By Doug Wilber
People want to see company leaders with a bustling digital presence—and this is especially true in an age where companies can gain and lose customers online. In one survey, 78 percent of U.S. readers of financial publications said they felt it was important for CEOs to communicate about their company using social media. And yet the same survey mentions that only one in four CEOs in the S&P 500 and FTSE 350 Index have active accounts.
Bank CEOs don’t need to be at the helm of every single social post from their brand, but they do need to lead by example and set the tone for a more social future at their bank. Of course, there are many reasons financial leaders shy away from social specifically. For younger members of the workforce, using mobile technology and social media is second nature—but the average financial services CEO is 60 years old; most financial leaders aren’t digital natives, so social might not come quite as naturally. Plus, daunting FINRA regulations for electronic communication provide another valid concern. In one of the largest FINRA cases, a single institution was fined a total of $2 million for a compliance violation.
But learning social media’s best practices and overcoming compliance concerns are not insurmountable tasks. The immense value that social can bring to your brand is well worth the effort: Consider that 61% of consumers said seeing CEOs participate in online conversations makes brands seem more relatable. That’s an opportunity to connect with customers that you don’t want to miss. It’s time for financial CEOs to stop shying away from social and start inspiring digitally connected futures for their companies in the following ways:
1. Embrace innovation. Finance customers are evolving, and so must the banks that serve them. Leaders who recognize these changes can set their institutions on paths to embrace innovation ahead of time. On social media, CEOs can acknowledge the changes that consumers drive and show they’re open to adapting how they do business.
For instance, one consumer survey on digital banking revealed that 15 percent of customers are now “mobile dominant” and primarily use their smartphones for banking; they expect to contact their banks directly through mobile. On social media, smart leaders can support initiatives such as direct messaging to meet consumers where they are and encourage deeper connections.
2. Lead by doing. Social selling—or having individual bank employees share branded content—is a great way for financial advisors and loan officers at your bank to build deeper connections with customers. But motivating individual employees to be more active on social media can be difficult.
If they see leaders set the example by maintaining an active, personal social media presence, though, they’re likely to be more inspired to do so themselves. LinkedIn is an excellent place to start, as it offers leaders a place to talk about their brand values and communicate their industry expertise.
3. Support all social initiatives.Social is about more than just posting on your Facebook page once every once in a while—banks use social platforms for communication, risk management activities, marketing, and sales. Don’t be the CEO that thinks social is something that should be handled by an intern in 10 minutes a day. Support social from the top down. Understand that effective social media management will be a significant and important part of your marketing employees’ jobs and invest in the tools and resources they need to do those jobs successfully.
Social media humanizes brands and provides an excellent avenue for feedback and innovation. It’s too valuable of an opportunity for any financial institution to pass up. Company leaders need to start setting the example for what being socially connected can mean for the future of their bank.
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.