The financial services industry has seen a 31% year-over-year growth in social media usage, far exceeding most other industries. But it’s not enough to simply “check a box” by launching a lackluster Facebook page. Financial marketers must actively manage, maintain and monitor the platforms on which their institution has a presence. That’s why you should consider a concentrated social media strategy supported by monthly marketing campaigns.
How can a financial institution effectively engage its online community via social media? Once you’ve got your key stakeholders, content team, monitoring tools, third-party platforms and social media policies all aligned, you need to integrate monthly campaigns to sustain interest and keep your brand fresh in the lives of financial consumers.
Crafting a Successful Social Media Campaign
To really connect with today’s younger consumers, it’s all about making financial services more fun. Banking is boring, but it doesn’t need to be. Entertaining and educational monthly social media campaigns can help financial marketers focus on creating content weeks in advance of publishing, while also engaging consumers with a set of consistent messages according to a predefined schedule.
First, the social media marketing plan must establish what your subject matter will be for upcoming campaigns. Next, it’s time to craft a creative theme to wrap around your topics. For example, you might wish to promote student loans in August with a “Back to School” motif. Once the theme is set, the social media team should curate and create supporting content that can be used to promote the campaign and drive traffic. In this example, the social media team would develop copy and images for social media posts aligned with the “scholastic” concept — smart tips, quick facts, infographics about student loans, etc.
Try to follow the 80/20 of fun-to-promotional posts, eschewing the all-out product push for a more educational mix of content. The goal is to delight your audience with interesting, entertaining, informative and engaging content that fits within a cohesive, deliberate narrative. Then, you map these posts on a content calendar for distribution across your selected social media channels — Facebook for community involvement, Twitter for news, LinkedIn for business networking. You should vary your post style to play to the strengths of each channel for maximum effectiveness.
Successful social media marketing campaigns should feather in seamlessly with your financial institution’s overall integrated marketing campaigns. Content marketing tactics will grow your social media community by giving people more reasons to follow/like/connect with your institution, while simultaneously driving traffic to dedicated landing pages that fuel more conversions for your product promotions.
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Quality Content, Focused on Specific Channels
On social media, less can be more, so opt for quality content over quantity. Only participate in the channels that your financial institution can fully support regularly and consistently, and concentrate on those that deliver the most engagement. If your institution generates activity primarily from Facebook and Twitter, or only has the capacity to manage a couple of channels, then it is better to fully engage on limited platforms rather than do a poor job on many of them.
Try to avoid repeating or publishing the exact same posts over and over. Stick to your campaign messaging, but vary the content where possible to play to the strengths of your participating platforms. To make content development more manageable, plot out a series of posts that can then be resized and optimized for each channel and published during optimal posting times. You should be creating at least one image-based post per social media channel per week.
Invest in Paid Amplification
To increase impressions and reach, paid amplification via sponsored posts is essential. These days, you should consider making it the primary means to make sure your social media content gets distributed and seen. Sponsored posts get around suppressing platform algorithms, and can cut through the clutter of competing updates in organic social media streams.
Financial marketers need to set aside a portion of their budget to place planned social media ads to promote key messages and highlight core content components. On Facebook in particular, if you’re not putting money behind your posts, then your target audience will likely not see them. Experiment with various budget levels and audience targeting options to determine what’s working and worthwhile for your financial institution’s objectives.
Complement With a Social Media Contest
To really excite your social media community, consider implementing a cool contest that leverages one of the many third-party apps available today, and give people an incentive to participate (preferably in ways that stay on theme). Continuing with the aforementioned “Back to School” concept, a contest could be a quiz tied to the smart saving tips you had been posting all month, where those who answer all the questions correctly are entered to win a scholarship or gift card for school supplies. If a monetary incentive is not doable, giving away free branded gifts will help to motivate action, and is particularly effective when it can match the hook of your promotion — e.g., pens, notepads, backpacks, etc.. People love free schwag.
Post Consistent and Timely Updates
A monthly marketing campaign strategy will provide a tight framework. Using your social media schedule and content calendar as a guide, allow yourself the freedom and flexibility for spontaneous updates. While the occasional off-topic post is permissible, you generally don’t want to run multiple promotions in the same month; conflicting messaging will generally water down the impact of each individual campaign. The goal of the monthly social media campaign is to give your institution a workable social content strategy, while treating your online community to a continuously themed message over the course of several weeks.
Sustaining Engagement and Committing to Campaigns
Throughout the course of your social media marketing campaigns, it is important to connect with your community. Don’t just talk at them, talk with them. And be responsive. Reply to people’s comments and follow up on their mentions/messages as quickly as possible. This makes your institution feel more human and personable. If you’re running a promotion or a contest, keep an eye on how the audience is participating, making sure the rules of engagement are clear and concise.
It’s also important to measure, monitor and adjust your social media marketing strategy on a daily basis to ensure that your posts, ads and contests are hitting the mark. Once you get in a rhythm and regularly plan ahead for monthly campaigns, you’ll find it easier to make your messaging sing on social media.
Social media marketing campaigns present a unique opportunity for institutions to strengthen their connection with the online community in a genuine way. However, to do it properly, it will require a dedicated team of strategists, designers, developers and others. Many institutions team up with a digital partner to help in these areas, while others may be build their own dedicated internal social media team. Done properly, social media campaigns uniquely support an institution’s marketing and communication goals by keeping messaging fresh, relevant and consistent.
Chris Rinaldi is a Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive, a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, Connecticut, that has built hundreds of bank and credit union websites. You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn, or send ZAG an email.