Jun 07, 2021

How Financial Services Companies Can Win on Social Media

Success in the financial services industry hinges on customer trust. Customers are trusting you with their business’ financial future — and that’s a pretty big deal! This trust isn’t easily built, but it can be easily broken, and when that trust is shattered, it’s difficult to rebuild. Case-in-point: Equifax.

After a data breach exposed the personal information of more than 147 million Equifax customers, the company faced a $425 million FTC settlement. Worse yet, their stock effectively tanked and cyber security experts predicted it would take years for the company to recover. While this data breach wasn’t anywhere near the largest in corporate history (that title goes to Yahoo!), it was far more damaging because it involved sensitive financial information that left customers vulnerable to identity theft.

Basically, customers have a right to be cautious, especially in the realm of fintech which is often a target for hackers. Nonetheless, financial services companies have found great success building customer trust through the use of social media. The right comprehensive strategy can foster deeper client relationships, encouraging loyalty and even referrals. Here are some tips you can use to build a winning financial services social media strategy in 2021.


Mind the self-promotion and focus on meaningful content

Some marketers believe that trust is the product of authority, helpfulness and intimacy divided by self-promotion. In other words, you never want promotional content to outweigh the type of content that builds relationships. While there’s debate about whether or not trust can be boiled down to a formula, people do use social media to be—for lack of better words—social. They want to have a two-sided conversation, which can’t happen with a brand unless the brand is:

  • Intimately tuned into the individual customer
  • Producing meaningful content that customers actually want to read

We’ll get into some strategies involving this below, but the main takeaway is that your social feeds — whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or beyond — should never read as an advertisement sidebar. With the sheer number of ads the average person sees per day (as many as 10,000 based on some estimates), users have developed a sixth sense for filtering out sales copy. In short: focus your marketing strategy on content rather than advertisements. Good content has value outside of your sales pitch (even if it includes a sales pitch, too).


Use social media to humanize your brand

Financial services companies are often looked at as faceless entities — impossible to know and virtually devoid of all personality. This doesn’t build relationships (and, in turn, trust) with your target audience. Social media can help. The right social media strategy can artfully humanize your brand by sharing your brand message.

A good way to do this is by sharing the work your company does within its community. In fact, 84% of respondents to a Edelman Trust Barometer report admitted they hoped or expected brands to “facilitate a sense of community and offer social support” through their social channels.

John Hancock, the longtime sponsor of the Boston Marathon, is a great example. The company launched a Twitter account specifically to share information about the run’s 25th anniversary in 2010. As one of the platform’s early adopters, the company tweeted about everything from fundraising efforts to information about the people actually running in the race. As a result, they fostered a deeper individual bond with Boston Marathon enthusiasts.

A decade later, John Hancock still takes the same approach to their company’s feed. It’s mainly community-focused — showcasing things like their environmental efforts or reminding customers to take care of their mental health — but the end result is the image of a company that cares about their customers as much as they care about the bottom line.


Influencer marketing isn’t just for retailers

People may not be immediately willing to trust a brand, but they are willing to trust their friends — and this includes internet friends. Research has shown that 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, but it may be even more in the B2B space. A 2021 survey found that 77% of B2B marketers say their prospective customers rely on advice from industry experts (i.e. influencers). While the idea of an influencer campaign is still novel in the world of B2B, financial services companies have found success with using influencers to raise brand awareness and build trust on social media.

American Express is a great example. The company tapped celebrities and influencers as #AmexAmbassadors to showcase their luxurious lifestyles on Instagram and promote Amex’s platinum rewards program using the hashtag #AmexPlatinum. As a result, Amex-branded events became a coveted social club with an aura of Coachella cool. People wanted to be associated with the brand.

Though this was in the B2C space, the company also found success by appealing to small business owners using small business owners in promotional content for their recent Shop Small campaign. This campaign essentially encouraged existing American Express clients to act as influencers for the brand. In turn, the company provided resources to help them navigate new restrictions in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. It was a win-win.


Get digital with customer service

Though people still prefer jumping on the phone, online chats are the second most popular method of customer service, but the water here is murky. When done right, you can have a customer jump on Facebook chat and get an immediate answer, effectively dodging the dreaded hold music or telephone transfer that historically plummets customer satisfaction. When done wrong, a customer finds themselves waiting hours to scold the poor, frazzled soul who’s manning the company Twitter account.

Over all, financial services companies are behind the curve when it comes to digitizing customer service. A Gartner study found that only 35% of retail banking companies and as little as 9% of asset management companies have website live chats. These can be expensive and time-consuming to develop, so in this case, online messaging through social media is an easier option that can be quickly implemented. It’s also a great backup.

This idea came in handy when Citizen Bank launched a glitchy mobile app update that prevented customers from using even the most basic in-app functions. As customers flooded Twitter with complaints, the company (which also has a Facebook Messenger pop-up chat) was able to mitigate some of the negativity and swiftly reassure their customers. The quicker the response, the better.


The bottom line

At the end of the day, financial services companies should use their social media as a powerful trust-building tool that humanizes their brand and builds real, on-the-ground relationships with customers. For financial services companies, trust is key, and social media can very well be the foundation on which it grows.

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