Social media can feel a little like the Gold Rush. Twitter, Facebook et al. are talked about like some kind of digital Oregon Trail that will deliver us all unto vast unknowable riches. The social media boom in the financial services industry is a really deeply American movement and financial institutions need to understand just how to capitalize on it.
We all know the basic idea. There are about a gazillion people on Twitter or Facebook and if you know the right secrets and tricks you can get rich with followers. When people are willing to speak positively about you, that shows loyalty to your brand. If they’re influencers to their friends (or their own followers) you stand to gain new customers.
Everyone wants their own vein of gold, but many are just panning in the river and getting rocks. Let’s take a look at why that is.
Rethinking Social Media for Financial Services
There are a lot of different ways to succeed on social media, it all depends on what your goals are. Are you building awareness? Providing customer support? Looking for leads? Becoming a thought leader? All of the above?
The role you play is up to you, but there’s no question that you’ll face roadblocks; Time and budget are a marketer’s ultimate masters. Still, you stand to make an impact as long as you aren’t totally absent. You might not know where the journey will take you, but you only fail if you never start.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what roles you can play in the social media gold rush.
The Four Stages of Social Media Gold Rushers
1. The Town Drunk
You either don’t have any social media accounts or somebody made one a few years ago and nothing has been posted in months. Not even tumbleweeds follow you.
The good news is, it’s easy to break out of this role. You can do it for free and automate a lot of your posting. Taking 5 minutes at any time once a week can get you set for the next 7 days. When you’re totally absent from social media you aren’t even playing the game. You won’t succeed unless you try.
2. The Gold Panner
A handful of followers
You’re posting updates infrequently and with a lot of automation. You aren’t participating too much and aren’t reacting to current events.
This role lays the foundation for success. Your automation might include wishing followers a happy Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, Labor Day and so on. You might also be posting links to relevant articles from different sources, e.g. CNNMoney, Forbes or the Wall Street Journal.
While this is more or less the bare minimum, you’re out there and participating in an important space. That’s great! Consider this your starting point with the understanding that a greater commitment can lead to greater results.
3. The Prospector
A solid following
You’ve found an audience and communicate with them daily. If there’s an unexpected branch closure due to flooding, you let followers know. You spice things up with an occasional meme and if there’s been a data breach at a big store, you tell people what the signs of identity theft are. Instead of sending followers to other sources for answers, you help them with your own content.
That last point is a key differentiator. Instead of sending people to a 3rd party source, you keep them embedded with your brand.
Let’s say you link to an article with back to school saving tips. If that article is yours – on your website, under your brand – you’ve shown customers that you are a resource. They can come to you when they need answers that will help them save money and avoid mistakes.
If you’re a Prospector, you’ve defined yourself. Users have a clear incentive to follow you. You are interacting with them and engaging them.
4. The Mayor
You run this town and you’re one of a very elite few in the industry.
You’re held up by the three pillars of social media: Content, automation and interaction.
You have your own content: Everything from blogs to videos to infographics to answers. You automate the easy stuff: “Our branches will be closed on Columbus Day (Oct. 13)”. You’re committed to interacting with your audience in a timely manner.
For a great example, check out @TDECU.
So where do you stand? As you’re planning out your initiatives for 2015, think about what role you’re playing on social media and at all costs avoid absence.