Social posting tips to expedite your time to market

Learning to stay on message and focus on the brand.

By Beth Tancredi

As more than 90 percent of Americans now actively use social media, banks drive deeper into digital transformation and the next generation of marketing for community building, sales, information and education.

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With easy access to communications platforms and the ability to offer quick and immediate messaging, however, “everybody is now a marketer,” says Shelly Loftin, CFMP, senior director of marketing and sales enablement at Arvest Bank. Loftin led a session on the topic at the 2023 ABA Bank Marketing Conference.

But with great marketing power comes great compliance responsibility.

Recognizing this, banks are creating solutions that enable sales teams to post on social media to meet their goals while minimizing the risk to the brand. Arvest calls these “flexible guardrails.”

“The guardrails are meant to provide clear boundaries and expectations for our sales associates, yet are flexible enough to evolve with changing regulations, market conditions and/or business needs,” Loftin says. “We are trying to balance risk management with business opportunities to ensure that our marketing and social efforts are conducted in a responsible and compliant manner.”

Fidelity Bank, who has a large mortgage division, has a company-wide policy on social media, but for loan officers, “We dig a little deeper and we have more guidelines and examples of what they can and cannot do,” says Tammy O’Shea, chief marketing officer at Fidelity Bank.

While the rules and guidelines may differ for different banks, there are several ways that bank marketing teams and the sales forces can work together to make the process from concept through compliance a smoother transition.

Planning ahead saves time in the long run

While social media lends itself to first-to-market news and updates, getting your marketing to the finish line will go much smoother simply by better planning. Here are some suggestions for bank marketers:

Make the marketing team your ally. Not only does the marketing team have the power to bring your promotional needs to life, but also to provide you with the library of tools you need for better and quicker executions in the future. Do you need a one-sheeter to leave behind with potential clients? Tell them. Do you need a QR code? Ask for it. The more information they have, the more they can support the needs of the sales team.

Provide context. Remember that marketing teams are strategic planners, so they can create a plan with even just a basic idea or an end-goal in mind. Reaching those goals is far more attainable, however, when the team has a solid understanding of what you are promoting, why you need it now, the timing you are trying to achieve, who you are targeting and which marketing channels you are using.

Supplying context helps the marketing team determine which resources can and should be allocated to the pitches they receive.

She cautions, however, that for more complicated projects, giving the compliance department a heads-up is even more critical. “I suggest starting with a general summary,” says Loftin. “Think through your audience. Are you covering a broad enough audience to meet our compliance standards? If you start that process early and thoroughly enough, you’ve solved problems before the project has started.”

Align with existing marketing plans. Social media is often just one piece of a broader marketing strategy. Stakeholders often don’t understand that there are layers to a marketing plan that often require specific targeting and more than one digital placement or ad, Loftin points out. Familiarize yourself with current company-wide initiatives and determine whether there are opportunities to piggyback on the efforts that are already in place.

You should also refer to any existing libraries of collateral (imagery, ads, posts, and research) that may prove just as effective (if not more effective) in hitting your goals

Avoiding compliance no-nos and trigger words

Even with those marketing steps in place, employees and sales teams alike must remember that they are always representing the company, and therefore must take steps to ensure messaging stays on brand and is compliant.

Most banks offer year-round in-person or online training to help enforce compliant social marketing guidelines, but there are a few tips that may help:

Stay away from hot-button issues. “Many people prefer to promote on their personal (social) pages because people follow people, not businesses,” O’Shea explains. “But we have had scenarios especially during election years, when someone voices their own thoughts and opinions, and we’ve received complaints about it.”

Avoid trigger words. Fidelity in its training emphasizes that social posts should not include rates, credit score numbers, the amount of any payment or client information. “Pre-qualified” should be used in place of “pre-approved.” Finally, language should never include payment terms.

Steer clear of creating social posts that discuss rates or require excessive legal language to be compliant. With limited character counts allowed on certain social channels and smaller space requirements for graphics, full disclaimers can often not be accommodated.

Use already-vetted terms and vocabulary. O’Shea notes it’s a fairly safe bet that if the bank is already using language and terminology on the website, it has already been approved for use in social posts. Although it should still be sent through proper marketing and compliance channels, it will have a better chance of moving more seamlessly through the approval process.

Don’t assume joint marketing efforts are okay. Often, those in the mortgage lending business like to offer cross-promotions or shared content with local realtors. While the local bent of that shared content or marketing may be advantageous to the sales team, they may not be compliant with the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).

Sweepstakes and contests. While sweepstakes and contests are “not hard noes” Loftin says, they are “particularly tricky” and require careful planning and approval to execute. These types of “offers” should not be entered into before speaking with marketing and compliance teams.

Train, retrain, remind

The social media world is ever-changing. While marketing and compliance departments are doing their best not just to stay on top of existing channels, they are also trying to plan for new communications channels that come along downstream.

Sales teams, too, must do their part to think before they post, learn the new guidelines, and refresh their memory on the old ones.

After all, if the thought of having these conversations with marketing about you want to do in a social posting is scary, “It will be a lot scarier to pick up the phone and say, ‘I’m sorry’ to compliance,” explains Loftin.

Beth Tancredi is a New Jersey-based writer whose focus is financial services, advertising technology, healthcare and the media.