In the past few years, purchase behavior has transformed. Buyers are not informed or persuaded by advertising alone and are using the web and social networks to educate themselves on potential purchases. This is especially true in the financial sector, creating a tremendous opportunity for financial institutions to reach mass affluent audiences by providing rich content to earn trust and credibility.

Today, LinkedIn and Cogent Research are releasing a study called Influencing The Mass Affluent. The research shows that close to 90% of people with investible assets between US$100K and $1M are active social media users. Of that, 44% are engaging with financial institutions in social media, with more than a third actively following companies, liking, commenting and sharing content. See more highlights from the study:

Our study found that 36% of the mass affluent audience uses social media for discovery (learning about financial trends, companies, products, or accounts) and for consideration (seeking advice and further information to evaluate what they’ve learned). The influence of discovery and consideration for financial decisions is strong, as 63% of those who use social media for both purposes take action based on what they learn – whether opening or closing an account, or purchasing a new product or policy.

Mass affluent in the accumulating wealth life stage turn to social media the most, with close to 50% likely to engage with financial companies on social media. They are also most likely to value relevant content from financial institutions. But audiences in later life stages use social media as well: 43% who are soon to retire, and 38% of those who have already retired, also engage with financial institutions via social media. Those who are soon to retire are most likely to expect brokerages to have a presence, while those who have recently retired are most likely to value customer service. These insights show that financial services companies should segment their social media strategies by life stage where possible.

The research also shows that context matters when evaluating financial decisions, and the mass affluent are investing time on LinkedIn with the goal of getting something valuable in return. Conversation and content are key drivers of influence in financial decision-making on LinkedIn, and the study shows there is a higher degree of trust in financial information on LinkedIn than on other social platforms.

But with greater interaction comes greater expectation. The study shows a gap between what information the audience seeks and what financial companies are currently delivering. This opens an opportunity for financial institutions to find new and creative ways to attract this influential audience through social media. 

Nearly one in five social media users expect financial institutions to have a presence on social media. The top three most valued types of interactions they expect are improved customer service, timely updates and relevant content. While higher quality customer service is desired more from banks and credit card companies, the mass affluent want relevant content across all sectors of financial service providers. 

Financial institutions can fill these gaps by moving beyond static engagement and offering more content-driven information that will enable the mass affluent to be more knowledgeable and productive. Below are best practices for financial institutions as they consider building relationships with this mass affluent audience:

   •  Mindset matters: Align with the social context that best fits brand objectives.
   •  Relevance is key: Improve value exchange and trust with relevant content,
      particularly for younger mass affluent.
   •  Discussion drives influence: Drive even more influence in group forums.
   •  Highlight new products: New product information is the most desired information on
      social.
   •  Target by life stage: Younger Mass Affluent expect relevant content,
      soon-to-retire want timely updates, and the retired expect customer service.

These steps will not only enhance purchase consideration and lead generation, but also help build trusted relationships with influential audiences who will amplify messages and ultimately impact revenue.

For more insights on how to attract the mass affluent in social media, download the full study here or view the infographic.

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Influencing The Mass Affluent was conducted through an online survey by Cogent Research from March 1-13, 2013 among 500 US-based mass affluents.