Seeking Conversation: Social Media for the Finance Industry, the Right Way

The traditional lines between marketing and communications that we see in different industries don’t really exist in finance.

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in a number of industries and have loved and learned much from all of them. But given the choice of one industry, I would choose one: finance. Having provided clients like global banks, wealth management firms, asset managers and funds with a variety social media services, I have gained a unique understanding of multiple facets of the financial industry.

I’ve detailed a few key lessons I’ve learned along the social media way to give some examples of companies who have done it right. These ideas can be applied by firms of all sizes and are really just a sample of what’s possible.

Silos matter, there is no one size fits all solution

I began working with financial firms in 2006 through the retail arm of a global bank. Over the following years I was exposed to the different types of businesses that can exist in one company and had to quickly abandon my consumer marketing roots. I quickly learned that the needs of a commercial bank are much different from those of a capital markets group or investment bank. This idea may sound simple but it’s what I’ve seen my peers struggle with the most.

Marketers are trained to focus on the masses and tend to implement single, campaign-based solutions. This is especially true for individuals from media-buying firms who are trained to focus on big spends and large audiences and do not think anything less can be successful. While this may have value in the consumer-facing parts of a bank, it runs counter to the direct selling and client services models of corporate and institutional sides of the firm and quite simply, this kind of “big spend” strategy does not apply.

JP Morgan maintains several individual social properties and fuels each one with a specific set of content that’s relevant to each business unit. Rather than use a single platform to speak to all its different audiences, JP Morgan created portable libraries of important information across the several categories the company covers, have unique conversations with each audience and maintain a strict editorial focus.

The business units are the source of content

The first question clients I’ve worked with always ask is around where the content will be coming from. Typically clients worry that creating said content will be time consuming and difficult. The surprising truth is that for the most part, the information already exists in client communications – it just needs to be mined and reformatted. Information from morning calls, research summaries and daily insights can carry meaty information that can be repurposed for other uses and can smartly and efficiently build out a pool of content. Firms need to understand that social media exists to showcase the business they are already doing – not to create a new business output.

Deutsche Bank does this quite well. The firm offers commentary on key issues through a set of content series. #Insight in 140 words pushes the character limit of Twitter and delivers text images with timely analysis of key events in the marketplace. The series uses client content from inside various lines of business to show the firm’s expertise.

PR can look like marketing and that’s OK

The traditional lines between marketing and communications that we see in different industries don’t really exist in finance. In consumer packaged goods, the client and agency teams responsible for a website tend to own social media. Banking should not follow this model. The better financial firms are bringing the disciplines of PR and marketing together and behaving like publishers. They are also recognizing potential partnerships between these two important groups and bringing others to the table from sales, legal, risk, compliance and even HR.

Talks@GS demonstrates the firm’s global leadership and showcases its access to important individuals. On the surface, this all may look like a communications or branding exercise, but in reality it’s a powerful tool to attract high value clients. This strategy continues to secure a high volume of engagement with intended audiences.

Social media can be part of the business 

Traditional research tools at financial institutions focus on factors like historical financial performance, company leadership and the competitive landscape. But financial firms should also be considering new tools that track other success metrics, such as social and digital chatter. Firms can use marketing tools like Sysomos to track conversations and uncover opportunism. They can gain insight into their audiences’ activity with tools like People Pattern. At a much more detailed level, a tool like Knowsis provides an opportunity to hone in on a financial community’s conversation around an individual security or sector.

The keepers of these tools tend to sit in marketing or communications departments, but those keepers should constantly be looking for ways to use this knowledge to support the overall business. Smart firms are doing this already.

As more companies large and small continue to realize the opportunities available, the category will evolve. I’m excited to follow the category’s progress over the coming years and look forward to what’s coming next for #GlobalBanking, #Finance and #SocialMedia.

Adam Snyder is a senior level digital and social strategist who advises a number of companies within the financial services space on digital and social strategy”