Are Financial Service Companies Finally Embracing Social Media (If So, How?)

Are Financial Service Companies Finally Embracing Social Media (If So, How?)

With over 2.77 billion social network users around the globe, you’d think that every B2B marketer has adopted social media by now. Yet, some companies, particularly in the finance industry, have been lagging behind, mostly due to regulatory concerns. In fact, only 42% of surveyed CFO’s said their finance team is knowledgeable about social media technologies and platforms.

As social media becomes further entrenched in the public’s consciousness and everyday habits – whether it’s for support needs, education purposes, or talent acquisition – finance service companies who don’t make the shift soon will find themselves at a loss of audience engagement and trust. After all, customers utilize social media at multiple stages of the buyer journey, making it essential for fin-service companies to listen to their activities and respond accordingly.

So what are the top barriers preventing these company from making the shift? And once these barriers have been overcome, how do financial agents, consultants, and brokers use various social networks to build conversations and generate revenue?

To help us answer these questions and shed light on the topic, we sat down with Ibby Hussain from Vested, a communication agency which helps global firms across the financial spectrum to effectively transition into the social-centric marketplace.

First off, tell us a bit about yourself and your role at Vested

I’m Ibby Hussain, a senior account executive at Vested. I lead our social and digital initiatives; meaning I help clients take their content and PR efforts and push those across other channels to ensure they’re fully integrated and aligned with communication efforts.

We’re a financial marketing and PR firm and work with a pretty broad spectrum of clients, including B2B financial services technology, banking, fin-tech, as well as wealth and asset management companies.

From day one, I’ve been watching this firm grow and expand its expertise and portfolio. As the company’s first hire, I’m lucky to be a part of this exciting journey.

Even before Vested, I worked for a financial PR and marketing agency supporting its clients’ marketing and digital efforts for financial institutions. For me, being able to work in communications for finance has always been the perfect combination of left brain meets right brain, where I get to flex my creative muscles while still working in a field that’s rooted in mathematics and analysis.

For me, being able to work in communications for finance has always been the perfect combination of left brain meets right brain.

Before we get into social media: what are some of the common challenges that financial services firms encounter with online marketing and communication?

In the financial world, digital communication has been extremely conservative, and in some cases, non-existent when it comes to social media. But I really believe that’s a thing of the past.

Now, you can be artsy, modern, edgy, innovative, and if anything, companies seem to be craving that.

Everywhere I turn, that dichotomy of “old vs. new” poses a serious challenge for a lot of brands. How are they supposed to blend their old, conservative brand—whether its tone, or a general look and feel—with this modern world that they’re a part of?

Vested’s own marketing has done a great job with walking that line with staying professional and smart, while still being cheeky, funny and innovative. And because of that, I believe we’ve been able to help our clients work to find that balance.

Now, you can be artsy, modern, edgy, innovative, and if anything, companies seem to be craving that.

What are some of the barriers that have stopped financial service companies from getting on the social media train?

I think it comes down to the idea of social media being taboo for many of these companies because there’s compliance involved.

For instance, if you manage money for clients or people, there are a lot of rules guiding what you can and cannot talk about. If you’re in finance, it’s a known fact that you rarely talk about clients or different companies due to of compliance and security. The last thing financial service brands want is any confrontation from their compliance team or client involving the misuse of Twitter.

With that said, financial companies have really turned to thought leadership and how-to content on social. The reasons for this are two-fold: for starters, it’s a safety net. Next, it’s putting an approachable, human face on something that has previously been viewed as dull and stale.

What are some of the barriers that have stopped financial service companies from getting on the social media train? Q&A with @ibby_h via @vestedsays Click To Tweet

How can companies and individuals in the financial services industry circumnavigate these obstacles?

One way companies can combat the challenges is by talking about ESG investing (environmental, social, and governance investing). This is an easy win for companies because the goal is always for the greater good, whether it’s improving energy sources, protecting labor standards, or fighting corruption.

Going back to the idea of humanizing certain topics; financial institutions can also position themselves as approachable and easy-to-understand sources for things like retirement or student loans. The more you arm your audience with digestible information on subjects that pertain directly to them, the more you’ll find people more engaged and eager to learn more.

The more you arm your audience with digestible information on subjects that pertain directly to them, the more you’ll find people more engaged and eager to learn more.

What are some interesting examples of how companies and employees in financial services leverage social media to achieve desirable results?

Design is key.

That includes brand consistency – showing that a company has a cohesive look and feel across all platforms, social media, and beyond. Again, revealing the face of the company, and making the brand feel as friendly and human as possible.

Determining your voice and positioning on social media is also important. I go back to the idea that people like to engage with humans, not robots. Companies that have perfected their voice on social, notice the rise in audience engagement.

Some examples of companies that succeed at both – design and voice – include Oppenheimer Funds, Robinhood, Lemonade, and Stash. I’d say fin-tech, specifically, has seen a lot of success on social media due to their competitive advantage – firstly, they target millennials, and secondly, they offer B2C products, which is naturally a sexier topic.

What are some of the most relevant social media networks for the financial services industry?

LinkedIn would be No. 1.

If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re missing out. But for the most part, it really depends on your audience and your objective. If you’re trying to reach influencers, Twitter is the place to be.

If you’re pushing thought leadership, then LinkedIn makes the most sense. For many places, I think Instagram is really more of a culture play to prove relevancy and position your brand awareness, but important nonetheless.

Technology and trends are evolving so fast! How will fin-service brands adapt to these changes and use them to their advantage?

Using the right social media management platform is half the battle. The other half is having a designated point person. Having the right social media manager, or social team, is vital to keeping up with trends, ensuring brand alignment, and really seeing success on social.

I think in order for financial services to adapt to the changes, they first need to implement the right technology and allocate resources to individuals so they can dive head-first (not face plunge) into social.

How can financial service companies dive head first (not face plunge) into social media? A 1:1 interview with @ibby_h from @vestedsays Click To Tweet

Why is 2018 the right time for financial services companies to grow their social media efforts?

2018 is the time to scale up, if you haven’t invested in social yet, you’re already behind!

Social has really hit a point of necessity, rather than an added bonus for brands. So again, hiring a social media manager, agency or consultant with the right experience who really understands your brand and your audience is incredibly important.

2018 is the time to scale up, if you haven’t invested in social yet, you’re already behind!

It’s also a really important time to speak with millennials. Financial service audiences are changing just as much as the industry itself. Therefore, those audience members—namely millennials—are all on social.

You’re less likely to find these people on traditional channels (like email), so if that’s your target demographic, social media is where to reach those people.

Finally, what advice can you give to financial services companies that want to use social media to reach, engage, and grow their customer relationships?

Take the time to find the right social media partner that really understands your community, your brand’s language, and do it right. It’s one thing to be on Facebook and Instagram, or wherever, but it isn’t successful without the right people and the right strategy.

Once you’ve done that, train your staff to understand both the power of social media and how to use it. When you have a workforce who proactively engages with your brand’s content, share that among their networks, and really be an advocate for the company, you’re able to reach existing and potential clients, a large and organic audience, and solidify your brand’s value.

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