By Scott StellwagonEvery business has some presence on social media, and community banks are no exception.
Your bank has likely carved out a presence on Facebook and you have connected with your employees on LinkedIn. You might even have a Twitter account that you haven’t paid much attention to in the past few years.
But having these accounts is only the start of your social media marketing efforts. To make the most out of these platforms, you’ll need to develop an effective marketing strategy that will allow you to engage with your audience on a regular basis, taking full advantage of your role as a local community resource.
Getting your social strategy off the ground can seem daunting. Where do you start, and how do you build an effective posting schedule that will reach your audience?
If you’re in need of guidance with any aspect of your social media marketing strategy, read on to learn how you can build your follower base, create a content calendar, and how you can leverage simple strategies that will increase your social visibility.
1. Choose the right social platform
Most financial institutions already have a presence on Facebook and LinkedIn, both of which are powerful platforms that allow you to reach niche audiences. However, you may want to include platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to reach additional users. Twitter is relatively simple to set up and maintain, and you will need to create a business account for Instagram in order to correctly link it to your Facebook business manager.
Don’t forget to optimize each of your social media profiles with images, contact information, links to your website, etc. Brand your profiles consistently so that visitors will have a consistent experience between your social media accounts and your website. Hootsuite has a handy cheat sheet that contains updated image sizes for the various graphical elements of your social media profile.
2. Gain followers by connecting others
One of the surest ways to build your audience on platforms like Instagram and Twitter is to take the initiative and follow local businesses and community leaders. Start with the businesses that neighbor your bank branches and be sure to reach out to those who may be commercial deposit, lending, or treasury management customers. Reach out to local nonprofits, municipal organizations, local sports teams, and influential individuals. Regularly review your suggested follows to see if there are any that you may have missed.
Typically, once you start following these profiles, they will follow you back. This forms the basis of your followers until you begin posting engaging content on a regular schedule.
3. Schedule your posts
While it is often necessary to create social content on the fly because of timely news at your bank, it’s always a good idea to look ahead and plan your posts for the coming weeks or months. Creating the majority of your posts at least a month in advance is hugely beneficial, but this is even more effective if you have the means to schedule them to post automatically. There are a number of tools that are designed specifically for this. Here are a few solid solutions that are perfect for a bank’s social media management needs:
Buffer has a free version that is good for community banks or cost-effective plans for larger banks that wish to engage their audience more frequently. There are certainly other tools that offer low-priced plans, but Buffer is both reliable and free for a limited number of posts per month, along with some limited analytics and reporting metrics. Whether you have multiple people in your marketing department or you’re solo, Buffer has pricing structures that will work for you.
You might opt for something more advanced, like Hootsuite or Sprout Social. These solutions come at a higher price point but offer more sophisticated reporting and features. If you want to begin leveraging Twitter specifically, TweetDeck allows you to quickly and easily schedule tweets from your bank’s Twitter account. Whichever solution you choose, be sure to connect any social media accounts that you would like to post to.
How often should you post? Generally, you want to maintain a consistent momentum with your social media posts, but you must walk a fine line between being engaging and overbearing. You should aim to produce at least two updates each week across all of your social accounts, but you may want to post as many as four or five times for more frequent engagement.
4. Build a social post portfolio
Creating two to five posts per week may seem a bit daunting. How exactly does a bank marketing professional come up with enough content to maintain this regular posting schedule? If you find yourself in need of some ideas, here are some tried-and-true strategies to create social content that is engaging and requires little effort on your part:
- Branch closings—This may be due to inclement weather, construction, etc. If possible, give your audience advanced notice of these closings. Consider pinning these posts to the top of your feed if the closing will last more than a day.
- Holiday closings—This gives you two opportunities to post: Once in advance of the actual holiday to warn customers that you will be closed, and again to remind customers that you are closed in observance of the holiday.
- Employee anniversaries—If you celebrate employee anniversaries, be sure to promote these on social media! People love to see their friends and neighbors receiving recognition, and these posts will usually receive some significant engagement, particularly if you pair it with an image of the celebrated employee. You can create similar posts for internal promotions or new hires, when appropriate.
- Branch opening anniversaries—Community banks are staples of their communities, and people love to see their local bank branch pop up in their feed. Promote the fact that your branches have been serving the community for years or decades, and use this as an opportunity to remind your audience how much you appreciate the families and businesses who partner with your bank.
- Local events—Regardless of whether your financial institution is involved, local events are great opportunities to engage with your audience. This might include parades, car shows, marathons or anything else that is occurring within your community.
- Charitable involvement—If you take part in any charitable events throughout the year, or if you support any community organizations, these are ideal posts for your social media. Bonus points if you have photos of your team volunteering their time!
- Job postings—You’re likely already receiving applications for job openings through your website’s careers page but posting these openings to your social media account allows you to reach new potential candidates. These posts also demonstrate your appreciation of your local community.
- Reposting newsletters—If you have a newsletter, and this is a great source for free content to be repurposed in your social feed.
5. Start celebrating holidays via social media
Every business is likely to post something to social media on major holidays. But have you considered celebrating National Pizza Day? How about National Tell-a-Joke Day?
There are innumerable minor holidays that are perfect fodder for your social media calendar. You can use these as opportunities to engage with your local audience. Even minor holidays are an opportunity to humanize your bank and inject your personality into your social media efforts. You can also use these holidays to connect with local businesses, particularly those that you may already have a relationship with. For example, you might mention some local chocolatiers on National Chocolate Day or ask your followers about their favorite places to get a sundae on National Ice Cream Day.
There are many free social media holiday calendars available online, but HubSpot’s calendar is thorough, clean and easy to navigate. Don’t feel the need to celebrate every one of these holidays. You don’t want to overstay your welcome in your followers’ feeds. Just choose two or three of these holidays each month that you think would be noteworthy or have an obvious tie-in to your community.
6. Blogging fuels your social media
Blogging is an effective all-purpose strategy because it can be used to fuel every aspect of your digital marketing efforts. Not only is high-quality, unique and relevant blog content invaluable to SEO, but it can be used as lead generation through digital ads and are a great resource of continual content for your bank’s social media.
As part of your ongoing digital marketing efforts, you should already be producing at least one unique, high quality blog article per month. Promoting these articles on social is always recommended, and you may even choose to use a portion of your ad budget to boost the post on Facebook. If you want these blogs to be top-of-mind for your users throughout the month, consider pinning them to the top of your feed. This will help the post stay visible for a longer period of time and should drive additional traffic to your website.
Another great thing about your blog articles is that they are evergreen—You can promote the same articles a few times each year to reach new users who may not have seen it the first time around. Be careful not to over-use this strategy.
7. Create effective visuals for every post
This is one of the more challenging aspects of social media marketing for banks, because many smaller community banks do not have the capacity to produce high-quality imagery for each of their posts. If you do not have the means to build unique designs for every single post, you may want to commission a web design professional to create branded templates that you can re-use for multiple posts, inserting stock photography to customize them to align with your messaging.
If you’re interested in a do-it-yourself approach, YouTube has endless tutorials to help you learn the basics of design so that you can create your own imagery. You can utilize sites such as Pexels to find free stock photography if you’re working on a budget, but you may want to invest in some photos from paid platforms such as Adobe Stock. Once you own the license to these images, you can re-use them for multiple posts or even on your website.
Whenever possible, use original photography. Users are inundated with stock photography on nearly every website they visit, so any original photography you produce will immediately set your social media account apart. This could include photos of your team, your bank branches, recognizable shots from your local community, etc.
8. Get help from a bank social media management expert
If you simply lack the time, resources or know-how to do it yourself, you may want to partner with a digital marketing agency that has extensive experience with financial institutions. Choose a partner who understands the unique needs of banks and credit unions, especially concerning ADA compliance. Carefully interview any prospective partners to ensure that they are aware of these needs, and that they have the means to manage your social media needs effectively and agilely. Better yet, find a partner who has experience with content marketing, social media advertising and other services that synergize with your organic social media posts.
Scott Stellwagon is a digital analyst at BankBound, a marketing agency focused exclusively on growing local financial institutions.