What defines the “right social media strategy,” and what questions should banks and credit unions be asking when establishing their goals and approach to social channels?
These are the foundational challenges surrounding social media that financial institutions face today. Nearly everyone has integrated social into their marketing, branding and digital strategies, but few have really come to terms with the strategic role and significance of social channels.
Before you can build the right strategy, you must first understand the fundamental distinctions between social media and “regular marketing.” Keep the following differences in mind when defining your social media strategy, and you’ll be better equipped to find the right plan vs. just “a plan.”
1. Real results take time. One social media post won’t acquire a new checking relationship or home loan applicant. But 1,000 will. There must be a concerted effort to build your strategy with this in mind, otherwise your plan will be shortsighted and likely flounder. Financial institutions give up on social media too quickly, too often.
2. Emotional connections equal dollars. What does that mean? Consumers will do business with a brand they respect, and will share and interact with content they love. They will ignore content they have no connection with. If your social media content is cold, corporate and impersonal, don’t be surprised if consumers give you the cold shoulder.
3. True greatness in social media takes more than one person. You need multiple skills and talents in different areas to find success. Your social media team needs to be nimble and effective. And you need the right technologies to properly increase and facilitate collaboration within your team.
Understanding these three social marketing maxims makes is much easier to create an effective strategy. Tactical questions can only be answered if/when the underlying foundational strategies have been established, since creating social media tactically without setting an initial strategy is very hard to do (and yet is what many financial institutions do anyway).
For example, asking what your bank should do on Facebook or YouTube might seem to be the logical starting point. But asking this tactical question impairs your strategy in ways that can — and will — yield unsatisfactory results in the long run. Instead, you should be asking how your consumers are using each social media platform, then adapt your content to best fit their needs —specifically in ways that support your financial institution’s overarching strategic goals and priorities.
So if banks and credit unions are asking the wrong questions, what are some of the right questions to ask when taking the initial steps to develop a social media strategy?
1. What type of content can we build — and do so consistently — to have the most powerful connection to our market?
The key to this question is figuring out what content you are capable of creating, then aligning that with will connect to your market. The answer to this question will create open discussions that help address other questions — for example, what channels help best communicate your message(s)? which channels give you enough flexibility to do what you want?
2. How will we distribute the content effectively so that enough people will see it?
Why bother building a powerful content strategy if no one is going to see that content? Banks and credit unions can only yield value from their social media strategy if they build a community of relevant readers/audience large enough to bother leveraging. But to pull this off, you have to make sure your content is being distributed correctly.
Some distribution channels will be organic, while others will be paid. For example, placing powerful content on a bank’s homepage — if done correctly — can generate tons of organic traffic without additional cost. Facebook, on the other hand, has very little organic distribution nowadays, so financial institutions need to pay for targeted advertising.
3. How will we measure effectiveness?
Measuring effectiveness and establishing metrics helps you focus on what matters by eliminating all the irrelevant noise and distractions surrounding social channels. Being effective on social media requires a ton of testing and adjustments. Unless a financial institution has enough traffic to test, the amount of data will not be enough to see or understand trends. You need a statistically viable sample before you can figure out which way to pivot.
To clarify this, here is a quick and dirty example of measuring effectiveness in social media.
If 16,000 people see a post on Facebook but only 100 people clicked on it, then there is a lack of engagement. Therefore, we have to improve images, topic, or headlines. Then a test needs to be performed on the hypotheses by changing variables little by little to eventually get the right mix that works.
Financial marketers need to understand that social media success takes time, requires constant testing, and the agility to respond. Banks and credit unions need to ask the right questions to establish the right strategy.
There is a time and place for selling, and a right time/place to build powerful connections and relationships. Financial institutions that strike the right balance between the two will have a better chance at finding success in social channels.