Apple and Goldman Sachs made financial industry headlines when they announced the launch of the Apple Card in August. Only time will tell whether the hype translates into success, but the move sends a clear signal to the rest of the industry.
This isn’t Apple’s first foray into finance. Apple Pay, the tech giant’s mobile payment and digital wallet service, has been around for several years. But for Goldman Sachs, the partnership is further evidence of a growing focus on consumer-first financial products. It might not prove financially viable. But with Apple as a co-headliner, the investment bank is getting a big marketing boost as it targets the next generation of financial services customers.
The world of finance is changing at a mind-boggling pace. Goldman Sachs — along with every other financial institution — must get creative to remain relevant in consumers’ eyes. For many banks, this starts with social media.
Finding a Voice Online
As financial marketing matures, banks are becoming less timid about having a social media presence. Consumer preferences dictate the social media marketing landscape, and industry marketers understand its significance. According to “The State of Social Media in Banking,” a 2019 report from the American Bankers Association, 84 percent of banks use social channels to market services. Forty percent have actively used these channels for five years or longer. The vast majority of respondents (84 percent) felt social media was an important engagement channel; more than half plan to increase social media spend before 2020.
Regardless of how heavily you’re invested in social media marketing, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the most of your investment.
1. Tune in to chatter.
It’s easy to just talk at your audience — but that’s exactly what modern consumers don’t want. Rather than focus on what you’re saying to customers on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, listen to what they’re saying to you. An ongoing social listening initiative can shed light on how people really feel about your organization. It can also enable real-time conversations to answer questions, get feedback, or provide thoughtful, timely responses.
Douglas Wilber, CEO of Gremlin Social, a social media solution for banks, believes social listening can help banks improve their services. “This ear-to-the-ground approach helps financial institutions better understand their audience members — and therefore be better prepared to serve them,” he says. “A solid social listening strategy eliminates the need to operate on assumptions or educated guesswork.” The better you know what your customers are saying, the better you know your customers. That knowledge can give you a tremendous competitive advantage.
2. Influence your audience.
The world of financial services is highly competitive. As tech disruptors enter the space, consumers have a growing number of options to choose from. Who gets to manage their money? Earning consumer trust is vital to winning business. Increasingly, financial marketers are turning to influencers to gain that trust. Major brands like Chase, American Express, and Capital One tap into paid influencers’ loyal followings to widen their reach and capitalize on their “social proof.”
Steve Cocheo, executive editor at The Financial Brand, predicts their success will inevitably convince more banks to follow suit. “Many financial brands have held back from influencer marketing, but that could be changing quickly, as more institutions follow in the footsteps of early pioneers, matching themselves with social media influencers who can help bust through modern communications clutter,” he observes. While most think of influencers as paid celebrities who give shoutouts on Instagram, banks should also leverage employees as influencers. Team members can serve as authentic brand ambassadors on platforms such as LinkedIn or Facebook.
3. Keep compliance top of mind.
As banks seek to expand their social presence, regulators keep a watchful eye on how they’re using social channels. The Federal Financial Institutions Examinations Council closely monitors online communications, including responses to customer comments or questions.
Bank employees know they’re being monitored. The same ABA report found that 68 percent of respondents were aware that their institution’s social media usage was reviewed. Nine out of 10 respondents further reported that policies and procedures received the most attention in such exams. That is why it’s essential that financial institutions implement clearly defined rules regarding social media engagement. It’s also a good idea to preempt audit snags by documenting all posts and replies.
Most financial institutions aren’t new to social media, but the various social platforms still hold plenty of opportunities for money managers looking to increase customer engagement and build trust. Those that take advantage of them with thoughtful, well-executed social media strategies will remain relevant, even as competition in the space heats up.