October 13th 2009. By Alex Romanovich, Social2B
According to ENGAGEMENTdb’s recent “Ranking the Top 100 Global Brands” report on how deeply global brands are engaged in Social Marketing, big financial companies are not as much socially engaged as media, retail or technology companies of the same ranking. However, it does not mean that a financial brand cannot “socialize” itself. On the contrary, it shows that the financial services industry, often too closed, hindered by government regulations and by somewhat “conservative culture”, is getting more and more open to “socialization”. According to the same ENGAGEMENTdb’s report, even such giant conglomerates as Visa, ING, American Express, UBS, JP Morgan are, if not very active, are still quite responsive to the today’s demand of being social. Being most commonly engaged in six or fewer social channels, and having below-average engagement scores (as estimated by ENGAGEMENTdb), they have already started integrating social media into their marketing and customer communication strategy.
Today many financial organizations (big and small) are launching B2B and B2C based social media initiatives depending on whether they want to attract interest and business from other financial institutions, or simply generate demand with consumers. In both cases social marketing can be extremely successful, provided the right approach has been chosen. With the help of Social Marketing B2C brands can solve such problems as:
- establishing newly found trust amongst a skeptical consumers base;
- making the right loan choices;
- allowing consumers to understand the perspective of the institutions;
- instilling fiscal responsibility and smarter spending habits;
- making stronger investment decisions;
- empowering consumers with tools for managing their assets;
- building community around common interests & brand affinities;
- understanding the broader context of financial culture and global market parity
For B2B brands this is a good opportunity to engage potential prospects, generate demand and leads by augmenting their marketing strategies with more interactive and conversational elements, allowing other businesses to listen, observe, engage, and participate. All in all, the art of being “social to the point” has in its basis deep understanding of the industry of the brand that should be promoted. Of course, a variety of means and solutions can be used within a Social Marketing campaign. But the challenge is to adjust those solutions to a particular brand. Trying to estimate opportunities of any social engagement in the particular industry requires a necessity of a solid industry analysis. With correctly chosen and applied Social Marketing solutions, the financial services industry can engage in a powerful and proven way on both B2B and B2C levels. This becomes evident if we take a look at the recent success stories from Wells Fargo, H&R Block, Ernst & Young, Capital One, SmartyPig, American Express, Credit Mutuel, PENSCO, Equity Trust, Sterling Trust and some other financial brands, which have used social marketing incredibly well to not only create engagement but activate purchase intent.
Wells Fargo Wells Fargo & Company, a diversified financial services company with operations around the world, providing retail, commercial and corporate banking services, sustains a high level of deep social engagement across multiple social media channels (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc). However, the greatest case study to date is of what Wells Fargo has done with their blogs. They have 5 (!) different blogs, each designed for a certain category of readers – potential customers and businesses, existing clients, and just people. But the crown jewel of Well Fargo’s blogging activities is perhaps a virtual world called “Stagescoach Island Community”, a kind of a branded community which lets members learn and experience money management in the way of an interactive game. The blogs stand out for their live conversation and there are always people from inside and from outside to react to the conversation.
H&R Block H&R Block, an American tax preparation company with over 22 million customers worldwide, has done quite a bit with blogs, virtual worlds, Facebook, and Social Media programs. However, they did most of ‘Twittering’ during tax time, when they quite successfully engaged in an online dialog by first monitoring keywords, and directly responding to members. Twitter during tax time was their most successfully implemented social media solution, because it was just to the point. It helped increase the company’s popularity, attract more customers as well as sustaining trust.
Ernst & Young Ernst & Young, one of the largest global providers of accounting services and one of the Big Four auditors, among marketing goals, also had definite objectives targeted at human resources. They engaged in social media to seek out new hires fresh out of college. For this purpose, they created a sponsored Facebook group where they have online dialogs with graduating students and even start the interview process online. This is a pretty smart solution, because Facebook is the right source to reach graduates and find appropriate candidates. So, in their case, Social Marketing is a good way to boost the company’s reputation as employer and find work force.
SmartyPig SmartyPig is another story of big success, though different from the mentioned above examples. SmartyPig does not promote services; it promotes a product – free online banking application which helps users save money for particular goals. It seems that an online application cannot be more social than SmartyPig. Users can invite friends and family to be a part of their saving process. Built on a Web 2.0 platform, SmartyPig impressively utilizes Facebook, widgets, social networking applications (including videos), Twitter and a specially designed community-powered support site. Launched in 2008, Smarty Pig already has users in all 50 US states, over 4000 followers on Twitter and over 1900 fans in Facebook. Exactly for the reason that SmartyPig is so interactive, so informal and so engaging, it is such a big success. Each financial company, either big or small, which wants to go social, needs a social marketing campaign tailored to their particular brand. Whether you need to create a well branded community, or launch a series of blogs, or be actively engaged in social networking and present your brand in discussion forums – all efforts are distinct and individual. There is no way for a standard approach – however, there is always a necessity for a solid Social Marketing analysis and accurately selected marketing solutions.