As retail investors and advisors change the way they consume information from social media and online publishers, brokers are hunting for new ways to provide ideas to clients through smartphones and tablets.
Three weeks ago, Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management launched its own channel on Flipboard, a popular, free-application that lets readers aggregate their own content on smart phones and tablets and literally “flip” through their own newsy, social magazine.
“We know our audiences consumption habits are beginning to shift. We know they are using tablets and smart phones in an increasing manner,” says Joe Corriero, head of digital marketing for Bank of America’s Global Wealth & Investment division, of which Merrill Lynch is a part.
Merrill Lynch is the first financial services firm to join Flipboard which is already a place where consumers view stories, world news, photos and updates from friends on social media sites.
In a multi-channel world, some customers want their content on their computers, others want it on tablet devices and some want to talk to a person via a phone call, says Corriero. “It’s important for us to be in all of them and make sure we are providing our content in the ways that our customers want to receive it,” says Corriero.
In crafting its mobile strategy, Corriero picked Flipboard because it allows customers to create their own magazine on a mobile/wireless device. “Flipboard was a wonderful way to reach our audience on those devices.” Downloadable for free, Flipboard’s app allows readers to aggregate content of their choice on iPads, mobile phones and other smart devices. In Merrill’s case, it has created a brand of content on Flipboard that it can publish content onto. “It’s a great way for prospective advisors to experience that content,” says Corriero.
One of the attractions for Flipboard is that it has a following among people who have downloaded the app and many publishers – including Forbes, The Atlantic — which, Corriero said, are two of the most popular feeds on Flipboard. “We are advertising and pushing our content into some of the publishing channels to entice them to look at it on the Merrill channel,” explained Corriero. Merrill is sprinkling its content in those apps and advertising on those apps to draw readers back to the Merrill Lynch channel.
Customers can keep up with Merrill Lynch on Flipboard [flbd.it/ml] by going directly to the Merrill channel, of they can view Merrill’s advertising on media brands on Flipboard and clock over to the Merrill channel, or they can do a search. Another option is that someone searches a topic, such as emerging markets or fiscal cliff and finds Merrill’s article that way.
The firm’s goal is to deliver content to both existing clients as well as the investing public. “We would love to spark conversations between existing advisors around the content and the general public,” says Corriero.
As for topics, Merrill’s experts are writing about the economy, retirement and previously about the U.S. presidential election. For example, some sample articles dealt with how families deal with eldercare and divorce, tweets on retirement and divorce, remarriage and their true cost. These articles are on timely topics, but not research reports. “It’s not stock-specific content; it’s broader, more macro content,” explained Corriero. Merrill already has content on its web site and on its social media sites through For example, the firm’s Twitter account has over 34,000 followers. It also maintains a YouTube channel for videos and a brand presence on Linkedin where it has 125,000 followers.
Flipboard is part of Merrill’s broader strategy to bring its content to the tablets and mobile devices, said Corriero. One of the reasons Merrill went to Flipboard is that it’s visually appealing, enabling it to display photography and imagery around its content.
Going forward, Merrill plans to measure engagement with its content and how many people are subscribing to the channels. Up until recently Flipboard only aggregated content on tablets, but it added smart phones. And with so much of the U.S. population using tablets and mobile phones, the firm is also tracking those numbers as well. “People are going to be consuming their information on a tablet, maybe not all of the time, but some of the time,” said Corriero. While the usage of tablets and mobile devices hasn’t surpassed the PC yet, “When they do we want our brand and our experts in front of them,” said Corriero.