advisor community. The findings should help financial planners evaluate and reassess their own social media marketing efforts.

The study surveyed more than 800 financial advisors about their social media use and the benefits that they gained from using such digital networks. Following is a summary of the key takeaways and what it may mean for today's advisors. (For more, see: How Financial Advisors Are Leveraging Social Media.)

Social Media Usage Is Up

Of the 800 advisors, more than 80% use some type of social media network and 40% of those use four or more platforms. Of those, 69% saw social media grow in significance in their overall marketing effort. This usage is up by from 75% from the 2014 study.

Don't chalk this increase in usage up to young advisors joining the industry and executing what they know best as their marketing scheme. The study said that the typical advisor using social media was a 44 year-old male with more than 10 years' experience working for a wire house and managing a median asset base of $80 million. With numbers like that, you can't write off social media as a tool just for green, young advisors.

So what does this mean? Obviously you can't ignore social media anymore if you expect to compete for increasingly tech-savvy clients. Marketing is moving its way more and more online and if you miss out, you'll put your practice behind in acquiring and keeping clients. (For more, see: How Advisors Can Carve Out a Social Media Niche.)

When it comes to acquiring clients with the help of social networks, of those surveyed, 79% said they had gleaned at least one from using social media. That's up from 66% in 2014. The average asset gain was $4.6 million, with a median gain of $1.9 million. Those aren't small numbers reflecting some new marketing fad. Social media clearly brings in clients with money.

Most Popular Networks

The preferred social media network is LinkedIn (LNKD), with a 70% usage rate among advisors surveyed. Facebook (FB) came in second, with 47% usage and then Twitter (TWTR) with 42% usage. Gains in clients via social media followed this same order with LinkedIn gaining 88%, Facebook with 68% and Twitter, 64%.

Advisors using social media aren't just using it to converse with clients. They use the networks to connect with other professionals in the industry, maintain client relationships, build their company brand, gain industry knowledge and establish leadership within the industry. In terms of what network was used for which action, users typically used LinkedIn to connect with peers and build referral networks while Facebook was used for maintaining current client relationships and building on the company brand.

Social media is also taking a lead as the place that advisors go to for recent news. Twitter is well-known for serving up the latest market news and reports, sometimes even before the traditional media channels.

Clearly, the attributes of social media go beyond merely posting photos of your latest meal. You can build and create new relationships while getting the news and education you need. It should be considered a necessary business tool that has the potential to increase your productivity, your market reach and your client base.

The Bottom Line

It doesn't pay to leave social media out of your marketing plan. It works for finding and retaining clients, as the Putnam study shows. If you haven't done it already, staking out your firm's spot on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter among others can only help grow and better your business. (For more, see: Social Media 'Don'ts' for Financial Advisors.)

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