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How NatWest used social media to better target its communications

How NatWest used social media to better target its communications 1

By DuBose Cole, Head of Strategy, VaynerMedia London

For banks, it is imperative to reach their existing – and potential new – customers and be recognised as a trusted source of finance, advice and support. And to do that amid global turmoil, when their own businesses are under pressure, is particularly challenging.

NatWest  is one of the largest players in the business banking industry but, like most other high street banks,  over the last few years they’ve continued to look for new ways to interact with their customers and SMEs more broadly, at scale. NatWest’s mission has remained focused – to accelerate entrepreneurship and be seen as a bank that gives support and expert guidance.

With the added impact of this year’s global health crisis and subsequent recession, small businesses have been hit hard and so NatWest needed to demonstrate – and prove – that it can help more business ideas bloom, more small businesses grow and more people realise their business potential. To do this, the bank used social media as a central plank of its marketing to reach small business owners.

Female-led entrepreneurship

Last year it launched a campaign to help female entrepreneurs that aimed to create the UK’s most exciting and accessible business start-up programme for women. Back Her Business came about following The Alison Rose Review on Female Entrepreneurship, where the UK Treasury identified that female entrepreneurs receive 157 times less funding than male owned businesses.

Women-only funding teams were given £32 million in 2017, while male-only teams received more than £5 billion to start their businesses, according to Treasury figures. The disparity between female and male entrepreneurs is clear – it’s unacceptable and holding the UK back.

Back Her Business is a place for female business owners to showcase their business ideas, giving everyone the chance to back these women-led businesses through crowdfunded donations. In partnership with CrowdFunder, a programme was established to help get more ideas off the ground and up and running.

In an interesting twist on advertising support, NatWest Business decided to repurpose some of their ad space, giving it over to showcase a number of female business owners going through the programme, and ultimately allowing them to promote their business.

As NatWest’s creative agency partner, VaynerMedia created a series of videos to show the success of the scheme while also encouraging women to apply – and social media was the perfect platform to meet these two requirements. Storytelling was an essential part of the campaign – to bring to life the businesses that women were building – and this marries particularly well with social media.

Targeting social media users

Social media also allows for more nuanced targeting and so the media budget was spent on either aspiring female entrepreneurs, existing female entrepreneurs or potential customers of the three businesses that were selected to take part.

This thinking was also used on its campaign this year where NatWest supported businesses by targeting customers with specific information and guided users to articles that would give appropriate advice and support. As call centres were inundated with calls during Covid-19 and wait times were longer than usual, this meant the bank could still show support for its customers.

Another advantage of the social media platform over out of home (OOH) or TV for example, is that it offers personalisation at scale. Rather than having one ad for everyone, creative can be personalised to a specific audience for greater relevance. And effectiveness can be increased as it’s easier to run A/B tests and trial different messages with real-time feedback. Small scale tests can identify the best performers which can then be scaled up to prevent media waste.

Social media platform choices

And there are multiple ad formats to choose from – from instant experiences on Facebook and Instagram to lead generation forms to Instagram Stories – all giving brands a way of telling their story and encouraging users to take action.

So for NatWest’s 2020 Supporting Business campaign – which had to be quickly adapted amid the unfolding Covid-19 crisis – the strategy had to help SME owners at a time when their confidence was low as they faced the prospect of a decline, and in some instances, a total loss of business.

VaynerMedia quickly developed a two-pronged approach – developing two phases of communications so NatWest could communicate that it was open, available and committed to supporting SME owners, while also being part of the longer-term and wider conversation around how Covid-19 is altering our daily work lives and economic stability.

Public trust in social media platforms

How trustworthy social media is has been a hot topic recently, with the rise in fake news and the dubious ownership and motives behind some accounts. This could lead to understandable scepticism over whether these platforms are a good partner for a financial services firm.

DuBose Cole

DuBose Cole

According to the Business Insider Digital Trust report, LinkedIn is the most trusted of these platforms and so a good choice for publishing content.

Business decision makers, small business owners and entrepreneurs are still real people who use social media in their daily lives, so to make an impact and reach them with NatWest’s message, the brand had to be present on the media they use.

And things are evolving. This year Instagram has added small business features where users can demonstrate their support for small businesses by tagging them in their posts, using a dedicated small business sticker – a great tool to increase organic reach. Building networks and communities is central to so much of the best of social media and emerging platforms such as NextDoor, where users will search for recommendations in their local area, reinforce this.

Proven results

So far between March and August this year, the supporting business campaign has generated more than 163 million impressions across LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Display and Spotify. Results from the LinkedIn brand lift study found that across decision makers on LinkedIn there was a 15 percentage point lift in the attribute rating that NatWest Business provides expert guidance and an 11 percentage point lift in the attribute rating that NatWest Business supports UK business.

Teads Brand Impulse study showed a strong cut through on display, increasing Aided Ad Recall for NatWest by a significant +38% post exposure to the creative. NatWest Business is seen as an expert in providing expert business guidance, increasing by +22% among those who see the creative.

Last year’s Back Her Business campaign also showed what can be achieved when banks use social media effectively.

Across both LinkedIn and Facebook, female entrepreneurs and aspiring female entrepreneurs were targeted along with potential customers of the three businesses featured: Boarders without Borders, focusing on users interested in skateboarding and social causes; Masterpiece, targeting people interested in mindfulness and art in London; and Mini Meal Times, aimed at parents with babies and toddlers.

In total, more than four million impressions were served across Facebook and LinkedIn and 950,000 video views generated. On LinkedIn, video results surpassed not only benchmarks for financial services but also general UK benchmarks.

With the right strategies, there are many inventive and specific ways financial services brands can use social media to reach customers and ensure their marketing and media budgets are used more efficiently and effectively.

Why social media is a good platform to promote a business, and especially a bank

  • Retargeting capabilities. Across all social networks, advertisers have the option to retarget website visitors and customer relationship management (CRM) lists which gives a greater ability to reach your current customers if, for example, email open rates are low. In both our campaigns, reaching current customers was necessary, so retargeting them was a valuable tool.
  • Thought leadership and news sources. Especially on LinkedIn and Twitter, this is where business owners and the public go to find out the latest news whether business related or sports related. By appearing on these channels, we can reach people who are looking for the latest news updates. LinkedIn is particularly good for brands to showcase their thought leadership.
  • B2B targeting. For NatWest Business, LinkedIn is an important platform because of its B2B targeting. The nature of the platform and the profile details users are required to submit, means it is easy to reach the key SME audience. Advertisers have the option to target by job title, job seniority, industry or company which are useful tactics and particularly useful when the bank wants to send different messages to SMEs compared with large corporates.
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