By Amanda Rowe
Online customers are often turned off by advertisements and automated communication. Most people prefer a more authentic customer experience—even with their digital interactions. That’s why social media plays an increasingly important role in marketing, customer service, and audience engagement. But successfully navigating social media is no simple task. Banks should consider whether they have adequate resources to manage and monitor their social media presence. Plus, it’s essential to start with a sound social media marketing strategy.
The banks that have had the greatest social media success have used the following questions to effectively define their marketing strategy:
- What are your goals?
Setting goals for your financial institution’s social media initiatives requires a genuine understanding of both your audience and your institutional objectives. Before starting to work toward a goal, the organization must be able to identify its achievability, timeframe, and connection to related institutional objectives. You will need to know:
- Who will be responsible for its implementation and success
- Whether the expected results will justify the cost of operation
- How progress will be tracked
- How it will be integrated into the company’s long term objectives
Setting goals related to social media can be difficult because it is a relatively new medium in the marketing mix. Starting small—for example, achieving a certain number of likes/follows, and working up to bigger goals, such as maintaining a specific engagement rate—is recommended for those just starting out.
- How do you want your brand represented on social media?
With just over 65 million businesses on Facebook, it can seem next to impossible to distinguish your bank from the masses. So focus on the elements of your organization that are unique to your bank and your communities.
Customers appreciate seeing the true faces of your company, both online and in person. And posts featuring the employees that your customers see in branches and at local events often drive higher engagement. Consider whether you will post about products and services, or if your social media channels will be more community focused. A healthy balance of product posts, financial news and tips, employee highlights, and community events can round-out your content calendar.
How you plan to interact with your audience should also be taken into consideration.
Your bank likely has a manner in which you respond to customer questions and complaints over the phone or in the branch—and that should carry over to your social media. The more available you are to respond to questions and complaints the better, but privacy must remain a top priority. Banks should have a plan in place for how to handle comments posted on social media. Determine ahead of time:
- What warrants deletion
- What requires a response
- What requires no further action
When responding publicly, weigh whether the answer will help others with the same question. If the question should not be answered openly, reach out to the person offline if possible—or ask that they direct message you to begin the private conversation.
- How well do you know your audience?
To build a strong foundation, make sure the social media content you share is something your followers will want to interact with. Knowing why posts are getting interactions is almost as important as getting activity in the first place—and pinpointing what your customers identified with is the most important of all.
Many types of people are using social media today, and the utilization of a traditional one-size-fits-all strategy may miss the mark.
Companies that differentiate their content for different markets may find that their posts have higher interaction and more visibility. Market-matched posts are targeted by:
- Time of posting
- Content of the post
For example, if your bank has a large footprint, you may want to post about an event that will have more relevancy for certain branch towns than others. By targeting the post to the locations where it is pertinent, you can ensure that the post is being seen by those whom it will benefit, and not those who will not relate to it.
The timing of your posts is also important to reach the desired audience. Posting around lunchtime (between noon and 4:00 p.m.) often generates the highest engagement and click-through-rates, as many turn to social media when they hit an afternoon slump during the workday and need a break. Engagement rates decrease significantly between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
- How will you evaluate your current social media initiatives?
It is hard to keep up with the constantly changing landscape of social media today. What works now is not necessarily what was working six months ago, or what will work next week.
The same is true of the different social media platforms. Campaigns that go viral on Facebook are often passed over on Instagram and Twitter. Each platform caters to different needs and demographics, and requires focused and knowledgeable management.
You can measure the effectiveness and reach of your various posts and pages by checking their metrics and insights. This will allow for more specific, actionable planning. By looking at reach, engagement, and engagement rate you can determine which initiatives have been successful, and which may need adjustment. You may see that employee shout-outs generate high engagement levels on Instagram, but not Twitter, or that trivia does well on Facebook, but not other platforms. That data should be used to both evaluate the effectiveness of what you’ve been doing, as well as guide what you will do in the future.
An additional advantage of public social media pages is that anyone can see them, so you will always be able to know exactly what your competition is doing. Using direct, local competitors as benchmarks is a strong means of tweaking your own social media strategy. You can see what platforms they are using, what they post, and what they are doing differently from you. By using this information, you can gain valuable insights into what may be working for them, and more importantly, what may not be working.
Social media marketing has become a priority in the 21st century.
It is an ever-changing arena with more and more competition, making it that much harder to find a niche. A well-defined strategy will set the foundation for successful social media campaigns, ensuring your bank stands out from the competition. The role of social media in the marketing mix will continue to grow over the next decade, leaving businesses the choice to keep up, or fall behind. Defining your social media marketing strategy can be a daunting task. However, answering these questions will help guide your business to a strong social media following.
Amanda Rowe is senior vice president of delivery at Pannos Marketing based in Bedford, NH. Pannos Marketing is a full-service marketing and communications firm that works with financial institutions to help them stay relevant and find new success with powerful brands, digital, social and traditional media, and custom websites. Strong client partnerships and a deep expertise in banking have consistently delivered strategic and innovative solutions and measureable results. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. LinkedIn.