Marketing Financial Services: Balancing Compliance with Charisma on Social Media
Making something feel spur-of-the-moment (when, really, it’s anything but) is harder than it looks. Let’s phrase it slightly differently…
Giving the impression that you have posted spontaneously when, really, your campaign has been devised and revised many times over – the wording altered and re-altered – is much, much harder than you want it to look to audiences.
How should it look? Easy, natural, organic – in a word: charismatic. A strong social media presence shouldn’t feel manufactured but, when the business’s reputation is at stake in front of an audience of millions, it needs to be carefully manufactured, right?
This is especially true for financial services, which are carefully monitored for the way they advertise and communicate with customers.
But the reward for finding that balance, and for making things feel organic and natural in a way that really gels with your followers, promises a lot. Social selling is one of those key deciding factors in the competition between brands. This is the heady, irresistible ROI they talk about when social media is brought into the question, and it really is out there – provided you can give the impression of casual spontaneity, rather than integrating it into the structural framework that your social media presence is built on.
Need more? Here’s everything you need to know.
Why be charismatic?
Social media has changed so much in just fifteen to twenty years. Most of us can remember a time before – and, for that matter, how it used to look before businesses and individuals started to catch onto its potential for marketing.
Since then, its evolution has been determined by its users who, consciously or subconsciously, came to expect more in some instances – and, in others, less.
And, somewhere along the way, social media came to represent an incredibly lucrative opportunity for businesses that could capture attention. Unlike a TV ad or a billboard located somewhere along a highway, audiences could choose exactly what and who they looked at. We curate our feeds and, for the most part, decide who will get that free and regular access to us. Besides paid ads, our feeds unravel at our discretion.
But how do you get yourself chosen?
There are lots of different theories and ideas – that’s why social media marketing is as big as it is these days – and, as social media evolves, each one will have its day. Arguably the most popular, particularly as audiences expect more, is the ability to put forth a clear brand voice, without any hint of artificiality or corporate stiffness, and to engage followers as though your brand were the most charismatic person at the party, able to draw in almost anyone with off-the-cuff conversation.
For so many reasons. The internet has passed that awkward phase of ‘growing into itself’. We’ve gone from Facemash to Facebook to Meta, from Musical.ly to TikTok, and from having one or two social media accounts to more than 8 (on average). And, with every big change, there are hundreds of small-yet-impactful changes to contend with…
- A new generation
The first wave of internet users has made way for the next – and another after that is currently breaking on the shoreline. The younger generation is looking for something very specific (and yet very vague) from the brands they follow and support. They want to align with them, on some level – and they’re very willing to unfollow (or show no interest at all in) brands that can’t, don’t, or won’t.
But how do we put that into concrete terms? Well, authenticity is a key factor. A staggering 82% of Gen Z (that’s 1996-2015 for those not up-to-date on their gens) say they find brands that use real photos of their customers more trustworthy. The most sought-after content on social media is funny and light-hearted, while 41% of Gen Z social media users want content that’s directly relatable to their situation. A whopping 71% will advocate for the brands they trust.
- Ad fatigue is a real problem
Also known as ‘banner blindness’, content that comes across as overly promotional – that follows the marketer’s playbook for maximizing click-throughs and drumming up sales quickly and easily, can – and does – start to grate. This wasn’t such a problem 10 or 20 years ago when we were used to seeing ads in certain spaces but not in others.
Now, every social media channel pushes paid-for placements regularly. Influencers are taking on new sponsorships daily. Product placements and ad breaks are inserted into our social media feeds. The traditional, bare-faced approach to advertising is starting to feel a little old-fashioned.
96% of consumers don’t trust ads. If you’re too enthusiastic about pushing those ads onto social media feeds, it’s only natural that people will start to feel apathetic (at best). Before too long, they’ll start to feel hostile.
Brands need to be able to build a persona online, rather than relying on a single campaign to capture consumers’ attention – and, more importantly, their trust – on social media.
- Social proof is held in high esteem
It’s not hard to argue that social proof ‘rules the roost’ when it comes to B2B and B2C selling. The sharp rise of influencer marketing, and its ongoing ascendency, is a direct result of the value of social proof – of word-of-mouth and friend-to-friend recommendations.
The relationships we form with internet personalities mean social proof can take place on a mass scale, and it has proven incredibly lucrative for those who get it right.
Real people – like those that more than four-fifths of Gen Z want to see in brands’ photographs – spark a feeling of authenticity like no other, but influencers aren’t the only option if you want to take advantage of social proof. After all, influencer marketing is not without its risks. A key theme that unites many bad examples of influencer marketing is inauthenticity laid bare. And, if audiences catch onto the inauthentic motivations behind an influencer recommendation – say, dishonesty for a quick buck – then things can derail and struggle to ever get back on track.
Employee advocacy is also incredibly beneficial for brands. Not only does it ensure a much broader reach – far beyond the corporate channels you may feel a little ‘stuck’ within – but it also gives the business a very human face, and a presence that feels more spontaneous (even though, as we’ll see below, it actually isn’t and never, ever needs to be.
- Competition is omnipresent
Omnichannel marketing means omnichannel competition, and only the brands who find a way to stand out – to distance themselves from that very corporate, constrained voice – will be able to turn that to their advantage.
Social Media in Finance: Why does it feel like such a tricky subject?
Financial services are held to a very high standard – higher than virtually any other customer-facing industry – and for obvious reasons. Protecting consumer interests and ensuring that the full picture is given helps level the industry and ensures everyone is working to the same list of rules, but it’s also something of a drain on creativity when it comes to building social media for financial services.
Compliance will always be the top priority. Failing to remain compliant promises consequences far more severe than failing to come across as charismatic and approachable – that much will never be up for debate.
But compliance and charisma are not mutually exclusive. Yes, it takes a clever and creative approach to marry the two concepts together consistently, but that’s certainly a far cry from, ‘Impossible’.
The restrictions vary by country. But there is always risk involved. In the US, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) curated the various laws and regulations that pertain to US firms in their Consumer Compliance Risk Management Guidance for social media, including the Fair Lending Laws and the Truth in Lending Act (Reg Z). Firms don’t just have to be watchful of the claims they make, but also of the language they use. Triggering terms like ‘bonus’ may seem relatively innocuous to the outsider but, in reality, they can cause a major issue.
In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) states similar expectations and requirements, asserting that “any form of communication (including through social media) is capable of being a financial promotion.” As a result, non-compliance can be hard to spot from the inside, with even a simple retweet automatically representing endorsement not just of the tweet, but of the entire social media account behind it.
We’ve written a comprehensive guide to social media compliance for finance companies, for more information.
When it comes to marketing for finance, everything needs to be very intentionally compliant. An error could be made accidentally – and, in the majority of cases, they probably are. But it’s enough to frighten some firms back into the relative safety of a by-the-book social media presence – one that underutilizes the platform, but keeps the risk of non-compliance at arm’s length.
Is social media worth it for firms in the financial sector?
Definitely. While adhering to the regulations and laws that surround the financial sector takes time, constant education, and an abundance of trust in your team, social media platforms are incredibly valuable resources for financial firms to utilize when building relationships with customers and prospects.
As with any business in any industry, social media offers by far the best platforms on which to reach your target audience directly. No other marketing channel is as effective at generating and acquiring leads, and building a solid reputation that will, in many cases, prove to be your first point of contact with prospects.
It’s important to be realistic, however. One of the biggest mistakes any brand can make is treating every social media platform as one and the same. The right approach on LinkedIn is far from the right approach on TikTok, just as the perfect post on Twitter is a flop on Instagram. Each platform can and should be leveraged. Why? Because utilizing all the best social media platforms for financial services means you’ll have a much wider variety of mediums through which to solidify your reputation, generate leads, and bolster existing relationships with customers.
Sure, this means spreading the inherent risks of social media across a wider playing field, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. With the right approach, compliance can be built into every aspect of your social media strategy – potential weak spots addressed before you begin posting – and approval added as an integral step in your social media management.
We know the risks, but we also know how to address them head-on, rather than merely attempting to circumvent them by refusing to step outside the box. But what about the benefits of doing so?
- Trust is all the more important for financial services
The importance of trust in any B2B or B2C relationship needs no introduction, but that importance is higher still when it comes to financial services. In 2022, Forrester found that just over half of consumers had low trust in their financial services provider, but that there were high rewards available to those who could instill trust. But, of those who did have high trust, more than 90% would recommend their bank to a friend.
You can build trust in many different ways. With a strong social media presence – one that remains compliant without coming across as aloof – there are simply more opportunities to build and reaffirm that trustworthiness.
- Emotional resonance builds long-term loyalty
Now more than ever, consumers – even in the B2B world – are influenced by (and looking for) shared values that allow more resilient, emotional connections to form. It’s important not to pursue those connections to the point of manipulation, but to acknowledge that, by consistently conveying your firm’s values and voice, social media creates the perfect opportunity for forming those connections and working toward long-term loyalty.
- Humanization is here to stay
In days gone by, B2B was talked about as if it were an entirely different ballgame to B2C. But ultimately, customers are human – whether they’re buying alone, or part of a larger team of decision-makers – and, as humans, we’re always looking to recognize a spark of something approachable and welcoming in others.
These days, that ‘safe’ corporate voice is growing increasingly outdated. Brands are beginning to lean into their own idiosyncrasies – their own personas. It doesn’t have to be as literal as donning a mascot costume and getting into meme culture, but humanizing an industry that has, historically, been tucked away in high-rises and far-removed from our everyday experiences.
- Social media analytics and listening
The more you lean into your social media presence, the more it will reward you in turn. A well-utilized profile will generate significant returns in the form of customer insights and market analytics, awareness of your competitors, and an up-to-the-minute understanding of trends that could inform the next stage of your social media strategy.
Social posting promises an incredibly strong ROI to those who get a firm grip on it. The right platform will take your social media beyond reactive posting and towards actively building those relationships with customers, and forming a community that exists in a constant state of growth. This is exactly what we did for one of Australia’s largest customer-owned banks, Beyond Bank. Read our case study here.
The point of any regulation or law imposed on financial services’ use of social media is to ensure that consumers are properly educated – that misdirection or misrepresentation are not able to thrive on these consumer-facing platforms. Rather than viewing that as a reason to withdraw back into that box, use it as a reason to be more open, more transparent, and more willing to educate your followers and prospects on the matters that impact them. You have an endless supply of talking points, which means an endless supply of opportunities to convey your brand’s unique voice and authority.
Safeguarding your social media presence
So, what’s the right approach for financial services on social media? For starters, the right approach demands the right social media management platform – something the team at Oktopost know better than anyone else. Proper social media management is the only way to safeguard your presence – not just when it comes to social posting, but also when it comes to tracking analytics, turning that data into something concrete and actionable by integrating it with your existing marketing stack, exploring employee advocacy (and all its many benefits), and, of course, implementing the measures needed to remain compliant.
Our enterprise governance features are built into the platform, there to ensure nothing is left to chance or (mis)interpretation if multiple people are involved in social posting. From limiting access to creating filters for specific words – those all-important ‘trigger words’ of financial services – opportunities for review before the post goes through, and defined groups, safeguarding your social media presence isn’t about drawing back, but about getting proactive.
The bottom line
Financial firms who are ready and willing to acknowledge the incredible ROI a robust and well-defined social media presence can bring have a lot to look forward to. It’s never too late to start establishing a clear and recognizable voice for social posting – one that caters to modern audiences and evolving trends without sacrificing integrity or risking a blow to their reputation as a result of non-compliance.
A charismatic and engaging presence is more than possible, but it takes the right platform to get there. Find out more about how Oktopost can transform your social media strategy into something effective, measurable, and scalable by booking a call with one of our experts.