Out: Social Influencers; In: Social Selling

By Doug Wilber

When it comes to modern advertising, subtlety is everything. Think about it: Consumers are bombarded with 2,617 media touchpoints every single day, and they’re getting better at identifying and ignoring marketing messages they deem irrelevant or just plain annoying.

In your quest to grab consumers’ attention in this distraction-heavy media landscape, you might be tempted to partner with social media influencers to review and recommend your offerings. But this so-called subtle strategy just doesn’t make sense for financial brands. For one thing, most social media influencers lack the specific industry knowledge necessary to become a trusted voice in finance. For another thing, why would you hire an external advocate when your most valuable marketing channel exists within your company’s own walls?

It makes more sense for financial brands to look to social selling—not social influencers—to attract, educate, and retain their target customers.

The difference between social influencers and social selling.

Though social influencers and social selling sound like similar concepts, there are significant differences between the two. Social influencers are third-party personalities compensated to represent brands on social media, while social selling is the process of distributing branded content through the personal social media accounts of employees.

This subtle advertising tactic is grounded in education and relationship-building, not pushing products and services. And your employees are the best candidates for the job. On average, company employees have 10 times more first-degree connections than the company has followers itself. So if you share content via a loan officer’s personal page, for instance, you’ll extend the reach of that content tenfold.

And because humans are hardwired to trust messages that come from other humans, your loan officer has an instant level of credibility that your bank simply cannot match. In fact, his followers most likely expect him to share company information and industry news, so they won’t perceive these posts as a commercial ploy.

It’s a valuable strategy that delivers actual value to your customer base, but it also generates better ROI than traditional advertising. Consider that according to a LinkedIn report, salespeople who regularly share content on their own social profiles are 57 percent more likely to generate leads than those who don’t, and leads developed through workers’ social media activity convert seven times more frequently than leads developed elsewhere.

Putting it all together.

Both influencer marketing and social selling allow you to attach a human face to your brand, but social selling is significantly more impactful for banks and other financial institutions. To get back to the subtle art of advertising, follow these three best practices.

  1. Follow an editorial calendar to create content at the brand level.

To ensure your social content is in line with your core brand and business strategies, create and follow an editorial calendar that outlines all the content you want to create and share. Design the calendar around campaigns, promotions, events, or other relevant business activities.

Although employees are valuable players in the strategy, they shouldn’t be responsible for creating, scheduling, or sharing this content on their own. Think of employees’ social media accounts as the publication platform for your brand’s owned media. You wouldn’t have employees post independently if the publishing end point were the company blog, so why would you let that happen on social media?

Outline a plan for your branded content and when it should be shared on employees’ channels, and follow that plan to execute social selling in a strategic manner.

  1. House content in a centralized hub for easy access.

Successful social media content is insight- and image-rich, but the additional burden of compliance means that banks need to ensure it also follows best practices set by regulatory bodies such as the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Checking all those boxes for each post can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, so to save yourself some time: Build a repository of pre-approved social media collateral.

You can even work ahead by adding content to your library that’s focused on future events and holidays that are relevant to the financial world, such as tax season. That way, when the event rolls around, you can just grab the content and go.

Having content waiting in the wings will also help you maintain a continuous stream of content, which is crucial to a successful social selling strategy. For instance, to get the most engagement on Twitter, it’s recommended to tweet at least three times per day but no more than five times per day. This will be especially useful during busy times, as you’ll be able to publish content at scale on behalf of employees on top of an already full schedule.

  1. Maximize engagement with strategic posting.

To maximize engagement with your social content, make sure you’re publishing it at the right time. “The right time,” however, will vary depending on factors such as your target market’s preferences and even what platform you’re using.

For instance, in general, the best times to post on Facebook are weekdays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Additionally, engagement rates are nearly 20 percent higher on Thursdays and Fridays. When posting on LinkedIn, however, you’ll find engagement rates are highest in the middle of the week (between Tuesday and Thursday, to be specific), with peak engagement in the morning, mid-afternoon, and early evening.

Of course, these are just general guidelines. Be sure to research your audience’s preferences to learn what times individuals will be most open to viewing your content.

By knowing what and when to share on your employees’ accounts, making sure that content is readily available when it’s needed, and publishing content at the right time, you can harness your employees’ larger social networks to build up your brand to its fullest potential.

Doug Wilber is the CEO of Gremlin Social, an integrated solution that combines social media marketing with ABA-endorsed compliance tools to make it easy for financial services companies to master the social media landscape and engage customers using social networks. Gremlin Social helps ensure safe use of social media communication while maximizing social marketing campaigns, guiding strategies, and monitoring return on investments​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​. Doug has worked in the fintech space for more than a decade and has experience working with Discover Financial Services, PYMNTS.com, and Assembly Payments, among others. He’s also advised a number of fintech-focused startups in the Greater St. Louis area.