Banks have for the most part approached social media as a communications vehicle for customer service interactions and marketing messages. This has worked out quite well — many an online banking glitch has been explained on Twitter and branch opening events are announced on Facebook. But many have also decided they don't want to spend a penny more on social media until they can prove a return on investment on it.

Steve Garrity, CTO of Hearsay Social, maker of a popular social media marketing and compliance platform, says he sees financial institutions moving toward "social selling." In social sales, someone like a financial advisor or wealth manager reaches out aggressively to customers and prospects on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter whenever those people share information about themselves that could lead to the purchase of a financial product. This, Garrity believes, is the key to that coveted ROI in social media.

"A lot of the social cues you used to get offline you can get in much higher frequency and scale, across thousands of people," Garrity says. "This gives the sales rep a far more productive way to manage relationships and their network."

Social media can play a role in several segments of the financial product buying cycle, he says — explore, discover, buy and service. "In all of these phases there's a different role for social media to play," Garrity says. "When they're exploring, people may not want to speak to their financial advisor on social media, but they want to know that they have a presence, they want to read what they think about events. Are they a student out of college who just joined the organization, or do they have a history of working at a good firm that's been successful?"

Hearsay Social today is announcing a new product called Sales Solution. It provides a sales workflow through which financial advisors can attract prospects, retain existing customers, and expand their customer base through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and FourSquare. The software helps identify interesting people to talk to, such as someone who has just bought a house or gotten married.

The software provides a unified view of customers' and prospects' social media activity to help retain customers.

How do you keep this from becoming Big Brotherish and intrusive, especially when these are fresh prospects being contacted out of the blue?

"The key is it requires good judgment," Garrity says. "It's mostly an excuse to have a conversation. You're not going to call someone and say, I see you just bought a house, want to buy homeowner's insurance? It's going to be, hey, I've been meaning to call you, I wanted to see how things are going. Is anything happening? Oh, you just bought a house? That's awesome. How is it? Five minutes later in the conversation: is there anything I can help you with? You get to it indirectly. It gives you the alert you need to go to this person."

Hearsay Social is also introducing software called Brand. The software helps customers manage their manage corporate social media pages. Compliance workflow has been built in.