Social media presents opportunities for banks and credit unions to generate meaningful connections with customers and members, attract desirable consumers and achieve ongoing business initiatives. With improved targeting, enhanced advertising, compliance support, developments in ROI tracking and more, social media now has the potential to play a meaningful role in your financial institution’s marketing plan.
Who said banking is boring? Okay, so maybe savings accounts and mortgage loans aren’t the top trending topics on Twitter. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about them on social channels. It just means you have to treat them in a way that makes them approachable, relevant and interesting. That is what social media marketing allows banks and credit unions to do — communicate with existing and prospective consumers in a way that is personal and relatable, while achieving quantifiable business results.
Social media is ubiquitous, so to stay relevant, financial marketers will need to understand the capabilities and opportunities of various social media platforms. With a unique ability to establish and maintain relationships, financial institutions will need to embrace, resource and advocate for social media as an integral ingredient in their overall marketing mix.
1. Creating Connections
Social media facilitates two-way communication and enables banks and credit unions to talk with — not simply to — customers and members. Financial Social Media reports that 44% of mass affluent consumers that use social media interact with financial institutions specifically. Interacting with customers and members on social media cultivates mutually beneficial, stronger relationships, which can contribute to brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.
Being personal in nature, social media can help financial marketers not only make connections through likes, shares and comments, but understand their audience in terms of perceptions and preferences. This provides access to valuable market research at a decreased cost to the institution, as noted by McKinsey & Company.
This insight should be used to develop content that resonates with a particular audience. Based on confirmed effectiveness, financial marketers should continuously refine their strategies to better connect with their community. By tailoring their messaging, banks and credit unions increase their chances of generating social responses and acquiring new customers and members in the process.
2. Promoting Products
Possessing fun and friendly qualities, social media affords a distinct opportunity to sensationalize banking solutions with creative campaigns and positioning. A study performed by LinkedIn found that 63% of mass affluent consumers were motivated to take action after learning about financial products and services on social media – so there is legitimate value in talking banking on social media.
Whether the institution is presenting a limited-time offer, special rate or simply trying to promote a solution, financial marketers should use applicable social media platforms to increase awareness, generate interest and drive results. In the absence of a defined offer, social media can help create a sense of exclusivity and timeliness to increase consumer appeal and motivate action. Research by McKinsey & Company determined that using social media for promotions improves marketing effectiveness, increases leads and cuts overall costs of promotion substantially.
When leveraging social media as a promotional tool, it’s essential to balance valuable, engaging content with goal-related outreaches — the suggested scale is 80%/20%, respectively. Following this rule-of-thumb, financial marketers should seek clever ways to connect social media-friendly content with banking products and services. An effective combination of intriguing, branded imagery and compelling copy can help banks and credit unions engage consumers, encouraging them to learn more by visiting a defined destination page on the corporate website. This strategy gives the institution a chance to communicate additional, enticing details, while implementing functionality to accommodate online loan applications, new account openings and other form submissions. This process has proven to be successful, as HubSpot research shows that lead conversion rates using social media are 13% higher than the average lead conversion rate.
3. Industry Insight
By providing the ability to share valuable information with the community, social media offers the means to demonstrate that the institution understands consumer needs and positions the bank or credit union as a leader in financial services. To be recognized as a reputable banking resource, financial marketers should share relevant content in the form of personal finance tips, industry updates, investment advice and more. Such insight also illustrates the supportive nature of the institution, increasing consumer confidence in the bank’s or credit union’s dedication to consumers’ financial well-being.
Focusing on people’s sentiments is critical — as McKinsey & Company found that the main reason people switched banks was based on emotions. But aligning this kind of insight with current initiatives can help achieve business objectives. As an example, if your financial institution wants to increase new savings account openings, sharing branded or industry articles (devoid of competitor references) that explains how to establish an effective savings strategy can educate your community and associate your institution with the topic of interest.
4. Tactical Targeting
Enabling financial marketers to define their audience based on meaningful criteria, targeting can help institutions connect with the right consumers. According to buffersocial, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter feature options that allow users to reach 89% of their intended audience, compared to only 38% via other digital targeting tactics.
Social targeting permits users to distribute messages to individuals based on highly specific criteria, including geographic location, age, gender, career, education and interests — among other significant user information. Such specificity increases the relevance of a given communication, improving the effectiveness of your financial institution’s efforts. In fact, through strategically targeted digital marketing outreaches, JPM was able to make deductive correlations between focused solution promotions and a 20%+ return on equity.
The capability to target consumers based on such descriptive details is especially valuable for banks and credit unions, as they often operate in defined geographic areas with goals of attracting a specific demographic. Through social media, financial institutions are able to match their marketing messages to younger audiences, higher income individuals, or even people in certain life stages in a defined area down to the zip code — enhancing message impact considerably.
5. Apt Advertising
Extending the reach of organic posts, advertising lets financial marketers disseminate their message to a substantially larger audience. Since social media platforms have altered their algorithms impacting the reach of organic posts, advertising has become a necessity — but not an evil. Neustar reported that social media drove the most impressions, clicks and conversions at a low cost compared to other online paid channels. It’s no surprise AdWeek indicated that social media advertising is expected to compose 19.5% of total marketing budgets by 2017.
Social media affords the control, flexibility and precision required to obtain quality results within any budget, proving to be a compelling supplement or alternative to various forms of traditional advertising. Users can define their ad spend and adjust or reallocate dollars at any point during a campaign to maximize results. This approach to advertising better enables financial institutions of any size to compete in the same space, offering value to community banks and credit unions that may not have the same resources as some of their national competitors.
Following the launch of a promoted or sponsored post, financial marketers should continuously monitor performance in terms of engagement and more meaningful results. Based on initial outcomes, ad managers should identify ways to make the best use of their budget to achieve specific goals.
6. Connected Channels
Social media can expand your reach and reinforce your marketing message by integrating seamlessly with other digital and traditional tactics. According to Signal, 90% of marketers believe that connecting different digital marketing tactics would “improve their ability to innovate, personalize consumer interactions, send timely messages, boost loyalty, evaluate campaigns, and increase return on marketing investments.”
With the capacity to reach additional audiences and extend the conversation beyond the social space, integrated marketing efforts can help increase cognizance of a banking promotion, product or brand in general. Forming deeper connections with your community, these top-of-the-funnel phases are necessary to spur action that will drive conversions and return on investment.
While integrating social with other channels can strengthen existing marketing efforts, it is imperative to maintain consistency between vehicles in terms of visuals and messaging. Such relatedness provides a seamless experience, establishing brand continuity, generating trust and supporting initiatives — whether it is attracting new customers and members, increasing loan balances or new account openings. This is especially crucial for financial marketers communicating the same message across various channels — from direct mail and in-branch signage to homepage banners and corresponding landing pages on the corporate website.
7. Social Service
By opening the lines of communication, social media allows financial institutions to effectively manage relationships. A study performed by McKinsey & Company found that some consumers actually prefer to connect with customer service via social networks. More importantly, a substantial percentage of these consumers are affluent individuals across all generations — especially Gen Y, representing a desirable audience targeted by many financial marketers.
Actively listening to online conversations enables banks and credit unions to address consumer concerns, respond to requests and answer inquiries. It is inevitable that consumers will tweet or update their status about an experience or opinion, and that doesn’t exclude those who are simply having a bad day and taking it out on your institution. Having the proper presence to effectively manage these comments, control the conversation, mend relationships and protect the brand is essential to your institution’s reputation. Not to mention utilizing social media as a service decreases customer service expenses significantly in consumer financial services, as determined by McKinsey & Company.
To effectively leverage social media as a service, banks and credit unions should have a well-informed team or agency equipped to manage incoming communications in a positive, direct manner. There are also a variety of social monitoring tools, such as SocialWare, designed specifically for the unique compliance and legal requirements of financial institutions. Using a combination of knowledgeable resources can help maintain relationships while remaining in-line with rules and regulations.
8. Compliance Compliant
While these guidelines are valuable, banks and credit unions can draft a customized set of rules and regulations to carefully address items that are of particular importance to the institution. Covering areas from confidential content and illegal activity to offensive conduct, these “house rules” can be surfaced in the designated sections of the financial institution’s social properties, as well as on the corporate website for additional protection.
Financial marketers should consult with their compliance personnel — and any other applicable departments from legal to HR — to make sure all required parameters are included. Referencing existing social media polices can also help guide your efforts. For additional assurance, financial institutions can work with their marketing team or experienced agency to develop content calendars in advance to receive approval from the appropriate internal stakeholders prior to posting. This approach can help ensure all parties are in agreement on the strategy from business, creative and compliance perspectives.
9. Verifying Value
As of late, social media platforms have made significant advancements to improve their reporting capabilities. Offering comprehensive, granular insights while connecting seamlessly to website analytics solutions such as Google Analytics, social media analytics allow banks and credit unions to understand the value of their efforts.
Because analytics record data from click to conversion, users can view detailed post insights including impressions, engagement and likes. Furthermore, financial marketers can evaluate key performance indicators such as website visits, new account openings, online loan application submissions and more that occurred as a result of the social media outreach.
The ability to measure direct conversions and ROI is sometimes dependent on the capabilities of third-party platforms, so financial institutions or their digital partners will have to work closely with account origination, loan application and any other providers to successfully implement tracking. Once in effect, users can set up custom events and reports to efficiently track the achievement of defined goals.
Brenna Keough is a Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury CT that has built hundreds of bank and credit union websites. To discuss your digital strategy needs with ZAG, call 860.633.4818 or send an email.