What’s The Value of Social Media ‘Engagement?’

Social media experts constantly badger financial marketers that they need to “engage” and “join the conversation,” but they never explain how that leads to revenue or what it means to your business. Is “engagement” the goal? Or just the means to an end — if so, what’s it good for?

By Jason Falls, Founder and Chief Instigator, SocialMediaExplorer.com

The problem with a lot of social media advice — particularly the sermons given to financial marketers over the last few years — is that it’s heavy on the warm and fuzzy, and light on the bottom line. Well, I’m here to tell you a little of what you want to hear… and a little of what you don’t. And both are important for you to understand to be successful in marketing your financial institution on social channels.

Why Engagement Is B.S.

For the hardline financial marketer, all this talk of social media “engagement” comes across as bull-oney. How can you possibly drive more loans, more checking accounts and more investments if you’re lollygagging about Facebook talking about people’s kids and other similar nonsense that has nothing to do with your product?

Sales training (and Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross) tells us that we should “Always Be Closing” (A.B.C.). And in a sales environment, that is 100% correct. When your prospect is in the process of considering your product or service, sure: Always Be Closing.

So an argument can be made that a financial institution should never deviate from selling (A.B.C.) in its marketing based activities — even on social networks. If your goal is to drive more sales, more deposits, more accounts, more investments and so-on, then drive that message. Not everyone will convert, but enough probably will that you’ll be able to track, trend and hit your numbers.

( Read More: Facebook Engagement – How the Top 5 Banking Brands Get It Done )

Why Engagement Is Critical

There’s one factor the hardline sales approach ignores in social marketing. As noted above, the A.B.C. approach is appropriate in a certain context — when your prospect is considering your product or service. The problem is that consumers aren’t in the shopping mode when they are engaging on social networks.

For example, think about search marketing. When a consumer types their query into a search engine, they are looking for an answer to a problem. If your page or site ranks as a solution to that problem, consumers are reasonably likely to click through and convert because they are pre-disposed; they are in shopping mode and actively seeking a solution.

By contrast, ask yourself: Why do consumers participate in social networks? Why do you personally use social networks? Is it to buy things? Not likely. Is it to learn more about your financial options? Probably not. Get insurance? Medical care? Nope.

No, you participate in social networks to keep up with your friends, engage with family members or chat with others about hobbies or other similar interests.

You aren’t on social networks to shop.

Why then would a business think they can Always Be Closing in social channels and get away with it? Successful social marketing techniques have long been proven to be less about customer acquisition and more about customer retention.

Direct response marketing (direct mail, e-mail marketing, search marketing) helps consumers pull the trigger once they’ve made their decision to buy. But brand marketing (brand advertising, public relations, social marketing) is what helps consumers make their choice.

See the difference?

So you can argue that engagement on social networks is critical because consumers aren’t at the stage where they’re looking to buy, but they might be persuaded to consider those organizations with the right social content strategy.

( Read More: Top 100 Banks & CUs With the Highest Facebook Engagement Rates )

How Do You Balance The Two Perspectives?

“Engagement” for engagement’s sake won’t help your financial institution achieve its financial goals or make payroll. That’s one reason no one should give a rip how many Facebook fans or Twitter followers your institution has.

But engagement that tees up an audience who’s previously expressed a willingness to listen could make all the difference in their decision to choose you over someone else. Social media engagement mixed with a healthy diet of calls-to-action can take your social marketing from “meh” to a steady stream of revenue.

And aren’t we all ready for that to happen?

Many social media consultants like to offer financial marketers a “perfect ratio” of content — how much can be marketing, how much should be about subject X, how much about topic Y, etc. Not me. But what I’ll tell you is that your audience will let you know what’s right for them, and every audience is a little different. They’ll also let you know what topics they find the most engaging and which ones they aren’t likely respond to. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do some work to find out. Test and iterate. Or ask them.

Closing Anecdote

I chose my current bank because they remind me of the small community bank my family used when I was younger. It takes me a couple of minutes to remember the name of the institution because to me it was always just, “the bank.” We banked with Danny. He was our banker. He went to our church. He knew our names. He even sometimes came to my little league baseball games. Danny never would have had our business if he just tried to sell us crap all the time. He had our family’s business — our loyalty — because he bothered to engage in our lives.

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