When it comes to marketing, the financial services industry is often hampered by legislation, regulation, privacy concerns and complexity, but ‘opting out’ of a meaningful social media presence is no longer a realistic option. Claire Wilson at Stratton Craig offers 5 tips for financial brands to create an effective social media strategy.
When we think of examples of cutting edge marketing, the financial services industry is never the first to spring to mind. And reasons such as legislation, regulation, privacy concerns and having to communicate to a broad audience can explain why this is the case.
Social media can present multiple challenges for those wanting to use it to reach new customers and engage with current customers, all whilst building brand engagement. As it stands, half of the population currently consider themselves active users of social media, meaning all industries – including finance brands – need to be creating a meaningful social media presence.
So, as a financial services brand, what should you be considering before you join the world of social media?
Slow and steady doesn’t win the race
The success of social media comes down to its ability to spread news within a matter of minutes, if not seconds. But for larger brands, this demands social media monitoring 24 hours a day and the ability to respond more or less immediately.
In the finance industry, brands often have strict rules on what can and cannot be said on social media and there are often long delays in responses down to waiting for approval from the big bosses. Unfortunately, because of social media’s reputation of providing rapid responses and updates, any delay can damage conversations, engagement and reputation.
When it’s good, it’s very good…
Every strong marketing strategy needs to include a social media strategy. To be able to provide quick responses to queries and conversation starters a social media team needs to be in place but, of course, not every finance brand has the resources to have a full-time social media department. Your social media strategy needs to reflect this; don’t over-promise and then fail to maintain it.
- Seize opportunities
Following on from the point above, being able to respond in a timely and appropriate manner when something concerning your business happens is vital. This could be addressing a complaint or seizing a marketing opportunity as soon as it arises. Although it’s not finance related, a great example of jumping on marketing opportunities immediately was Oreo’s response to the Super Bowl power outage in 2013.
- Don’t just listen to what your audience is saying, act on it too
A huge advantage of social media is the ability to know and see what your customers really think of you, your services and products and your brand as a whole. Social media shouldn’t be treated as a platform for brands to merely talk loudly about themselves, it should be used to take customer feedback on-board and implement it into marketing strategies. Remember to make it known you’ve noted customer feedback, and are seen to be doing it!
- Honesty is the best policy
We’ve all seen brands called out on Twitter for bad customer service, poor advertising or a careless choice of words which is why it’s critical that a brand’s social media activity is a genuine reflection of their values and not just a platform for self-promotion. Sometimes social media does go wrong and a post can unintentionally miss the mark or cause offence; don’t waste time making excuses or trying to blame someone else, this will only prolong and increase any negative comments about your brand. Apologise (and mean it!) and move on.
- The personal touch
HSBC’s Twitter account starts each day with a team member introducing themselves and inviting any banking questions and queries. Humanising your brand is a great way to encourage engagement with customers. A goal in any successful social media strategy should be to start conversations with customers and so, as HSBC have done, make it clear that there’s a real person on hand to deal with your queries in order to boost interaction.
- In times of doubt, Tweet
Any solid business strategy will have a crisis management strategy in place, and social media could be used to enhance it. If your brand is having nothing short of a nightmare and your phone lines and email system is down, social media could potentially be the only way to communicate with your customers.
….but when it’s bad it’s diabolical
Unfortunately, no article about social media would be complete (or honest) without an example of how social media isn’t always plain-sailing, and how badly things can go wrong if a social media campaign backfires. A prime example of this was American investment bank JPMorgan’s Twitter Q&A session, which was hijacked by thousands of users using the designated hashtag to question the bank on their ethics.
When planning a social media campaign, always consider the absolute worst-case perspective and how the campaign could potentially be interpreted. Always be careful when using humour as jokes can often be misinterpreted and never hijack irrelevant stories or events – it can make your brand look lazy and tacky.
Social media isn’t going anywhere
…so we best get good at it. The reason social media can seem so daunting to brands is because there is no control over what people say about your brand. This doesn’t mean you should avoid social media – in fact, you should do the opposite; even if you aren’t talking about your own brand on social media, other people, including your customers, will be. In fact, disgruntled customers often air their grievances in social media comments. This is unavoidable and you should be prepared to tackle any complaints swiftly and try to help if possible.
There is no doubt that social media can provide many positive opportunities for businesses, and finance brands need to ensure they’re keeping up with social media trends and engaging with their customers on their level. To get well and truly ahead of the game social media should not only be seen as a communications and marketing platform, but as a way to be innovative and deliver more services.
By Claire Wilson
Content Strategy Director