Fifty-eight percent of financial advisors use social networking as part of their business, according to a Phoenix Marketing International of Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Facebook, which is used by 85% of advisors that are using social media, is far and away the most widely-used application, followed by LinkedIn (56%), Twitter (44%), Google (34%) and YouTube (31%). In addition, 30% of advisors that aren’t using social media plan to start in the next six months.

One key takeaway from this study, according to Phoenix, is that social networking provides good value for advisors when interacting with asset managers.

“The study asked advisors which business goals they hope to achieve when using social networking,” said Carl Uttaro, a senior research analyst and product manager at Phoenix. “Advisors rated ‘interacting with asset managers’ (communicating with or consuming information from them) as the business goal for which social networking provides the most value, in helping to accomplish.”

Uttaro said such answers indicate how important it is to be present and active on social networking.

Nevertheless, some advisors remain reluctant to participate. According to the Phoenix study, regulatory issues are the biggest factors inhibiting use of social networking.

“Concerns mainly revolve around liability issues,” Uttaro said, “which affect advisors and asset managers. For example, what are the implications of hitting ‘like’ on Facebook? And who is technically allowed to say or communicate certain things via social networking--facts vs. opinion or advice?”

Among advisors who currently use social networking, regulatory issues become significantly less of a concern, Uttaro said.
“This shows that once people understand the parameters, there's plenty that can be done through social networking,” he said.

The Phoenix study concludes with a list of best practices, including “crisp content with frequent updates” and “interact and ‘network’ with users.” Also on this list: be willing to try something unique, such as a new platform or messaging strategy.

“For example,” Uttaro said, “advisors might branch out to one of the platforms that is currently under-utilized by many firms, such as Google .”

A messaging strategy, he said, can be one of the many different successful types of content that various firms are using.

“For example,” he said, “one firm does very well on YouTube with humorous videos. This shows that social networking content--even for financial services firms and advisors--can be creative and not simply dry and to-the-point.”