The challenges of using social media in the financial services industry

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Challenges for financial services in social mediaThere are unique challenges when working with financial brands when developing their social media strategy and implementing it. Concerns over falling foul of industry regulations, lack of experience in social and existing company culture all combine to present a number of hurdles at the outset. However, once these are overcome, there is also a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd, by taking advantage of the industry’s generally slow take up of social media.

In order to successfully guide a financial services company through this journey, a number of activities need to be put in place first. Here are four things every financial business needs to do in order to become a successful digital leader in the industry:

  1. Lay solid foundations in social media internally
    It is important to educate staff on all aspects of social media – the business value it can deliver, why it is so important for the industry, how to engage in it, the risks associated with it, setting up a governance structure to manage the activity and how to act in a crisis situation. In a nutshell, it’s about enabling staff to confidently become involved while at the same time doing it in a way that protects the brand.

  2. Define an effective social media channel strategy
    How the business engages with its audience is one of the key factors in the success of its social media activity. Among other things, all social channels should contribute to business strategy and objectives, there should be a clear, coherent content plan for each channel and every channel should have a clear primary marketing objective.

  3. Implement a change management programme
    Attitudes towards social media amongst staff are understandably often focussed on the risks and dangers of becoming involved. While these are valid concerns, it is important to educate staff these risks can be managed and controlled, while the benefits are significant and can deliver the business real value if done in the right way. A programme dedicated to changing attitudes and educating on what’s possible is another crucial piece of the jigsaw.

  4. Be clear on how FSA regulations affect social media activity
    While FSA rules are media neutral, thought and consideration still needs to be applied to how this affects the business’ social media policy. Clear guidelines on what staff can and can’t do needs to be accurately defined and then communicated effectively across the organisation, in order to mitigate this risk to the business.

If you’re a financial services company and are considering increasing your social media activity, make sure you consider all the factors above. At first it may feel a bit scary, but I assure you it’s well worth the initial effort!

Photo credit: morebyless on Flickr

Developing a great social media channel strategy

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Which social channel to use in your strategy?When working with a brand to help define its social media strategy, a crucial area to get right is how it should engage with its online audience.

I’d define a social media channel strategy as a process that outlines what social media channels the business should use, and the purpose for each channel based on predefined business objectives.

What should your social channel strategy include?

From my experience, the top five things that make a great social media channel strategy are:

  1. All social channels contribute to the business strategy and objectives
  2. The strategy considers the available resources to effectively manage these channels
  3. It confirms that there is sufficient audience demand for each channel to make it a success
  4. There’s a clear, coherent content plan for each channel
  5. Every channel has a clear primary marketing objective

Why is it so important?

Getting the social media channel strategy right for a brand is crucial as it will help them support their key marketing objectives. As there are so many potential channels and ways in which they can be used, an in depth analysis of what we want to talk about and why is also key, so that the most effective channels can be chosen.

It also offers an opportunity to have a two way dialogue with your audience, which provides insight, stronger relationships and brand advocacy. At the same time, brands can be faced with real risk if a channel strategy is not implemented correctly or with a properly thought out direction. If a PR event occurs (either positive or negative), social media will often magnify this sentiment accordingly in a very short space of time, so it’s also important to get in place a social media policy that sets guidelines around a reaction and response strategy and a crisis escalation plan.
If you’re a brand and want to expand your social media activity, make sure you have a clear, coherent channel strategy – it might just be the missing piece in your marketing jigsaw that will help you achieve real results.
Image credit: HarcoRutgers on Flickr

The science of social media ROI

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Last week I presented at a webinar as part of a series looking at the science of social, focusing on social media ROI and demystifying the confusion that surround it. The problem with social media ROI is that it is so easy to measure so many things that we become overwhelmed by measures. We think that everything is important and that everything is a measure of ROI. It isn’t. And it isn’t. Followers and Likes do not make ROI; moreover they stop us from thinking about the bigger business benefit of social.

We need to measure different things for different reasons, not just for ROI. There are three broad areas of measurement that we should be looking at in social:

  1. What’s the business benefit? How does any activity contribute towards our business objectives and how do we measure this? Often overlooked in the plethora of social media specific measures, the single most important ROI piece is to think about the business, how social contributes to it and then how we might measure this link.
  2. How successful are my channels and campaigns? More of a quality measure but an important one for anybody who is in charge of social media. With a clear business objective that we have to deliver against, what do I need to measure to make sure that we have the quality of engagement and interactions to get there.
  3. How suitable is my engagement and content? Finally we get to the range of social media measures that are out there - Likes, Followers, views and the like - these are incredibly useful for the people working in social media and managing your channels and engagements. If they write a blog post that gets 10 times as many views as a previous one, these are the people who should be questioning and querying what has caused this change.

The first, and most important, measure is the business one. Why are we doing this? What business objective is social contributing towards? We should ignore, for the moment, the different things we can measure and focus on what social should be contributing to our organisation. Only when we are clear on that will we be able to establish clear ROI measures. And only when we have these should we think of any of the other measures that we can look at and report on.

The presentation I gave at the webinar included this and some case studies of work we have done at FreshNetworks showing business benefit.

The Science of Social
View more presentations from Our Social Times

The next Science of Social webinar is on Wednesday 20 June and looks at How to Identify and Reward Advocates. You can sign-up here.

Should you set up a Google+ page for your brand?

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Google+

The much-heralded Google+ Pages are here for brands, organisations and others. After the launch yesterday, everybody can now set up pages and brands have been rushing to grab their name. It’s certainly easy to do, and easy to start to add and curate content. But should it be part of your brand’s social media mix and if so how.

These five questions should help you decide if you need a Google+ page for your brand, and how to make the most of one if you do.

1. Should you claim your name to build social credibility?

Vanity URLs (such as ones ending /freshnetworks) aren’t yet available for Google+, and multiple pages can be set up with the same name. This does mean that there is minimal benefit currently to claiming your name as part of a land-grab. However it does make it more important than ever that brands who are serious about using Google+ do it and do it quickly. You need to build social credibility. There is, currently, nothing to stop multiple pages being set up and others using the name you want to use. So the quicker you establish your presence on Google+ and establish the credibility of your brand and how you are using it, the better.

2. Have you got a clear reason for using Google+?

However, the danger with Google+ (and with many of the pages that have already been set up) is that they have been created with no obvious though of how they are to be used and what they do for the business. There is definitely a benefit to using Google+ as part of your social media mix but only if it is contributing towards your brands overall aims with social media.

  • Are you looking to acquire customers? In which case could you be using Google+ to specifically reach new audience with content that they are interested in.
  • Are you looking to generate online sales? In which case you could be using the rich media capabilities of Google+ to showcase products and link to ecommerce items.
  • Are you looking to reward advocates? In which case you could use Circles to gather together your different advocates and share content exclusively with them.

Without a clear reason for using Google+, a business aim, you risk being one of the many many pages that are set up, share some photos and some content but never really start to perform for the brand.

3. Is your audience using Google+?

Google is yet to share much demographic data about who is using Google+, but services such as Social Statistics are sampling profiles to give some data about the types of people that are using the service. We can learn that the users in their sample are almost 70% male as well as finding the top users, posts and fastest growing pages. This kind of data is useful but we should be more intelligent in assessing if our audience is using Google+. One simple thing to do would be to search for your key brand, competitor and market terms and see who is saying what about them on Google+. Are the kind of conversations you want to be part of or lead there already? And who is talking? We should also bear in mind that the audience for Google+ is continuing to grow and change and probably become much more mainstream - bringing in more and more people over time. So if your audience isn’t currently using Google+ the chances are some of them will be in the near future.

4. Are you using the capabilities Google+ offers?

Any brand that uses Google+ in the same way they use Twitter or Facebook is failing to either make full use of its capabilities or to use it sensibly as part of your social media mix. As with any social media tool, you need to understand what role it plays in the mix of tools you use and the strengths and weaknesses of different tools. Google+ is currently very strong in rich media content (videos and images as well as the use of animated GIFS as you can see in the creative Burberry page). It is great for organising people into Circles and then treating these segments in different ways. It is also good for longer-form discussion and debate. In these three ways it offers brands more flexibility than Facebook. In other ways (organising events, integration with apps, short-form updates), Facebook and Twitter are probably stronger.

5. Can you maintain the page when you set it up?

The final consideration is very much an internal, governance question. If you set up a Google+ page for your brand will you have the content, time and resource to maintain it? The worst pages are those with some content that is posted for the first few days or weeks, and then silence. There is a real danger with many of the pages that brands are setting up right now that they just do not have the resources to maintain it.If there is real benefit to you and you have a clear audience to engage there, then you should be able to resource it by shifting your emphasis from other channels, or by sensible use of content and ideas across your social media marketing mix. If you don’t have time to maintain the page, or you can’t provide enough content for it, then you probably shouldn’t have set it up in the first place.