The use of social media in financial services was important even before 2020. Then the pandemic vastly shifted how we maintain relationships with clients and customers. Now, social media is non-negotiable.
Social media has changed the nature of client relationships during the pandemic for 90% of financial advisors. More than half of those who brought in new business increased their use of social media this year.
That said, there can be plenty of challenges to using social media in a regulated industry. Here’s how to develop a social media strategy for financial services in 2021.
Bonus: Get the free social selling guide for financial services. Learn how to generate and nurture leads and win business using social media.
The use of social media in financial services: 6 key benefits
Many industries slashed their digital ad spending in the wake of COVID-19. But financial services companies increased their digital ad spend by 9.7%. That brought it to $19.62 billion. Only the retail industry spent more.
Organic social media will also become increasingly important to finserv brands. Generation Z is starting to consume more financial services. At the same time, our Digital 2020 data shows Baby Boomers are embracing both social media and mobile payments like never before.
Financial services brands need to meet both of these generations—and all those in between—on the digital platforms they use every day.
Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits of social media in financial services.
1. Strengthen relationships
Building relationships is a key use of social media for finance industry professionals. When it comes to money, everyone wants to deal with someone they know and trust.
Especially when you can’t meet your clients in person, social media can help you build that trust. It helps maintain customer relationships you would normally build at your office or branch.
69% of respondents to the Hootsuite Social Transformation Report said social helped them get through the pandemic by allowing them to maintain customer and audience relationships.
In a Putnam Investments survey, 74% of advisors said they used direct messaging on social networks to communicate with clients and prospects. Almost all of them (94%) reported gaining new assets.
Nurturing prospects and clients online is known as social selling. Here’s a quick primer on how it works:
Social media can help identify important financial moments in your clients’ and prospects’ lives. For example, LinkedIn is a great place to learn about career changes or retirements. Following clients’ business pages can also give you insight into their challenges.
That said, social selling is usually about building relationships that lead to sales in the long term. When one of your connections gets a new job or launches a new business, by all means send a congratulations message. Keep yourself top of mind. But don’t jump in and try to make a sale.
It’s important to focus on providing trustworthy information and resources. Particularly when people are struggling. Prioritize the client’s needs over making the sale.
2. Highlight brand purpose and build community trust
84% of respondents to a special Edelman Trust Barometer report said they expected or hoped brands would use social channels to “facilitate a sense of community and offer social support.”
60% of respondents to Deloitte’s annual survey of millennials and Gen Z said they will buy more from “large businesses that have taken care of their workforces and positively affected society during the pandemic.”
And in Brandwatch data, more than three-quarters of consumers say it’s important that brands proactively make the world a better place.
As we note in our Social Trends 2021 Report, brand purpose has to come from company leaders, not just the marketing department. Look for ways you or your company can support your community. For financial services firms, an easy win is to support small and local businesses.
Howard Bank, based in Baltimore, launched a campaign called “Keep It Local.” The idea was to support local businesses by highlighting them on social media and other channels.
To put their money where their mouth was, the campaign also incorporated a contest. One winning local business received a grant of $10,000, and the runners-up received $1,000.
Even after the contest, Howard Bank continues to highlight small local businesses on their social channels. They have credibility as supporters of local business over the long term.
3. Humanize your brand
People want to deal with trusted financial experts. That doesn’t mean they want their financial services providers to be clinical and cold. Social media provides a great opportunity for you to humanize your brand.
Getting your company’s executives on social media can be a great place to start. After all, it can be easier to trust a person rather than an institution.
C-level executives don’t have to stick to dry financial topics. Encourage them to show a bit of personality.
When Town and Country Bank in Ravenna, Nebraska, upgraded its digital services, more than 1,300 users had to download a new mobile app. They also had to re-subscribe for email statements, and re-establish their digital credentials.
Presenting this in a simple list of required steps might have elicited eyerolls, annoyance, or even panic from clients. Instead, the bank created a fun Facebook video featuring its former president and his wife, who are well known in the community.
Putting a human face on the brand was key in getting people to understand the importance of the upgrade and the required actions. The digital platform changed on July 13. By the end of July all but 100 customers had taken the required steps.
And the video reached far beyond the target audience, reaching 34,000 views and eliciting a positive response from the community.
Depending on your audience and the channels you use, you can have a lot of fun using social media in finance: 2021 is the time to get creative.
LinkedIn is by far the most used social network for financial services, but less formal platforms are gaining popularity, too. Consider that 31% of advisors now use Snapchat.
And the Swiss bank PostFinance uses TikTok to connect with its young audience. It’s clear the staff get a kick out of the process.
4. Gain key industry and customer insights
Try using social media for financial services industry research. This is a good way to stay on top of what’s happening in your field.
Whether it’s a competitor’s latest product offering or an impending PR disaster, think of social media as an early warning system.
With social media listening, you can learn what’s happening with your competitors and your industry.
Here’s how it works:
You can also use social listening to learn about your customers and gauge what they want from you. As pointed out in our Social Trends 2021 Report, it will be important in the coming year for brands to “prioritize listening over talking.”
Through social listening, Securian Financial found its most important demographics were not complaining about quarantine. Instead, they were sharing stories about how they were staying connected.
Securian then created a user-generated content campaign. They used the hashtag #LifeBalanceRemix to encourage people to share these stories. There was heart behind this campaign, too. They donated $10 to Feeding America for every user who posted with the hashtag or shared the campaign.
The result was more than 2.5 million impressions and an estimated ROI of $35,000.
Also be sure to keep an eye on your social media analytics. These tools give you insights into the effectiveness of your own social efforts. You can learn what works best and refine your social media marketing strategy for financial service customers as you go.
5. Reduce effort and costs
Social efforts work best when teams, departments, and individual advisors use social media in a coordinated way. Most likely, this involves a shared social media management platform.
In the Putnam survey, nearly 90% of advisors said support from their firms made a positive difference in their use of social media. Specific areas of support advisors mentioned include:
- Providing content to post
- Providing support resources
- Offering training
A content library is a valuable resource for both employees and brands. Staff has access to pre-approved, compliant content that’s ready to go. Brands have peace of mind when employees post consistent messaging that supports strategic goals.
And all of it is housed in one central library, so there’s no duplication of effort or expense.
The American Bankers Association recently launched a campaign to highlight phishing concerns. They created a set of resources all banks could use. That includes social posts, videos, and GIFs using the hashtag #BanksNeverAskThat.
Banks then shared the resources across their social channels. They were able to educate their clients on this important subject without much effort or investment.
Here’s how it looks in action on the social platforms of several banks:
“Do you like your martini shaken or stirred?” #BanksNeverAskThat. They’ll also never ask you to click a suspicious link in an email. Learn to spot scams—and find your scam IQ—with the #BanksNeverAsk quiz: https://t.co/YY7iMoOsIX #oxfordbank #americanbankersassociation pic.twitter.com/RGYpshdcl2
— Oxford Bank (@OxfordBank) November 25, 2020
6. Provide digital customer service
Online chat is clients’ second-most preferred option for customer service. It’s outranked only by telephone support. For those under 25, social media is the top choice for customer support.
But Gartner found financial services companies are lagging behind in offering chat support. Only 35% of retail banking companies, 31% of insurance companies, and 9% of wealth and asset management companies offer website live chat.
Online messaging through social channels can be a good alternative to setting up chat functionality on your own site.
When Citizens Bank launched an update to their mobile banking app, things went sideways. Basic functionality was broken, and customers were not happy. They flooded the Citizens Bank social channels with complaints and requests for help.
Citizens Bank has a dedicated customer service Twitter account. They also have the Messenger pop-up enabled on their Facebook Page. This allowed them to respond to clients on the platforms where they already spend their time.
Glad that this helped! Take care — Samantha
— Ask Citizens Bank (@AskCitizensBank) August 6, 2020
Their ability to respond on social media likely mitigated some of the damage from the app update glitch. They’d have had even more success if they had been able to respond faster.
Gartner notes retail banks that get high marks for customer service reply within an hour. They also have preset questions and automatic responses to deal with common requests. (Remember what we said about reducing effort?)
Speaking of reducing effort, when it comes to providing customer support on social, a tool like Hootsuite Inbox can help you manage conversations from all your channels in one place. You can also create “Saved Replies” for frequently asked questions, view your entire conversation history,and assign messages to your team members, while tracking response times. See how it works here:
Social media strategy for financial services: Essential tips
1. Focus on compliance
FINRA, FCA, FFIEC, IIROC, SEC, PCI, AMF, GDPR—all the compliance requirements can make your head spin.
Many advisors and agents were already working remotely before the pandemic. Now, even more financial professionals are working from home. It’s critical to have compliance processes and tools to guide their use of social media.
Get your compliance team involved as you develop your social media strategy for financial services posts. They’ll have important guidance on the steps you need to take to protect your brand.
For example, they can explain separating personal and business use of social media for finance industry professionals. They should also weigh in on what kinds of links advisors share.
It’s also important to have the right chain of approvals in place for all social media posts. For example, FINRA states: “A registered principal must review prior to use any social media site that an associated person intends to use for business.”
2. Archive everything
This falls under compliance, but it’s important enough that it’s worth calling out on its own. According to FINRA, “firms and their registered representatives must retain records of communications related to their “’business as such.’”
Those records must be kept for at least three years.
Hootsuite’s integration with Actiance automatically archives all social media communications. It stores them in a secure and searchable database, complete with the original context.
3. Conduct a social media audit
In a social media audit, you document all your company’s social channels in one place. You also note any key information relevant to each. At the same time, you will hunt down any impostor or unofficial accounts so you can have those shut down.
Start by listing all the accounts your internal team uses regularly. But remember—this is just a starting point. You’ll need to look for old or abandoned accounts and department-specific accounts.
While you’re at it, make note of the social platforms where you don’t have any social accounts. It might be time to register profiles there. Even if you’re not ready to use those tools yet, you might want to reserve your brand handles for future use.
We created a free social media audit template to help keep all your research organized as you tackle this work.
4. Implement a social media policy
A social media policy guides social media use within your organization. That includes accounts for your advisors and agents.
Your compliance, legal, IT, information security, human resources, public relations, and marketing teams should all have input. It will help you maintain a consistent brand identity while reducing compliance challenges.
It will also define team roles and approval structures so everyone understands the workflow of a social post. This clarity upfront can help reduce frustrations that social media in financial services might not move as quickly as it does in other industries.
Using social media for finance industry purposes can also come with security risks. Be sure to include a section in your social media policy that outlines security protocols for the less-sexy aspects of social media. For example, prescribe how often to change passwords and how often software should be updated.
5. Train your team
The use of social media in financial services does not come naturally to everyone. It’s important to offer training and resources for your teams if you want them to use social effectively.
Putnam found that 40%of advisors are getting social media training from partner firms. 37% are getting training from home office. And 27% are getting third-party training.
If you expect your team to figure it all out on their own, you put them at a disadvantage. Give them the resources and tools they need to make your brand shine.
Hootsuite makes social marketing easy for financial service professionals. From a single dashboard you can manage all your networks, drive revenue, provide customer service, mitigate risk, and stay compliant. See the platform in action.
Easily manage all your social media in one place and save time with Hootsuite.