Despite the highly-regulated and risk-averse landscape, 49 of the top 50 financial services are on at least one social network. The potential of social media for financial services is tremendous, and financial services willing to adopt a more forward-thinking approach will reap rewards on social.
So where should they start? How can finance marketers embrace social media to the fullest without concerns for strict policies and regulations? To get some insights, I sat down with two leading finance marketing experts.
My first guest is Colin Day. As the former VP of Global Marketing Operations at FIS Global, Colin is a sought-after MarTech advisor for global financial service companies.
If you’re looking for some hands-on advice, my second guest, Ibby Hussain, is a senior account executive at Vested, a US-based financial communications agency
So let’s see what these fellows have to share:
1. Adopt Compliant Social Media Workflows#Digital transformation has been extremely conservative for the #financial world, and in some cases, non-existent when it comes to #socialmedia. Click To Tweet
Digital transformation has been extremely conservative for the financial world, and in some cases, non-existent when it comes to social media. Shedding light on this topic, Colin and Ibby offer a 3-step formula that financial services can instantly adopt: 1) the right skill set, 2) the right mindset, and 3) the right toolset.
To secure the right skill set, financial services need to designate or bring in someone to be an in-house expert on all things social media marketing. This person will own your brand on social and serve as the focal point for every team that has concerns or questions regarding social – be it legal, IT, or others.
An in-house social media manager will usually be more in-tune with the corporate culture, your company values, as well as your clients and employees. As such, they’ll be well-equipped to deliver your message on social and bring your marketing strategy to life.
Alternatively (or in addition to an in-house social media manager), Colin suggests hiring an external marketing agency with a background in finance marketing. The upside here is that an agency offers cross-industry experience and can also take some of the workload off your internal marketing team.
Once you have the right personnel, you can move into the second stage: a change of mindset. This involves training the designated teams on the regulatory do’s and don’ts on social media as a way to achieve internal alignment and buy-in. Implementing a clear content approval process and a social media policy can also guide your team towards quality and compliant content.
Finally, financial services need to implement a unified toolset – marketing technologies that simplify the workflow for the social media manager and allow for an integrated campaign strategy. Everything from scheduling content to monitoring social conversations and analyzing results should be streamlined into a single platform.
It’s worth mentioning that any technology you implement should be compliant with all the necessary SEC or other regulatory requirements.
2. Establish Thought Leadership through Content
Today, more than ever before, social media plays a significant role in shaping your prospect and customer experience, with more than half (53%) of B2B buyers turning to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to make key purchasing decisions.
The mistake that most financial services make is pitching a product or service well before the buyer had a chance to get to know them, which makes them unresponsive and ultimately, reluctant to purchase from them.
So the question is, how can finance marketers build relationships with buyers on social media?
Channel your thought leadership by providing value.
To determine your thought leadership, start by asking three questions:
1. What is your corporate expertise?
While it may feel restricting to confine your company to a particular specialty, this step is vital to communicating effectively with your target audience. Focus on your clients’ needs – what would they like to learn from you. Are there pain points or goals they all have in common? Now consider your strengths and weaknesses.
Your corporate expertise lies precisely in the middle of what your audience wants to hear and what you would like to promote. Establish 5 to 10 topics that your marketing team can use to provide legitimate and insightful points of views on.
2. Who are your thought leaders?
Information doesn’t come out of thin air, you need people for that! Identify peers within your organization who can serve as the subject matter experts on the topics you’ve listed above. Your first choice would naturally be c-level executives, but don’t shy away from recruiting mid-level managers.
If ‘fraud prevention in online payments’ is the topic you’re after, then analysts would be your go-to speakers. For smaller sized companies, consider collaborating with external experts who can complement your messaging.
3. What’s the best way to communicate your expertise?
Once you have a list of individuals who are willing to share their expertise, determine an ideal content format to deliver your message. Webinars, white papers, interviews, video, AMAs are all great content styles.
Echoing Ibby’s words, Colin says, “Don’t toot your own horn”. In other words, don’t focus solely on your company and products; curating industry-relevant content can go a long way toward establishing credibility in the eyes of buyers. By exposing your audience to the wisdom of others, you can create a tribe – a social media community that follows you and trusts your message.
3. Foster Dialogues on Social, not Monologues
Audiences get frustrated with brands that use social media as a megaphone, screaming their promotional messages, without taking the time to listen and have a conversation with them. To avoid such negative sentiment, Colin recommends adopting a social listening tool.
Social listening is a marketer’s crystal ball. It involves monitoring various social networks to uncover relevant conversations with customers, buyers, industry experts, and peers.
By harnessing social listening, you are able to do three things:
1. Uncover industry trends and buyer pain points
Those insights can be used to understand your competitors and inform your content strategy.
2. Join relevant conversations
Take part in meaningful conversations surrounding your brand to provide customer support and foster two-way interactions.
3. Analyze audience sentiment
Powered by AI, social listening tools allow you to track incoming messages, comments, and mentions and categorize them as negative, neutral, or positive. For social media managers who are receiving hundreds of messages each day, this can be used to prioritize interactions with users with negative sentiment.
Based on this analysis, your company can also create a sub-channel for streamlining customer feedback and support while avoiding your main channel from becoming an outlet for angry customers.
4. Give Employees a Voice on Social
Cold, corporate, unapproachable – these are some common connotations associated with the finance world.
So how can financial services defeat this negative image? How can they humanize their brand and build credibility in the eyes of audiences?
The answer is employee advocacy.
According to Colin, every organization’s most valuable asset is its employees. Empowering them to share company content with their peers not only amplifies the company’s message, it also improves content engagement, talent acquisition, lead generation, and brand authenticity.
An additional benefit is ensuring compliance. Some companies have security policies that prevent employees from accessing social media from their work devices, and advocacy tools allow them to safely share content on social media.
But how can financial services properly embark on an employee advocacy program?
Ibby suggests starting by onboarding a selected group of employees – your Social Stars. These individuals are not only comfortable communicating on social in a professional capacity, they’re usually customer-facing employees and c-level executives who have a full-fleshed professional presence.
Kickstarting a pilot program with these individuals may be your best bet for demonstrating results early on and securing leadership support.
All you need to do to maximize adoption is the following:
- Provide employees with ample training and a library of pre-approved content
- Let the pilot program run for at least a month before measuring results
- Hold weekly feedback sessions to identify opportunities for improving content and program experience
5. Be Social Crisis-ReadyIt’s not a question of IF a #socialmedia crisis will erupt, it’s a question of WHEN and being prepared for it. Click To Tweet
It’s not a question of if a crisis will erupt, it’s a question of when and being prepared for it.
As an engagement channel, social media is a place for customers to express their dissatisfaction with your product or service, which can quickly rile up other customers and spark a social media crisis.
This scenario may be a barrier to adopting social media for financial services, but Ibby and Colin’s advice is to breathe deep and take the following measures:
Before a crisis
- Establish and train a social crisis management team who will be responsible for defining a ‘social crisis’ and taking action when a crisis hits. A few negative comments won’t necessarily constitute a crisis, but a wave of angry customer comments will.
- Monitor social media for red flags before a crisis breaks out. These could be users who are complaining or talking negatively about your brand.
During the crisis
Don’t “stick your heads in the sand” and wait for the crisis to go away. Be proactive:
- First, pause all social activities to prevent your brand from being perceived as indifferent to customer feelings.
- Notify the entire company of the crisis – what the crisis is and how the company is planning to tackle it.
- Be transparent and respectful towards customers on social media. Getting your CEO to Tweet from his personal account will go a long way toward positioning your company as thoughtful.
After the crisis
- Evaluate the impact of the crisis to better prepare for next time.
6. More Data = More Power
There’s a “cultural gap” between marketing teams and executives. Marketing teams struggle to measure the value of social media, turning to “vanity metrics” such as likes, shares, and followers, without considering the real revenue.
As a result, executives fail to see the impact that social has on the company’s bottom line, leading marketing to be seen solely as a cost-center.
To tackle this challenge, Ibby explains that finance marketers first need to zero in on the metrics that are truly indicative of B2B marketing success, such as conversions, customer acquisition, and ROI.
Next, Colin says that finance marketers need to start looking at the bigger picture; understanding that social media is both a first-touch acquisition source and an influencing factor throughout the buyer’s journey.
People learn about your brand through Google searches, but also interact with your brand directly on social media.
From there, finance marketers can begin to break the social silos by connecting their social media management and marketing automation platforms. If integrated properly, social engagement data can tell you a great deal about your lead’s pain points, their top-of-mind interests, who they are connected to, and how to best target them.
Being on Social for the Sake of It Isn’t Enough
If there’s one thing you should take from Colin Day and Ibby Hussain is that having a social presence isn’t enough. Now is the time to get serious – allocate budget and resources to social media, and treat it as a valuable channel for humanizing your brand voice, generating new leads, and growing your sales funnel.
For more in-depth insights on how to elevate your social presence as a financial service company, watch the full webinar here.