Turn your Customers into Evangelists

Jasmine Butler Burnham

Marketing Manager

The Financial Services Forum

Social business is here to stay, insists DAVID OATES. So he’s surprised that so many financial services teams are still so slow to adopt social media to reach out to clients and customers.
Customer engagement using social media channels is becoming an increasingly important part of the financial services marketing fabric. The main reason is the ability to quickly and cheaply attract consumer attention and promote customer loyalty.
You can be relevant, accessible, immediate – while having the choice of communicating to thousands of users at one time, or focusing on the individual using personal messaging technology. You receive instant feedback in the shape of comments, likes and shares, giving you the opportunity to constantly adapt to trends and external events. That’s the power of social media as a business enabler – it’s never been easier to create communication programmes that truly engage with groups and individuals.
Risk and reward: So why aren’t more financial institutions embracing the strengths of the social business? The short answer is that there’s still much concern around the risks of data leakage and the ability to stay compliant with the requirements of regulatory bodies such as the FCA, PRA and FPC or corporate governance policies. Although these concerns are valid, it does not mean that social business is unachievable in the financial industry.
Harnessing the power: The compliance debate has been delaying the uptake of social media in heavily regulated industries for a number of years now. At the same time, social networks have been instrumental in the way many organisations now conduct business – across all verticals. They’re learning to maximise their profits through the power of social media, using governance and security controls to keep on the right side of compliance.
Why it’s  important: Social media allows one-on-one interaction and the opportunity to comment on personal milestones, including notable events like a new job, the arrival of a new baby, the purchase of a new home or pending retirement. Compared to more conventional marketing tools like  advertising and direct marketing, social media offers a number of distinct advantages:
•              It’s free or relatively inexpensive.
•              It’s interactive, a means to communicate one-to-one and one-to-many.
•              It offers immediate, direct feedback from your target market.
•              It’s adaptable and can be readily refined to promote ongoing success
Part of your strategy: Social media plays best when integrated with your overall marketing programme. It is really just another communications channel, albeit one with some unique capabilities that allow for deeper engagement with others.
Many of our financial institution clients show that incorporating social media into their DNA improves results in terms of engagement volume, online sentiment and frequency of social-driven sales leads, compared with firms that don’t. It’s important for senior management to embrace social media and educate employees about how to use social. And it removes regulatory road- blocks.
It’s more than selling: In the social media universe, I am the brand, you are the brand, as is your colleague, teammate and client. Recent research tells us that adults are seven times more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family, and four times more likely to trust consumer-written online reviews compared to ads or text messages from brands.
This is the essence of social media: trust through connection, which makes it critical for the individual to connect to you and for you to connect to the individual in order to carry the brand message. To achieve our objectives with social media, a sales and marketing, paradigm shift must occur – we don’t sell, we connect.
The personal touch:  Converting customers into evangelists is the essence of social media marketing. People who are connected on social channels and members of the same “tribe” trust each other’s opinion and share information and recommendations. A strong customer advocacy community will build your brand faster and stronger than any clever advertising campaign.
The aim of social in business is not to add an army of approved marketers to engage with more prospects, it’s to enable consumers and customers to engage with your brand as embodied by individual employees.
What’s stopping us?:  Some of the key reasons why organisations choose to stay out of the social marketplace are regulatory. The various regulatory bodies across different geographies each impose strict guidelines and rules on the use of all electronic communications – including social media – for financial services. They demand careful monitoring of online communications and activities to ensure that advisors and brokers aren’t using social media channels inappropriately and without records.
Firms themselves raise concerns about the risks of data leakage, malware and viruses spread through new and emerging channels. A number of technologies have emerged to address regulatory and security challenges, but financial service firms are still slow to adopt social media within their distributed teams as a means to reach out to clients and customers.
The adoption of social media has been challenging, to say the least. Banks, credit unions, and brokerage houses are typically slow to change, and while many embrace some form of social for corporate outreach and customer services, even more have yet to recognise the power of social media marketing. Many feel that the risks outweigh the benefits.
Get a regulatory framework:  bv  Don’t let compliance be the reason not to engage. Despite regulatory hurdles and general conservatism, banks can successfully incorporate social media into their marketing programs with dynamic results. The trick is to empower your employees to carry your brand through unique, compelling content that meets regulatory guidelines. To do so will unleash an army of evangelists who know how to leverage social media.
By the time the technology and procedures have been implemented to satisfy regulatory demands for the use of social media, it’s easy to see that organisations have a wealth of information potentially at its fingertips. By using this data, social media compliance is no longer a regulatory chore and expense, but a business enabler that helps the bank grow its authenticity of voice, customer satisfaction and market share.
Building a content library: To be relevant, you’ll need compelling content that engages with your audience and which is – obviously – also compliant with institutional and industry regulations. Start with pre-approved content that you cache in a library and is accessible to your employees, who can share it with their contacts.
Your library may contain articles on wealth management, saving for college or retirement and similar topics. Over time you’ll learn from your contacts, prospects and customers what they want to know and be able to develop your library accordingly.
Importantly, you don’t want to equip your entire army of employees with the same content. If you do, you’ll miss the opportunity to allow for their personal voices to develop. When you use social media to broadcast a brand message you ignore the opportunity for interaction and lose the full potential of social media.
The greatest risks: Time and again, we see organisations successfully incorporating these new rules of engagement. They outdistance the competition by educating their marketing, sales, and distributed teams about the optimal approaches to social media. Those that don’t adopt it in the near future are in danger of losing ground to rival brands.
These days the number one risk associated with social media for business is doing nothing at all. The old excuses of “not enough people use it for business” are over. In fact, today 7 out of 10 Financial Advisors are using social networks for business. LinkedIn gives us the opportunity to form or join groups of like-minded customers and colleagues for discussions pertinent to our business, Facebook allows us to connect with colleagues on a personal and business level, and Twitter keeps us all connected and informed in real time.
Social business is here to stay.

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