Financial Marketers Can’t Be Social Media Holdouts Any Longer

Trying to ignore social media is like trying to ignore the weather. You can choose to go out without an umbrella, but you'll get soaked. Financial institutions must learn to handle social channels both actively and passively. Monitoring and listening to social platform conversations must be followed up with appropriate engagement to improve results and protect reputation.

You may not want to tweet or share, but the public will discuss your financial brand anyway. Institutions must learn to navigate social.

As COVID-19 redefines the working environment, placing a premium on virtual exchanges, it’s more important than ever that retail banks and credit unions commit to a clear and cohesive social media marketing strategy.

As Scott Cook, founder of Intuit, once said: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is — it is what consumers tell each other it is.”‘

Nowadays, and especially during lockdowns and social separation, social media is where those conversations are taking place. No financial institution today can afford not to be part of the conversation, often in multiple ways.

You Can’t Sit Out the Game (Even If You Try)

Often, fear and perceived lack of control keeps retail banking executives from reaping the benefits that strong social media marketing presents.

Yet having active social media channels is as important now as having a website was in 1998. Not having any presence on social media, or having one that is inactive, on social media channels is akin to boarded-up windows on a house on a busy street. Neither is a sign that the financial institution is eager to connect with consumers and businesses.

Indeed, sitting on the sidelines doesn’t keep your institution out of the game in any event. Think about it: When trying something new, don’t most people today go to Google to see what people think of the offering? Currently, billions of active social media users are providing real-time information, insights and opinions about companies’ products and services, often in the form of online reviews. It’s very likely people are discussing your institution.

The internet is flooded with real people telling real stories about real products and services, which makes social monitoring and engagement critical to a brand’s digital presence. While it’s true that banks and credit unions cannot control what is posted about them, social media marketing puts some of the power back in a financial institution’s hands.

For such reasons, online reputation management is increasingly becoming a priority for banks of all sizes. Social media is all about making an impact and influencing action. In the case of retail banking, a successful social media campaign might convert more consumers or establish a particular brand as the one to trust over its competitors.

Of course, understanding the demographics within your institution’s target audience is central to effectively communicating with them. For example, Facebook is the preferred platform for Baby Boomers, while an estimated 75% of Gen Z cite a brand’s social media presence as having a major impact on their purchasing decisions. Their preferred platform? YouTube.

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Identifying Active and Passive Social Media Opportunities

In order to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by social media platforms relative to your target audience, an institution should be well-versed in two types of social media marketing: active and passive.

Active and passive social media marketing present unique opportunities for a financial institution to better engage with the public.

With active social media marketing, the financial institution starts the conversation, offering some message with appeal to consumers online. The goal is to provide an offer or message interesting enough to elicit a response.

Active social media marketing sounds like an institution’s greatest opportunity to move the needle. In fact, passive opportunities can be richer. Banks and credit unions can regain control of the conversation about their products or services by engaging participants in a thoughtful, strategic manner. By monitoring and reacting to comments made online retail banking officers can take back control of the narrative told about their brand.

This requires building a well-stocked social media management toolbox.

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What’s the Right Tool for Each Social Media Marketing Task?

The market is rich with various tools, apps and integrations to help in better control, scheduling and management of an institution’s presence on social media platforms. In order to pick the right tools for each job, retail bankers need to understand the three-pronged objectives of an effective social media marketing strategy.

1. Listening. Social media listening offers consumer insights applicable to your brand and shows you which sentiments clients feel or associate with it.

When listening, it’s important to pay close attention to a metric called “Passion Intensity.” This means the scale by which a customer evaluates and responds to a company’s offering. This is represented by emojis indicating like, love, indifference or hate.

A word of caution: Not all emotions shared online require a response. Don’t rush to respond to every negative review, for example, as doing so might signal a defensive stance.

Respond to spikes in positive and negative reactions and use them to help guide your next move. COVID-19 has underscored the importance of social media listening as a proactive alternative to replace in-person exchanges.

2. Monitoring and evaluation. Social media monitoring represents the ongoing evaluation of an institution’s social media presence and seeks to set and maintain a baseline of the brand’s strategy. This becomes a very powerful story about your brand.

3. Intelligence gathering. Social media intelligence allows a financial institution to analyze its competitor’s actions while providing insight into the scope of what’s going on in the market as reflected by certain audiences. This is where assumptions are checked and more accurate stories emerge.

When starting out, or when confused along the way, return to the basic. A simple way to gain insight into your financial brand’s story is to circle back to the earlier question, “What does Google say about this?” Google your bank or credit union in order to understand and utilize the information that is out there. Then build on the best of that.

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