Social media and finance brands – how you can make it work

By Claire Wilson, Content Strategy Director at Stratton Craig

The financial services industry has never been known for leading the way in cuttingedge marketing, and there are a number of good reasons for this: legislation, regulation, privacy concerns and the daunting task of communicating to broad and complex audiences.

Social media, in particular, presents a number of challenges for those eager to capitalise on its potential to reach new customers and build brand engagement. However, with half the population identifying themselves as active social media users, ‘opting out’ of a meaningful social media presence is no longer a realistic option, even for finance brands.

So what should you consider when getting a financial services brand set to enter the fray of social media?

  1. Listen

It may seem obvious, but a powerful benefit of social media is the opportunity to know what your customers REALLY think of you. Brands who see social media as another outlet for talking loudly about themselves miss the point. And of course, it’s critically important that after listening to your customers, you make sure you do something about their feedback (and be seen to be doing it).

  1. Be responsive

Following on from the point above, it’s important that you’re able to respond quickly and appropriately when something happens, either in terms of addressing a complaint as it occurs or seizing a marketing opportunity as it arises. My favourite example, although admittedly non-finance related, is Oreo’s spectacularly poised response to the Super Bowl power outage in 2013.

  1. Be authentic

We all know the internet is awash with cynicism, and you can multiply that by ten as soon as you dip a toe into Twitter. This is why it’s critical that a brand’s social media activity genuinely reflects its values and does not indulge in flagrant self-promotion, because your audience will sniff it out from a mile away and call you out publicly for it. If something goes wrong, and a message or post inadvertently offends or misses the mark, don’t waste time making excuses and shifting blame. Bite the bullet, apologise with sincerity and move on.

  1. Add a personal touch

A goal of your social media strategy should be to start real conversations with your customers, so making it clear that there’s an actual person waiting to deal with any queries is a nice, reassuring way to encourage customer interaction. HSBC’s account @HSBC_UK_Help starts each day with a team member introducing themselves and inviting queries.

  1. Be speedy

Harnessing the speed and reach of social media can be particularly effective when dealing with a serious issue, and a solid social media strategy should consider how it can be used as part of a firm’s crisis management response.  If something has gone wrong and your phone lines are running off the hook, social media might be the only way you can get an essential message out to your network.

Of course, no article about social media would be complete without an example of just how horribly things can go wrong when a social media campaign does not go to plan. The winner of this category in the finance industry has to be American investment bank JPMorgan, which was forced to cancel a planned Twitter Q&A session after the hashtag was hijacked by thousands of Twitter users questioning the bank’s ethics.

The sensible advice is to always consider the worst-case perspective when planning a social media campaign – tread carefully when using humour, as jokes can be badly misinterpreted, and don’t hijack unrelated events for the benefit of your brand, it looks tacky. Disgruntled customers often air their grievances in social media comments; this is unavoidable and you should be prepared to tackle any complaints swiftly and try to help if possible.

The opportunities presented by social media are clear, and as the number of platforms and users grow, financial services institutions need to be sure they’re moving with the times and speaking to their customers on their level. To truly get ahead of the game, brands should be looking at social media as more than just a communications and marketing platform and start looking for opportunities to deliver services in new and innovative ways.