How Bank Marketers Can Forge Human Connections in a Digital World

Many financial institutions miss the full potential of social media, using it mainly for promotion or appeasing angry customers. A few banks and credit unions, however, have learned from successful e-commerce companies. These financial institutions have followed three steps to transform their social media programs into a means to build genuine trust, engagement and loyalty.

In the age of digital consumerism, there’s no denying the impact social media has in effectively marketing a financial brand. While this has granted banks and credit unions access to consumers in a myriad of categories, they often miss the mark on forging authentic connections with social media users. According to Edelman, 60% of people globally don’t trust social media. And with advertisements and promotions so ingrained in our daily use of apps, it can be tricky for consumers to know if the content they’re looking at is genuine, or whether it’s just another ploy to make money. Case in point is the the viral Instagram hit @justaconstructionguy, which, as BuzzFeed reports, was just a marketing stunt to sell coffee.

Today’s consumers want to engage with companies they know, trust, love, and feel a personal connection to without feeling ‘duped.’ For banks and credit unions using social media, the key question to consider is: “How can we effectively achieve levels of genuine connection and trust?”

3 Essential Ways to Build Trust Using Social Media

1. Be dependably consistent. Think about a restaurant, cafe, or bar you regularly frequent. Why do you return time and time again? Most likely it has to do with consistency. The staff are consistently friendly, the food is consistently tasty, the environment is consistently pleasant. Whatever the reason, you trust that the establishment will satisfy your wants and needs.

Financial institutions need to carry this type of dependability to their social media channels to generate and maintain those feelings. They must be sure their “digital face” reflects all the design, content, and voice elements of the offline experience consumers have with them. This consistency will help people see the institution as more reliable.

A disorganized, messy social media presence can muddle the confidence people have in a bank or credit union. If your digital brand says “we are unsure of ourselves,” why would a potential customer feel any differently?

( Read More: Power 100 Social Media Database )


2. Be a (non-robot) listener. There’s nothing more frustrating than talking to an automated message system after calling a company’s customer service line with a problem, which is usually why people call. Social media is the same way. Humans want to speak with other humans. They want to feel heard, appreciated, and understood. But in our current digital landscape, making a human connection can be pretty difficult.

One financial institution that has mastered digital personal connection is Mountain America Credit Union. Its Instagram page, which boasts over 42,000 followers, is used to helps members feel heard, answer their questions, and provide advice. The institution often posts Instagram Stories offering financial tips, tools for improving credit and information on their various programs. (“Stories” is a hot format in Instagram. The stories use mobile-friendly combinations of photos, illustrations, video and text, and are often interactive.)

Mountain America also regularly shares posts with inspirational quotes and questions, encouraging followers to share their own opinions on relatable topics. They want people to know that, yes, they are a credit union, but they are also a listening ear. “You can trust us, really,” their feed seems to say.

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3. Be meaningful and empowering. It’s easy for financial institutions to solely view social media as a channel to appease an angry customer or to promote a new product or upcoming event. Banks and credit unions that hold on to this transactional mindset are likely putting themselves at a disadvantage, as today’s consumers base their perception of a brand on the meaningful moments they have with it. People want to feel like brands are genuinely invested in them on a personal level.

A non-financial e-commerce company, Pura Vida Bracelets, provides an excellent example of how to accomplish this engagement. Pura Vida is ranked #3 in the most engaged brands on Instagram in the jewelry category, and can boast more than 1.4 million followers on Instagram alone. The brand organically built its empire on community empowerment.

Known for its Rep Program — which encourages customers to actively share their love for the brand to win free product, cash, and perks — Pura Vida has united a growing group of loyal fans by treating each person as a valuable member of their team. In addition to showing their appreciation through sharing user-generated content, they also host an array of social media-driven events such as Instagram meetups, which attract fans by the hundreds. Pura Vida’s methods of authentic empowerment have helped them garner trust from their customers by showing them how important they are to the company. And this trust has helped drive not only social media status, but sales, revenue and a deeply loyal customer-base.

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Financial institutions looking to make authentic connections would do well to emulate Pure Vida’s strategy. Customers are thrilled when they are able to make smarter financial decisions and achieve their dreams of buying a car, owning a home or starting a business. So why not empower them to share their successes with your organization and wider community?

Monthly celebratory meetups in your branch could be a great way to recognize and share your customers’ achievements while also inspiring many others to do the same. Documenting the celebrations and sharing personal stories of achievement on social media offers genuine insight into the value your organization provides. Not only will followers enjoy the success stories, your featured customers will also delight in the recognition of their hard work, leading to a deeper sense of loyalty.

Ben Prager is the Creative Director and Founder of Prager Creative. His agency’s marketing, branding and advertising work with large and small credit unions across the country has been honored with multiple CUNA Diamond Awards.

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