Tips for connecting with Millennials

The rise of social media and social network sites has shaped how Millennials define “community.” Detached from the traditional establishments of marriage, religious organizations, and political parties,1 Millennials define community much more broadly than previous generations. While their definition does include the usual suspects – neighborhoods, schools, and cities – it extends broadly to include “people like me” (24%), “other people my own age” (24%), “people I interact with online” (11%), and more.2

Community graphic: How do Millennials define it?

An opportunity for advisors

What this means for you, as an advisor, you have an opportunity to join these digital communities and build relationships with Millennials you might not encounter through more traditional avenues. The ease of connection facilitated by social media allows community members to maintain loose ties that might otherwise be cut.3 This has opened the door for advisors to use social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as part of their communications strategy. And it’s working: a recent study conducted by Putnam Investments found that 66% of the advisors on social network sites were able to find new clients this way.4 (Of course, keep in mind that if you plan to retire soon, targeting Millennial investors may not align with your more immediate strategic goals).

Of course, recognizing the opportunity is the easy part. As is the case with face-to-face relationships, success in social media follows no prescribed formula, but there are things you can do to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

  • Success in the social media space is about facilitating conversations and forming relationships. Rather than measuring the success of your social media presence by the number of “likes” you receive, focus on the quality of the connections you are able to build.
  • Communicate your messages in the context of shared interests. Draw personal connections between your interests and the interests of your clients (and prospects) – and then show how those common interests relate to financial planning.
  • Patience may well pay off. Building relationships takes time. Remember that when you are having trouble directly connecting social media interactions to cash flows. Be patient and allow your seeds to grow. Providing practical tips, encouragement, and useful insights can help you establish yourself as a supportive and market-savvy advisor—and keep you top-of-mind when those investors do seek advice.
  • Learn by doing – and by sharing. Social networking sites are continually evolving and the best way to understand what they are all about is to get active. It can feel a little bit like learning to swim—while it might seem a little scary at first, you’ll never learn to swim if you stay on the shore. And when you do find something that works, celebrate your wins and share your insight with other advisors. Who knows, you might just create a community of your own.
  • Heed the regulatory environment. Make sure you’re aware of—and following—your firm’s and regulators’ guidance about social media. Some firms have navigated this by keeping the content of their posts educational rather than directional, but ultimately it’s up to your firm to set its own policy.5

The bottom line

Heavily influenced by new channels of communication such a social media, Millennials define “community” much more broadly than have previous generations. As an advisor, maintaining a presence in the social space creates an opportunity to build relationships and grow influence among this young, connected cohort—and their emerging affluence.

1 Pew Research. (2014). Millennials in Adulthood: Detached from Institutions, Networked with Friends. Social and Demographic Trends.
2 Cone. (2006). The Millennial Generation: Pro-Social and empowered to Change the World. The 2006 Cone Millennial Cause Study.
3 Ellison, N. B. & Boyd, D. (2013). Sociality through Social Network Sites. In Dutton, W. H. (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Internet Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 151-172.
4 Beaton, M. (2014, December 11) Value-Add 2.0: Helping Advisors With Social Media. Ignites.
5 Kramer, L. (2013, June 10). Your Mutual Fund Soon May Tweet Its Performance. CNBC.