Rigid compliance requirements and the unpredictability of social media are two reasons why many financial companies have been late to the social media game—with a third of financial advisors still not using social media for business in 2015 according to Corporate Insight—and countless more not fully embracing it, even today.
But the growth in mobile banking, demand for 24/7 access to businesses, threat of Amazon getting into finance, and an online way of life for GenZ and Millennials are forcing the hands of many financial companies. In fact, being digitally active is a requirement in business today, and for those not fully embracing it, their competitors continue to gain valuable ground.
Besides connecting with customers where they go to research solutions and spend a large percentage of time, financial companies can increase segmentation and SEO, and capitalize on their biggest evangelists – employees – by increasing their digital presence.
But it’s not just about having a LinkedIn or Facebook page. The following are seven aspects of digital marketing every financial services company needs to consider in 2018.
1) Build a Robust Social Presence
With the influence and spending power of Millennials and GenZ and digitization of just about everything, having an effective social media presence is a digital marketing building block and a must-have.
Financial marketers can build a robust, effective social media presence that is compliant with FINRA, SEC and other regulations by having the right policies, education, and technology in place. Strong, clear social media policies and approval processes should be established. Platforms, such as Smarsh, Hootsuite, HubSpot, and/or Crimson Hexagon, can be put in place to archive posts, or monitor and flag questionable language or issues that might need addressing.
While LinkedIn may be the most popular of the social networks for financial organizations with 42% of financial advisors using it, followed by Facebook (27%) and Twitter (13%), the choice of which to be on should be a company and customer-related decision. This is another instance where understanding your customers, where they like to hang out and what their needs are, is critical. It’s better to excel at a select few platforms than to try to be everywhere.
Those financial services companies that are doing well on social also educate and empower employees on required processes and approved content they can leverage, to help ensure effective, low-risk engagement while expanding their organization’s reach. They also view social as a cross organizational initiative, leveraging information from key departments and linking digital efforts across the company, including with customer service, to provide a more holistic experience for, and view of, the customer.
Finally, they listen first and talk second. The most effective social media does not merely blast promotional company messages, but requires a two-way communication with prospects that involves engaging on timely topics that might be of interest to key audiences.
Navy Federal Credit Union, for instance, has good engagement on posts about it from members. It regularly showcases military customers, engages with followers, and responds to comments (good and the bad), and has generated an admirable million-plus fans on Facebook and 77,000 followers on Twitter.
UBS (over 500,000 followers on LinkedIn) is another great example. The financial services company leverages creative posts on its #DrivingForward campaign (on how high achievers like 2016 Formula 1 World Champion, Nico Rosberg, secure their futures) alongside insightful commentary on emerging trend reports in the industry, sparking thoughtful conversations with followers. In between these, it intersperses news on employee award wins and other company updates.
How else can social media open up digital marketing possibilities for financial institutions?
2) Glean Insights
Regularly tracking social media feedback and your company’s reputation with social listening is a necessity for financial companies to ensure compliance. But it can also provide the added advantage of offering valuable insights from customers on everything from key concerns that might be addressed, to desired services, and potential issues. Companies can also use social to distribute surveys and perception audits to gain additional information that can help the firm and even promote its thought leadership and expertise.
3) Become a Thought Leader
What do you want to pop into your customers’ minds when they think about retirement planning? Saving for college? [Insert services you provide here]? You. Right? Social gives brands a platform to build a presence as a leader on key topic areas relevant to your business. By commenting on timely topics, teasing blogs on issues they need to know about, and offering insights on things they care about, financial brands can start to build perceived expertise and thought leadership in key areas.
4) Generate Leads
Social offers numerous opportunities for financial institutions to better target products and services to consumers (or businesses) when they most need them. An effective content strategy taps into the needs of your customers to address their questions on topics that are relevant and valuable to them as they are beginning to consider purchasing decisions and deciding which company might be best to address their needs. It leverages a variety of content formats – blog posts, videos, how-to guides, educational materials, eBooks, infographics, videos, etc. – to strategically foster and convert leads. Social offers opportunities to target these key offerings, messages, and campaigns to relevant audiences, down to geography, job title, age, similar interests, specific company, and more.
5) Engage with the Media
While LinkedIn may be the favorite network for financial-services professionals overall, Twitter is often the preferred venue for conversations, posting, and interacting with financial media. In fact, many members of the financial media prefer to use Twitter to scope out news and correspond with PR and company representatives. Additionally, 45 percent of U.S. adults who have a Twitter account say they are interested in interacting with financial services firms via that channel (receiving promotional alerts, financial advice, customer service) says analyst firm Forrester.
6) Consider Influencer Marketing
Companies in other industries have been using influencer marketing for years, with this strategy surpassing print advertising in popularity overall, and closing the gap with video advertising, according to Google Trends. The growth of Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, Yelp are all helping to fuel it, and continued distrust in mainstream media is also contributing, according to Forbes. And now, increasingly, financial companies are looking to engage bloggers. While it is necessary to disclose the relationship with the influencer and comply with regulatory requirements, working with these thought leaders can offer new audiences and powerful opportunities to illustrate the benefits of financial solutions in real-life, often very cost effectively.
7) Ensure PR & Crisis Communications are Part of the Plan
The lingering effects of the financial crisis, Equifax’s security breach, Wells Fargo’s sales practice investigations – all illustrate the need for effective crisis communications and public relations to build mutually beneficial relationships overall. This is a need that will only continue to grow as companies, including financial institutions, are increasingly held to higher standards.
Organizations and individuals will increasingly rely on PR to help set the strategy, protect and enhance their reputations, and drive a more consistent, favorable public image on social media and across marketing efforts. PR will be essential in helping financial brands to ensure a concerted image and message and be more effective online to compete with digital companies that increasingly threaten their space.
Learn more about how we can help you to better leverage social to grow your brand and generate leads. Contact us today.
Written by Clearpoint Agency PR Director Hilary McCarthy
Photo courtesy of Death to Stock Photo.