Fear Not, Financial Firms: Move ahead with brand building social media

“Fear not” said the angel, and she was right.  It’s time for financial marketers to get beyond their fear of social media and use it as a brand building tool.

What, get aggressive?  How would that be possible?  There is so much to be concerned about!  A lot of this concern centers around how to manage the sales force, which is likely going “rogue” with unauthorized social media participation.  According to a recent survey by LederMark, “85% of financial services professionals under 50 are utilizing social media.”  Yet the June Socialware study that shows 32% of reps said their firm didn’t have a firm social media policy, and another 11% were unsure.  Seems like lots of folks are ignoring the FINRA guidance.  The fire of fear is then fueled by headlines like the one from just last week – “FINRA Starts Social Media Audits.”

That’s a heart stopper right there. As business development expert Kip Gregory noted in a Research Magazine article: “Who could blame any firm operating in a regulated industry for taking a cautious approach…? Especially in financial services, which is at its core an industry built around the management of risk.”

But let’s not forget that the past 24 months has led to a crippling amount of mistrust of financial brands by the American consumer.  In a post-Madoff, post-financial crisis world, financial marketers need to build back consumer trust as much as they need to breathe.  The compliance fear is cutting off brand creativity like a tourniquet.

Social media creates dialogue, and peer to peer interactions.  In financial services in particular, there’s an opportunity to inspire a more emotional, more intimate and honest relationship through social channels than with ‘push communications.’  Banks and brokerages have not moved ahead as forcefully as other brand marketers with innovative, big idea campaigns that get their customers thinking about how much they LIKE their brand, how much they IDENTIFY with the product or service provider.   The brand should aspire to to connect with the SOUL of the consumer and demonstrate how much they CARE about his or her business.  The brand can make people feel GOOD and have some FUN. Let’s just say there’s not a lot of that going on in financial services.

So yes, deal with social media policies and requirements for your sales force.  Develop a social media relations strategy for sales. Make sure you archive everything you can, and automate that process if at all possible.  Make sure they are trained on how not to trip the tripwires of suitability and endorsement.

But in the meantime, use social media as a tool to speak on behalf of your brand and engage your customers in dialogue that’s above product.  To quote Marc Pritchard, Chief Marketing Officer for P&G about the role of PR and social media – “it is a great amplifier, builds relationships and invites consumer participation.”

Fear not.  Focus on the brand.  Develop ideas to reach out and touch your consumers.   It’s time for bold moves.

To reach Abby:

Phone: 212.840.0088
Email: abby@blisspr.com
Twitter: @abbycarr
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