Amy McIlwain, Global Industry Director, Financial & Insurance at Hootsuite
The core foundation of the financial services industry was founded on relationships and trust, but with the recent influx of technology such as artificial intelligence and robo-advisors, the industry is at risk of losing its human touch. Maintaining authenticity with customers does not need to come at the expense of innovation though. And this is where social media can play a role.
Social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram have historically been avoided by financial services.
This has largely been driven by fear of making a mistake which could put an organisation at risk. However, in today’s digital society, not having an online social presence is invariably a lot riskier.
From generating new customer leads and managing queries, right through to attracting highly-skilled candidates, social can influence it all. With technology trailblazing through the industry, social media can no longer be avoided by financial services. Organisations which take a proactive stance online will see higher engagement levels with customers, and competitors will get left behind.
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Let’s leave it to the marketers
One of the main pitfalls organisations face is the belief that social media is the sole responsibility of the corporate marketing team. Whilst these teams have specific expertise, they are not the only ones with social media profiles. With content posted by the corporate pages only, the organisations can seem out-of-touch and hard to engage with for customers. Employees from across the business, however, that post on social can be a positive influence on customers and co-workers alike.
Whether it’s an advisor, a senior executive or a member of the HR team, by encouraging them to share on social will help build and maintain a human image of the brand. With these voices (and not constant corporate monologue) talking on topics of interest, real connections can be formed. It’s easier to engage with a face and name than a brand and logo. Employee advocacy is one of the most effective ways to remind the world that the company is actually filled with real people.
Genuine customer connections are not the only benefit that employee advocacy on social has, it also impacts on perceptions of what the company is like to work for. For those considering a job move, or not, coming across an employee’s social page with posts speaking highly of the company is often enough to get people interested. A company that has a strong social presence with knowledgeable employees, why wouldn’t these potential candidates want to join the business?
Employees are only as good as their tools
Encouraging employees to post doesn’t mean they necessarily will do it. Buy-in is critical, but having a platform which makes it easy is just as important. If the process is time-consuming and complicated, employees will rapidly lose interest and that social strategy will be on its way out.
Organisations must invest in the right digital tools which require minimal training, rather than a hugely complicated onboarding process. If employees have to spend significant amounts of time figuring out the platform’s functions and features, it’s highly unlikely to be utilised in the long-term. It’s also important to provide an overarching strategy of what success looks like, so employees have a clear idea of the goals that need to be reached. Otherwise, it’s a free for all, and some departments will perform better than others which, for customers, looks disjointed and unprofessional.
Collaboration across departments is also key. In Hootsuite’s recent study, almost half of respondents said that there is no collaboration across departments – and more than three-in-four organisations use at least three different platforms to manage social media. With no clear mechanism in place to work together, the process can become inefficient with data existing in numerous silos. Adopting one social media management tool brings together employees in one place to allow for greater knowledge-sharing and collaboration on data.
Deciding which social media management platform to adopt requires a careful vetting process. It not only has to provide an easy onboarding process, but it should also provide a social listening feature. A platform which can alert you to the key trends and topics being discussed at any time, by a certain demographic, is invaluable insight for organisations. For instance, with insight around whether a certain demographic is buying a house, or perhaps going into retirement, provides the opportunity for content to be adapted to ensure it’s of interest to the customer at the time.
Being fearful of social media is no longer an excuse. Financial services organisations must adopt a social media strategy to ensure that the human element of their brand is maintained and built upon during a time where technology is being adopted in every aspect of business. The focus must be on how employees can become brand advocates, which can only be achieved with the right tools and strategy in place. Only then will your organisation be ready to make genuine and long-lasting connections with consumers.