Right and Wrong Ways to Use Social Media Storytelling in Banking

Consumers now expect brands to be socially responsible, but they can sniff out phony motives from a mile away, so authenticity is a must. Simply saying you're responsible won't be believable, and could even backfire. Done right, however, CSR storytelling will build trust.

As anyone in the banking industry knows, trust is hard to gain and easy to lose. For the industry overall, the good news is that people are trusting financial institutions more and more.

According to the “Edelman Trust Barometer 2020,” the public’s trust in financial institutions has gone up 12 points since 2012. That means it’s an opportune time to focus your marketing strategies on further building trust and boosting confidence. If you can become a name customers can rely on, you’re likely to build relationships for life.

So what makes people trust banks and credit unions? Today’s consumers expect all brands to be socially responsible and stand for issues that matter to them. In a digital and content-filled world, it’s easy enough for brands to tell their audience how much they care, but customers aren’t likely to believe it until you show them.

Storytelling on Social Can Be Challenging, But Is Worth It

Social media can be a great tool for presenting your corporate social responsibility (CSR) story authentically — gaining customer trust and boosting confidence for the long run. However, banks and credit unions face unique challenges when it comes to CSR storytelling on social media.

Industry regulations and compliance constraints limit what financial institutions can say online. There are also logistical challenges: An institution’s social media manager might not have the time or resources available to create CSR content. Disconnected teams might also make it challenging for CSR leaders to share stats, photos, and stories that would be perfect for social.

Plus, there’s a general lack of creativity around CSR storytelling within banking. An institution may share a photo of an executive handing over a massive check, for instance, but it usually misses the opportunity to share the “why” behind it — i.e. “Why is the initiative important in the first place?” or “What impact is the organization actually having in the community?”

Too often the focus is on leadership or dollars — but there is more of a story to tell. And it’s worth telling, even if it means readjusting your marketing team’s workflow or adding compliance safeguards. CSR storytelling can have a significant impact on business, but to ensure that impact is positive, you’ll need to focus on telling genuine stories.

If Your CSR Story Isn’t Authentic, Consumers Won’t Buy It

People want authenticity from brands and can sniff out ulterior motives from a mile away, so it’s vital to approach corporate social responsibility from an altruistic perspective. Rather than getting into CSR for your own benefit, focus on serving your community and finding ways to embody your institution’s values. Aligning with a cause that has a real connection to your institution’s interests can go a long way in this respect. But don’t do it for praise or expect to be thanked.

One excellent example of authentic CSR storytelling is JPMorgan Chase, which has invested close to $200 million in Detroit since 2014 to help the city recover economically after the Great Recession. Chase has strategically allocated these funds to areas such as entrepreneurship loans and programs focused on minority business owners.

CEO Jamie Dimon has been closely associated with this and other CSR efforts and widely visible as a spokesperson, both in traditional media interviews as well as sharing on LinkedIn. Dimon’s accounts make his desire for real impact and financial empowerment clear.

Other financial institutions align themselves with more traditional nonprofits and causes. Edward Jones, for instance, has an alliance with the Alzheimer’s Association. As the principal responsible for the alliance said, “Edward Jones is in the business of helping families build and preserve wealth, while Alzheimer’s disease destroys the financial security and future hopes and dreams of families.”

Because the cause is true to the firm’s DNA, it offers the opportunity for meaningful and authentic storytelling about an important issue.

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How to Tell Your True CSR Story on Social Media

Social media should be an important piece of a fuller picture when it comes to sharing your institution’s CSR initiatives. Earned media, newsletters, and in-brand signage are also effective ways to communicate your dedication to social responsibility, but social media allows you to take the story one step further.

On social, a bank or credit union can highlight authenticity, get in front of more customers, and create the opportunity for dialogue with your audience. Here’s how to tie your CSR initiatives to your social strategy and tell an effective story:

“CSR storytelling needs to be part of your social strategy. A one-off post here and there won’t do the trick.”
— Doug Wilber, Denim Social

1. Make CSR a marketing priority. For CSR storytelling to have a real impact, it needs to be a central part of your social strategy. A one-off post here and there won’t do the trick. Leadership teams need to align with marketing teams to ensure total buy-in and collaboration across the board.

If you need to prove the need for a shift in focus to a CSR-heavy strategy, a great place to start is by pulling past engagement data to share. If your bank or credit union has ever shared community-oriented posts on social media, you’re likely to see that these posts garnered the highest engagement rates. People want to see how you’re making a difference in their community.

2. Break down barriers. There might be internal silos that are keeping social media managers from connecting with leaders. Collaboration between departments will be essential, as financial marketers need a full view of CSR initiatives to tell accurate, authentic stories. Forge the internal relationships that matter most to your CSR and social media efforts.

One way to do this is to bring the marketing team into the conversation much earlier. They should be part of leadership team meetings where CSR strategy is discussed. When you engage in CSR activities, have a member of the marketing department there to take pictures and get quotes. Digital tools can help streamline information sharing and content review processes.

3. Think like a publisher. While other financial institutions are posting “big check” photos, take the opportunity to differentiate yourself and get creative. Look for opportunities to capture dynamic images at CSR events. Uncover stories and narratives about why your bank’s efforts are important. Tell the story about why you’re doing what you’re doing.

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