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Financial Institutions Lack ‘Personality’ in Social Channels

Banks and credit unions have yet to truly understand one important aspect of social media communications: personality. Who you are can be as important as what you say.

Marketing directors responsible for social media are often told the type of content they need to post in order to get engagement from their followers, fans and likes across a multitude of platforms. Thousands of digital experts make their advice readily available by sharing research, tips and tricks to explain how brands can utilize social media to communicate unique messages. Because of this, the financial industry has officially caught on to the idea of using social media as a way to showcase community service initiatives, bolster public relations efforts, and offer tips to customers and members. Some social media gurus might even know what time of day will get them the most engagement from their fans.

But is that enough?

No. Financial institutions as a whole, have yet to truly understand an important aspect of social media: Personality.

( Read More: 7 Tips to Find Your Brand’s Personality )

Consider this scenario…

Imagine you are at a marketing conference. You see that a local expert specializing in your field of work is on the agenda. You’ve heard of him before. He has a reputation for being intelligent, helpful and community-focused. You make the commitment to learn more about his products, so you attend his lecture. You walk into the room and find a seat in the front row. He starts his presentation…

He tells you facts about his company. He tells you how to contact him, how to do better work and shows you all of the great things he is doing in his (and your community). He also tells you about his product. You are bored to tears, so no matter how great, how important or how relevant his information is, you can’t stop yourself from staring at the clock until the session ends. When you raise your hand to ask a question, he gives you a generic response, while referencing a page in his book for more information. He’s pleasant, helpful and informative, yet something is missing: Personality.

Reality Check: This is precisely what financial institutions do on social media every day.

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Generally speaking, financial institutions are boring on social channels. They take a captive audience who has shown interest in their content and bore them to death with standard industry posts. While the information might be accurate and even good natured, it doesn’t evoke any sense of feeling, nor does it possess any remarkable qualities, nor increase someone’s odds of sharing with others. Often this is due to how conservative the industry is, and the fearful nature of compliance regulation.

Reality Check: The reach and visibility of social media posts from banks and credit unions suffers severely from a lack of personality.

Back to our example. Would you walk up to the conference speaker after his lecture and engage with him in a conversation? Would you tell others later about how interesting the lecture was? Probably not…

Content delivery is about creating personal relationships and engaging interested parties. It can no longer be delivered through just messaging alone. The same goes for marketing. In order to effectively market in today’s world, you must speak to people how they prefer to be spoken to: authentically and conversationally. In other words: be interesting.

( Read More: Differentiate Or Die… Boring Banks Need Brand Personalities )

Where to start? Create a brand persona and define your voice

Brand personas are the difference between simply delivering messages and being engaging in your communications. Personas can be useful in marketing as a whole, not just when it comes to social media. But, social media gives brands the opportunity to use their voice in a way that draws the public into a conversation.

To get started with developing a brand persona, take out a piece of paper and list your brand’s attributes. Then, answer the following question as if your bank or credit union was a person. Remember, it’s not about providing answers that make you sound cooler or more interesting than your financial institution really is. It’s about discovering a real, authentic and remarkable voice of your brand by having it personify as a human being.

  • Is this person (your financial institution) male or female?
  • How old is this person?
  • What is this person’s occupation (don’t say banker)?
  • How was this person trained (formal education or on-the-job)?
  • What led to this occupation? Is this person an expert in the field?
  • How about home life — is this person “living” in a city or out in the country? Was that always the case?
  • Single or married? Children, pets?
  • List some personality traits.
  • How tall is this person? What color is his or her hair?
  • What keeps this person up at night?
  • What inspires this person?
  • What is this person’s favorite song?
  • Name some of this person’s hobbies.
  • What is his or her passion?

You may want to repeat this exercise with other members of your staff or complete it as a group. Once a single answer is defined with everyone’s input, you can start to put a unique story behind the persona. Start with a name. Referring to the persona by name (first and last) helps make it real. Similarly, it also might help to browse stock photo websites to attach a face to the name.

Review the list of answers again to guide you into writing a story about your person. Where did the person come and where is that person now? What is the person’s short- and long-term goals, and what events from his or her past will help the person achieve them? This is a deep-dive exercise, so be sure to give it the proper time and commitment.

When your persona is complete, share it with others in your organization. Print a poster of your persona (photo included) and put it in a prominent place in your office. Think of your persona as a representative of your brand identity. It is a member of the staff that literally personifies what it means to be your financial institution. Own it.

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Putting the ‘social’ back in social media

Take this snippet from a recent brand persona:

“…Tim is a single father of two at the age of 43. People are drawn to him for his level-headedness and warm demeanor. But don’t be mistaken. Tim has a wild sense of humor, which fits his daily life as the Executive Director of the local playhouse. He’s comfortable on stage and in a crowd with a contagious smile that immediately puts his audience at ease. Tim is a supporter of the arts and a prominent figurehead in his community, which helps him maintain a high level of exposure for his non-profit…”

Now, let’s say you are tasked with spreading the word on social media about an event occurring at one of your branches next week. A typical post might be:

This Thursday, ABC Bank will be holding a seminar on how to prepare for retirement. Stop by our local branch at 6pm for appetizers and networking. Check out our website for more info. [Includes flyer of event]

Instead of posting this way, think about how Tim would make this event relatable and something others would want to attend. He might post something like:

Retirement can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be with the team from ABC Bank on your side! This Thursday we’re offering a seminar on retirement planning. We want to help you with all of the troublesome questions you have about financial planning for retirement. PLUS, we’re giving you a whole hour of networking time before the presentation starts to talk with our Bank’s retirement guru. Bring a friend — and your questions — and we’ll see you at 6pm! [Includes photo of the speaker]

The right information is still there — a community with and a slight product push — but it is communicated with much more personality.

Social media marketing is much more enjoyable for the people involved when they start to see true interaction from fans. Noticing a change in the way your brand is interacting overall, or even seeing an increase in likes or followers, will help propel you into creating more engaging, lively content.

Think back to the conference example. Let’s say that you leave the boring session and look to see what presentation is coming up next. You find it’s a similar session to the one before in terms of informative, helpful content, but the speaker turns out to be not only intelligent, but personable, lively and charismatic

She asks you questions. She tells you stories. You can’t help but talk about her when you return to the office. Would you walk up to this woman after a conference? Would you buy her products? What do you tell others that are in the room afterwards? Will it spread like wildfire?

Isn’t that how you want your followers to think about your social media presence?

All content © 2017 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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Comments

  1. Several things… 1) Most banks don’t really have much of a personality. All banks offer just about the same products, sponsor the same kinds of community events, and still consider their role in the customer’s life to be transactional. 2) To have a personality and walk that out publicly is a bit of a risk, something to which financial institutions are averse. 3) Banking is a low-interest category ~ sorry, it’s true ~ vs. other kinds of brands, and people don’t necessarily want to “get to know” their banks. The true personality of any brand should be authentic, not crafted, and very few banks have a distinct enough personality to bother with it. One bank comes to mind, Simple. Their business model is different, and they do something incredibly rare: they position everything they do from the customer’s point of view.

  2. Agree with most of what Kim said, mostly in relation to the “risk averse” comment. Not to bang the “compliance” drum… but the “Risk Management” departments in banks tend to handcuff marketing in a way that most other industries do not have to deal with.

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