There has never been a better time to evaluate what your bank or credit union is doing in social media. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has released proposed guidance on policies concerning social media usage by banks and credit unions making it clear that dabbling in social media won’t be tolerated by regulators much longer. It sounds like everyone is going to have to have a strategy.
So where to begin? How should you focus your efforts most effectively? How do you prioritize initiatives? How do you know if you should even be using social media at all?
Don’t panic. Here are a few questions to help guide you down the path of creating a social media strategy with staying power.
1. What Do You Want to Accomplish?
This isn’t really so much a question about social media; it’s a question about your business: What are the core goals for the short-term and the long-term? Is it brand awareness, customer acquisition, revenue growth and/or improving customer retention?
Take a step back from social media to understand what the business is really trying to accomplish. Then you can take a look at social media to figure out how it can help move the needle on those objectives.
Too often we start with the social media channel we think we should be on, start slapping up some content, and then try to prove the value of what we’re doing with a set of social media “metrics.” That’s backwards. Start with the organization’s objectives first. That is the best way to ensure that your social media strategy aligns with your financial institution’s goals and priorities.
2. Where Does Your Audience Talk About Banking?
When we think about social media, most of us reflexively think about Facebook and Twitter. But did you know that 90% of conversations about banking and banking products happen in online discussion forums. Less than 1% happen on the major social networks.
That’s just one of many jaw dropping insights we uncovered in “The Conversation Report: What Consumers are Saying About Banking” from Social Media Explorer.
So does that change your perspective on where you might focus your energy? Does your current social media policy address how you will manage these conversations? Remember, the proposed guidelines say you will need to have a policy for handling when customers mention your financial institution, even if you aren’t actively participating in social media.
So the first step is to understand where your brand and your competitors are being mentioned. You can take it a step further and look at how people talk about banking and money in general. Whether your audience has a positive relationship with money or a negative one, understanding that relationship will help you to design products that satisfy their needs.
3. Where Does Social Media Fit?
Once you know where the relevant conversations are happening and what you are trying to accomplish, the next step is to figure out where — or more precisely if — social media fits into the picture. At the very least, according to the FFEIC, you have to come up with a plan to manage customer mentions.
Another opportunity is to look at all the other new initiatives you are planning. Could social media help to make those initiatives a greater success in any way? Integrating social media components into your existing plans should be considered first, before you start talking about a whole new content strategy for Facebook. Then you can start looking at where the big opportunities are hiding.
Ask yourself, “What audience can social media help us reach that we have been struggling with? What type of content could we produce that enhances the customer experience? What type of relevant content can we curate from other sources that our audience would find interesting? Will social media align with customer service? Or does social best align with marketing?”
Figuring out where and how social media will add the most value early in an initiative will provide you with a clear sense direction so you don’t get distracted with “Shiny Object Syndrome” (SOS).
4. How Will You Achieve Your Objectives?
If you’ve decided to commit to social channels more than in just the obligatory ways, then it’s time to figure out what you are actually going to be using it. Social media shouldn’t be looked at as a broadcast channel where you can pump out your latest promotional loan rates. It should be a place where you connect and build relationships with customers and potential customers through content that adds to the human experience with money and banking. Outline the tactics you will use to deliver on the strategic objective for social media in the organization.
Don’t forget, you have to earn the right to talk about yourself to your social media following. You can build your social cred by sharing content from third-party sources around 80% of the time.
5. How Will You Measure Results?
Finally, it’s time to figure out how you are going to measure whether your strategy is successful or not. What are the core metrics that will be used? Don’t get lost in all of the social media metrics out there. (Hint: Look back at your organization’s core business strategy, its strategic goals and product priorities.) Think about how you can connect social media results to sales, revenues and costs. Those are the metrics that truly matter, and those are the metrics you need to focus on when calculating ROI. Start thinking about connecting the dots between your measurements and the bottom line. (If you want step-by-step instructions on social media ROI, check out this book on Amazon, How to Measure Social Media, by yours truly.)
So what questions do you have about developing a social media strategy? Do you have a strategy in place already? What are the biggest challenges? Please feel free to leave a comment and join the discussion.