Industry-Related Social Network: Insurance
As mentioned in lecture and in the assigned article, Industry-Specific Social Networking: Fad or Future?, LinkedFA.com is a social network for financial and insurance professionals. As Marketing Coordinator for an insurance agency, and a licensed Customer Representative, I have selected this particular industry-related social network to review.
Note: Upon further research for this assignment, it is apparent that what was LinkedFA is now FA Today.
About FA Today
FA Today is an online community primarily for Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs, also known as FAs – Financial Advisors) that tailors news, content, learning resources and tools customized for each individual IFA. FA Today was created to provide IFAs and other related industry professionals, such as those in the insurance industry, a centralized community compliant with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FA Today’s intent is to provide resources, save time and increase relevancy and effectiveness.
It is critical for financial advisors to stay up to date on regulations and financial products, as well as other trends and business practices, in order to create a thriving career. Based on users’ profiles, FA today delvers content in a collaborative management platform. FA today aggregates over 100 industry related sources, including media, respected industry blogs, financial institution content and other related sources. Members’ ability to comment, vote and rate material allows for an interactive environment.
FA Today is unique in that it validates all members through their industry licenses. According to the FINRA regulations, a social network profile that includes an advisor’s professional affiliation is treated as advertising, meaning that it is subject to a regulatory compliance review prior to publication (Carr, June 2011).
Review of FA Today
Based on my personal user experience I would rank FA Today poorly. Not only had I never heard of the network, but neither had my superior, who I would classify as a relatively techy guy that is in tune with industry news and resources. While setting up a profile to attempt to learn more about the network, I found the experience to be anything but user friendly and wasn’t even able to update some of my generic profile information. Additionally, it has been days since I notified support about this issue and I have heard anything back.
While researching about the platform, many articles dated back to 2010-2012. While it appears there may have been some buzz about the social platform at that time, there doesn’t appear to be much hype about it currently. Although the platform sets itself apart by validating professionals based on their license number, it doesn’t facilitate what’s most important to their industry – relationship building. While I am not a financial advisor, and cannot attest to the regulations imposed upon them, I believe the uncertainty about FA Today’s audience is particularly confusing.
Who can use FA Today?
According to the article LinkedFA responds, in which the CEO was interviewed, Linked FA/FA Today was designed to provide “a more collaborative and frequent method for financial advisors to communicate with their current clients that is more private and secure than sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. Network building can be achieved by inviting prospects and via referrals (Janowski, 2010).”
Let’s pause for a moment – I’m already confused. As previously stated, and reported on the FA Today website (image show below), users must be validated through their professional licenses.
How would my prospects create an account, and more importantly WHY? There appears to be no incentive for prospects and referral sources to create accounts.
In my opinion, FA Today is not a strong platform for social networking.
While FA Today may be beneficial for receiving the most up to date customized information, it is not conducive for relationship building.
Given the advertising regulations previously stated, I would find it highly unlikely that FA Today would be authorized to use proximity marketing. If anything, it may be possible that other FA’s can utilize it to connect with one another; however I am unsure how beneficial that would be to them. Additionally, I do not believe there is allowance for integration with other social platforms, as this was the whole reason behind creating LinkedFA.
What’s the alternative?
The challenge for investment firms is to find ways of allowing their networks of local representatives to participate in social media without violating the rules of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). For example, if an advisor accepts an endorsement on his LinkedIn profile that could be considered a violation of a law. (Carr, May 2011)
In an industry built strongly on relationships, financial advisors’ ability to leverage the power of social media to build and maintain relationships legally is invaluable. While I don’t believe FA Today is the answer, I do think Socialware, and other similar software systems may be getting closer.
Due to the unique nature of this industry and the regulations imposed upon it, the answer may not be a separate social platform, but a software that allows for the use of today’s most popular platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn….afterall, that’s where all the people are.
Socialware has become a trusted technology partner, serving over 160 of the leading businesses in the United States. Socialware provides the most advanced industry software and services for companies to securely and compliantly market through social media, and to generate business through relationships with customers and prospects on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Carr, D. May 2, 2011. Helping Financial Advisors With Social Media Compliance Hazards. Retrieved from http://www.networkcomputing.com/networking/helping-financial-advisors-with-social-media-compliance-hazards/d/d-id/1097491
Carr, D. June 1, 2011. LinkedFA Offers Social Network For Financial Advisors. Retrieved from http://www.informationweek.com/enterprise/linkedfa-offers-social-network-for-financial-advisors/d/d-id/1098062
Janowski, D. April 16, 2010. LinkedFA responds. Retreived from http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20100416/BLOG02/100419901