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7 Things Financial Services Should Know About Social Media

Is your online presence welcoming?

Is your online presence welcoming?

A recent study of 50 financial institutions use of social media by assentium.com has found that “most had developed ‘amateurish’
social media strategies, were ‘hibernating’
on Facebook and displaying
‘tokenism attitudes’ to Twitter and
YouTube.” This is certainly the case for most financial institutions and financial services firms in Australia.

This traditionally conservative sector is just starting to dip it’s metaphorical toe in the water of the pond called social media. Some are diving in head first, others are having a splash and some are sitting firmly on the shore watching the fun.

The biggest challenge this sector faces when wading into social media (apart from the obvious legalities) is how do you provide relevant and serious information where people are often looking for light hearted engagement and fun. In order for social media to succeed you have to find a way to engage that is appealing to not only your audience, but also fits the tone and etiquette of the platform you engage on.

So here are 7 things to consider before you dive in head first and sink to the bottom of the pond. Let’s get you floating!

1. Social Media Management

There is a real tendency when allocating resources and staff to social media for senior managers (who may not understand how strategic a business needs to be when approaching social media) to appoint the most junior or youngest staff to manage these rapidly evolving platforms. They are on it all the time, right?

This is a terrible mistake that many have made. You are giving your key business voice and a key customer service channel to the person in the business with the least experience. Social media requires a strategic approach, that integrates with your larger organisational goals and objectives and needs to be managed by staff who have the maturity and business experience to deal with it. You are much better off getting training and coaching for experienced staff who represent your business soundly than getting someone who may only just understand the social media platforms.

2. Be prepared to look in the mirror

One of the things that prevents business (particularly more conservative ones) from engaging in social media is the fear of backlash. If you have customers who are unhappy with your offering or your service, engaging in social media will bring this to the surface. The reality is, these customers are saying these things about you anyway. You just don’t have the opportunity to engage in the conversation.

Approaching social media as a customer service channel allows you to engage with your customers, hear their feedback and do something about it. If you are willing to hold up a mirror and be responsive, social media can be the greatest gift to your brand and bottom line. Gone are the days when someone rings you to complain and then tells a few other people about it. Now they tell the world through social media. And now, you can respond publicly, letting others know that you are listening and you are responsive to their feedback.

3. Raving fans

What others say about you in social media is far more important than what you say about yourself. Surprise and delight your customers and clients with great service and give them the platform to tell others about it. According to Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, 78% of people trust peer recommendations versus only 14% who trust ads. Each time you do right by your customers and they share this with others, they are leading you to your next best customer. Are you supporting this process?

4. Reduce time leakage

A common issue for professional services firms or customer service driven companies is staff time leakage; answering the same questions or concerns over and over again. Social media can play an important part in educating your clients or customers about your products and services and sharing information one to many rather than handling each and every enquiry one to one.

Some businesses do this very well by documenting frequently asked questions over the counter or through call centres in a regular blog or through short video clips. These can be shared with customers across multiple platforms to save them (and you) time.

5. Even playing field for all

Historically only the large financial institutions or accounting firms had the budgets for advertising campaigns and large scale marketing. Social media evens the playing field. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are largely uncustomisable. So smaller companies, firms and institutions have just as much chance of making these channels work for them, if approached strategically.  Small accounting firms, credit unions and community banks now have the opportunity to excel and provide value added information and service to customers. Those that are doing this well are standing out from the crowd and gaining new customers by showcasing their customer service through social means.

6. Let go of control for greater reach

This one is the hardest for conservative brands to grasp. We are so used to controlling our brand image and relating to customers through our brand that the mere mention of letting go control makes most executives break out in a sweat. Social media turns this concept on its head. Whilst ever you try and control the outcome on social media at the very best it will be boring and stagnant and at the worst, fans and followers will hijack your message and use it against you. The best laid plans in social media can and do still backfire.

This is not a reason not to participate!

You need to be thoughtful and strategic in your approach, execute well designed campaigns and when (not if) it does go wrong, be ready to respond in a timely and appropriate way (this is a whole blog post in itself which we will cover soon!). When brands start to let go of the control, it allows for the spread of information at a far greater rate. If your content is not being shared, then you are not connecting with potential new customers. If no one ever disagrees with your content, you are probably playing it too safe.

7. Put yourself in their shoes

Think like your customers. What will make their life easier? Think not what your information can do for your customers, think what information they want from you (that got lost in translation!). I was browsing my financial institution’s Facebook page the other day and there was a post that explained this perfectly. The post was from a customer and went something like this (brand names have been removed):

“When my credit card payment is due, (ANOTHER BANK) sends me an SMS 2 days before payment is due, so that I have time to scheduled my payment and avoid interest and overdue fees.

(THIS BANK), on the other hand, sends me an SMS the day after my payment is due, with a “Thank you if already paid” message. But if I haven’t paid, of course I’ve got interest accruing on my outstanding balance.

Both organisations have all the information they need to contact me, but (THE OTHER BANK) chooses to time the communication to maximise customer benefit, and (THIS BANK) chooses to time the communication to maximise potential revenue to the bank.

Which card do you think I will retain when I’m next rationalising my portfolio of financial services?”

This example shows how one brand is thinking on behalf of their customers and what they can do to make life easier for them. This post on a Facebook page provides valuable feedback for the institution, which if implemented and fed back publicly could do a lot to strengthen their brand reputation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when considering a social presence. These information sharing platforms through social means are not going anywhere. The question is, how are you going to use them to connect with and add value to your current customers, provide improved customer service and get people talking about your brand to lead you to your next best customer?