Other articles here guide you through organic and paid social media. They’re two sides of the same coin. The former covers a range of questions to ask and decisions to make. The latter helps you decide how to spend your marketing dollars online.
So why read this one? Great question. This article will guide you towards a social media plan at your financial institution. How does that differ from the others? Here, our goal is to frame the entire effort.
Put simply, this is where you’ll build the strategy to use the knowledge in the other pieces.
Our goals here:
At times, we will use specific social media platforms as examples. However, this doesn’t mean that your plan cannot include similar efforts with another system. It’s about using your planning journey to determine which platforms make the most sense.
Others may include Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, or even TikTok. Yeah, that last one is quickly becoming a destination for brands, and it’s not just engaging Gen Z.
Where functionality is similar, you may substitute references to platforms. Some have a medium-limited focus (ie. TikTok being 100% video). If you decide some presence on them is right for your goals, it’s clear the type of content you share.
When you are just launching a social effort, you need a plan, both for what you’ll achieve and what you’ll share. Let’s call it a content plan.
Creating A Content Plan
So you made a Facebook Business Page. You have exactly one “like”. It’s from your own personal Facebook account. Ask coworkers to follow as well. Congratulations, you’ve got exponential growth! This is going to be easy!
Tired of character limits, you set up a YouTube channel. It has zero uploads.
Now it’s just about creating content, right? Well, yes and no. It’s a business effort, so let’s make a strategy.
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Time for some creative thinking. We get it. This isn’t easy. Banking isn’t sexy. You don’t have trendy new styles to present. People don’t wake up in the mornings and check out your latest Instagram posts.
Though maybe they could…what would that take?
Research. Ask your team. Think about ways to get people to take notice, and participate with your online content. That begins with finding ways to provide value with the content you produce.
Let’s assume you already built your social media strategy. No? Go and read how. If so, we’re ready to roll. Note: There may be some concepts repeated. Why? Because the former is a general outline of the whats, whys, and hows of social media.
This article helps you build your plan and put it into action.
Why are you posting on social media? “Because we have to be on social media” isn’t a good reason.
Define your objectives before you start planning content. Are you hoping to:
- Attract and retain customers/members?
- Sell services?
- Address customer concerns?
- Build a sense of community?
Most businesses turn to social media for a few reasons:
- Drive revenue (Marketing/Sales)
- Build fanbase/community
- Provide support
- Offer avenue for sharing and referring to friends and family
Social media is where unsexy, yet clever, businesses can get away with having some fun.
What are your goals? And that’s ok if it’s, “all of the above.”
Research Audience and Identify Target Demographic
Who is your ideal audience on social media? Hint: it’s probably the same buyer’s persona as your ideal customer.
Once you’ve got that created, let’s figure out the questions we need to know about our persona person, um, yeah:
- What kind of content do they consume?
- How do they communicate?
- What do they want to see more of in their feeds?
Answer these questions and the challenge of what to create will get a lot easier.
Create Engaging Content
Your content must stand out. I don’t mean stand out amongst financial institutions. I mean stand out against the splash of every other piece of content a user sees as they flick through the platform. Can you at least match the excitement of animal GIFs?
How that’s done looks different on each platform. Experiment with videos (of varying lengths), images (avoid stock if you can), text-based graphics (the cool kids call them memes), live streaming, and text posts.
What’s great about social media is that you can recycle content across channels, as long as you adapt it to fit the platform.
Reusing Social Media Content Example
The Ultimate Guide to Finding, Financing, and Driving Your New Car
Marketing builds a landing page for your new guide. It’s visible on the home page, in the Auto Loans section of your website, and inside online banking. But we’re here to talk social exposure.
You share an animated text-based video to highlight each point from the guide, with a link to the landing page. It conveys all information in under a minute, without needing the audio.
Make sure you “Pin” the post so it appears at the top of your page for all visitors. If you’re interested in paid efforts, consider boosting the post after a few days of organic exposure. Then, you may create a targeted ad promoting the content.
The same video gets uploaded to your YouTube channel. It gets added to a playlist housing member guides for all products, or in one specific for auto loans. That’s up to you. You upload captions, but it also has narration, since audio is often active on that service.
First, you share a direct link to the landing page, accompanied by engaging text. The system “attaches” the link, so you don’t need it as part of the copy (ensure good SEO on page so appropriate text and images appear).
Of course, you want to avoid “See More”, so you keep the post to less than 3 lines. Any hashtags or staff/company @ mentions can be “below the fold”.
Second, you share the same video you posted on Facebook, but directly on LinkedIn. Again, it must be 100% clear without audio (with all text visible easily when seen vertically on a phone screen).
Third, you write a “best of” this guide and share it as an article on LinkedIn. You also share this out with an engaging teaser copy.
Remember when Twitter meant short, witty messages? Well, aim for that still, but with the character limit doubled and images/quoted tweets excluded, you’ve got a lot of space. Be clever and engaging, as always, to link to the article.
Additionally, ever notice the “(1/9)” on the end of some tweets? That represents threads, where you can tell a full story and ensure it’s clear they are in order. You simply reply to the last one each time to connect the tweets.
This can be a good way to replicate your “best of” from the LinkedIn article, even more concise and to the point.
Talk to your graphic designer to create a series of image tiles highlighting a few top points. Each image will have one main idea featured. Upload that set in a carousel. Then, do the same on Instagram Stories so it features to followers.
Finally, create an Instagram Highlight to ensure it’s visible at the top of your profile (it’s the same idea as a pinned post on Facebook).
Look to your Competition
When you are working to improve your product offerings, what’s your first step? How about deciding on search terms to target? Exactly, you look to your most successful competitors. Well, social media is no different.
In fact, social media marketing is even easier to gauge another company’s success, at least on the surface. Their posts are all public, and you can easily see how many Likes, Shares, Comments, and Retweets any content receives.
Combine that with how long it’s been visible, and you can determine what’s working for them. If it’s not, consider why not. If it seems to produce social media success, assess why and aim to make the idea work for your target audience.
After reviewing what your competition is doing, think about what they aren’t doing. Could it work for you?
Remember the Goal
Of course, we aren’t really seeing the real success/failure of your competition’s content. Because your long-term goal is not likes or shares. It’s taking an action, whether opening an account, booking a loan, or using their debit card more.
Your social media plan must always remember why it exists. Scroll back up; you decided on the priorities above. The number of likes, on its own, will not get you there. However, it is a sign of views and engagement.
It’s easy to get excited by good social engagement numbers. “We got 200 likes!” And don’t let us rain on your parade. Your target audience has to see your content in order to be excited, informed, or driven to action by it.
Educate, inform, and guide them towards your desired result. While fostering a community. And providing needed support.
Now that I think it through, isn’t it the same as what you do in person?
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Distributed Content Creation
Oh, and one more thing. There’s no rule that says you’re the only person who shares content for the institution. Encourage staff to contribute videos, pictures, quotes, and even articles. Doing so gives authenticity and diversity to your social platforms. Just like your audience.
Speaking of them, they can create content as well! It’s known as user-generated content. You can even make it a game, competition, or scavenger hunt with digital or real-world rewards. Maybe something like this. Or consider what Ally Bank does.
Navy Federal Credit Union does a good job getting member engagement. Check out an example of their content (along with a few others).
Connect with Influencers
Your social media exposure right now isn’t great. So even the best stuff you put out may not reach a large number of people. If only there were a solution to this quandary…
There is! Connect with those who already have a larger network. When you contribute value, it becomes a mutual benefit. It’s called influencer marketing, and it helps you reach new people, humanize your brand, and better engage your existing audience.
No, we aren’t saying you should hire the Jonas Brothers to advertise your newly reduced mortgage rates. We’re also not saying you shouldn’t…
More likely, you can identify people who match your values and represent your brand well. In addition, they can help you create additional (relevant) content for your financial institution. Make a list. Here are some starting points:
- Local celebrities
- Industry experts
- Writers on industry publications
- Online personalities (that includes Instagram and YouTube influencers)
Embrace & Excite Your Team
We touched on this above. Now it’s time to build the plan. Look inside your organization for sources of content. Yes, your staff is perfect! Identify employees who can act as brand advocates on social media.
We’re seeing this more often, especially on LinkedIn. What better place to talk up your professional affiliation? When your staff uses their personal network to amplify your brand’s voice, they do two things:
- Enhance your reputation and exposure.
- Expand their own reputation and exposure.
- People always want to improve their image, and this is a win/win!
That’s not all! What they share drives twice the engagement as your own, corporate, posts. Plus, it gets in front of a wider audience. On average, your employees’ networks in aggregate will be 10x larger than your company’s following.
Your employees are your first fanbase. They have the potential to take your social media efforts into high gear! What was once exclusively a sales team “thing” is now for everyone.
Since you’re already reading about Marketing strategies, this goes right with it. Tired of e-mails getting ignored? We put together 5 tested tips to get your e-mails read.
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Tips to Turn Employees Into Brand Advocates
- Define a social media policy: Let them know what’s okay to post and what’s not. When you start embracing employee advocacy, their personal brand becomes an indirect reflection of yours.
- Nominate a “champion”: Do you have team members who are already active on social media (and may already share stories about your credit union)? Those people are the perfect “champions” for your cause who will help get other team members on board with the initiative.
- Create a content distribution plan: Solicit content from employees and integrate it into your greater content sharing schedule. Keep them informed on the latest topics to make it easy for them to share on brand.
- Build an incentive or recognition program: Incentivizing participation may be the push needed to get your employees on board with the initiative. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. Finding small ways to reward your employees for engaging will go a long way towards building continuous participation.
- Your eventual goal is that your staff wants to share, not because it’s expected or rewarded, but because they genuinely want to participate.
- In the words of Bobby Michael from Army Aviation Center FCU, when discussing member rewards/incentives, “Take risks. Look big. Don’t cheap out.”
Build a Schedule. Use it.
Consistency is key to social media. Unless you’re already a high-profile business or person, you can’t post once every three weeks and expect to build an audience.
This is where social media management platforms can help. They let you queue up an unlimited number of posts across all your active platforms. Then, simply set up a schedule and they’ll get shared automatically. Yeah, all you do is check the results and tweak.
If there’s timely content to share, whether interesting or important, drop it in for immediate posting.
Note: Post frequently, but only what’s worth sharing. More may not be better. Think of your own social feeds. The friend who posts everything has volume, but do you care? Aim to provide value to your audience, whether that’s education, entertainment, or engagement.
If you don’t, your own organic traffic will suffer. This is where, if it mattered, we would insert an enormous discussion on the algorithms that determine what gets shown to whom. It’s important, but what you need to know is to post what people care about.
One more thing: Scheduled posts are a fantastic way to keep content flowing without having to be on top of it all the time. However, it has a downside. What automatically posts…automatically posts.
In times of crisis or a major news event, you need to immediately pause all scheduled content for review. Make sure it doesn’t portray the institution in a negative light. What worked yesterday might not go over well today.
Building a Community with Social Listening
What are your customers saying about you on social media? How about your competitors? If you don’t know, you can’t respond or act.
Social listening is a crucial part of any successful social media plan. It’s also a crucial part of running your financial institution, period.
Put simply, social listening is knowing what’s being said about you online and throughout social media. This includes complaints, concerns, questions, and general conversations where you are mentioned.
Do this well and you can boost customer satisfaction, while shaping how your institution is perceived. Do it poorly and you get the opposite. Unhappy customers, poor online perception, and an image of not having anything under control.
A poor image for a banking entity, if I say so myself.
Oh, and do you think you’ll ever attract any of those onlookers? Your actions, or lack thereof, can have a long tail.
Social listening lets you build 1-to-1 relationships with your audience. Which people love (83% of them, to be precise). As you look to grow authenticity online, these interactions fast-track your progress, humanizing the brand. If you do it right.
I’ve been met by over-zealous bots when engaging companies. It felt like they had the same answer no matter what I asked. Sure, it responded quickly (the average business answers in 11 hours, which is too long), but the answer was totally worthless.
That’s called, “over-relying on your automations without checking to see if they are doing what you programmed or what you want.” Sometimes, there’s a large gulf between those two things.
Your community isn’t always public. 69% of Facebook users in the US say that being able to interact with a brand on Facebook Messenger makes them more confident in the brand. These are private messages, as are direct messages on Twitter, so why should it matter?
People’s individual experience with a brand shapes their public perception. Think of it like a member walking into a branch and having a bad experience with one MSR. Maybe that’s not representative of the institution, but for them, it is.
Most of the social management platforms allow you to track and respond to private messages as well. You can even assign them to a team of staff, so you can maintain accountability and ensure prompt replies.
Never let private messages or public posts go unanswered. Address the negative ones, express thanks for the compliments. Discuss them in management meetings so you can prevent issues in the future.
Your customer base is giving you direct feedback. Use it.
Monitoring Review Sites
Social listening extends to platforms which aren’t technically social media. You must monitor places like Google Business, Yelp, or Foursquare. Don’t be part of the majority which lets reviews just sit there, spreading their harm without response.
Replying to criticism, earned or not, shows to others you are an active, responsible business that listens to concerns. That’s a good feeling to have if I might put my money there.
Benefits of Social Listening
When you begin, you won’t know what you don’t know. Start gathering information on how you’re perceived (if at all) online with basic tools like Google Alerts and Tweetdeck. Both let you enter any keyword, hashtag, or topic for free. Watch them for a while.
In the early days, this may be handled by a single person. As your plan takes hold, and more interactions occur, you’ll want to engage with customers across a range of channels in real-time. That means more staff and more complex software.
Social listening is at the core of your relationship effort. Now you’re putting out content; this helps you ensure that it is relevant, targeted, and honest. Plus, it’s the most proactive customer service platform you have.
Addressing Negative Experiences
Imagine discovering a negative experience shared by a customer through your social listening. A staff member reaches out (already special) and helps resolve their issue. The customer posts about it, now tagging your account. Others see this action.
You are going to have people with complaints or problems. Showing that you can and do resolve them helps build that confidence in your services. It may even help others with similar issues.
Going even further, perhaps you discover that was a widespread issue. Host a social media conversation where you invite everyone with complaints to reach out. Use this opportunity to solve their problems all at once. Now that’s building a community.
Of course, what helps your account holders can also serve to attract new prospects. I know I prefer companies which consistently connect with their customers. If I have an issue, I want confidence they’ll be there to help.
Finishing Your Social Media Plan…Article
This article may be coming to an end. Your social media plan is not. It’s a living strategy in an evolving field. It’s not enough to post content. You must also stay on top of emerging trends, platform changes, and user needs.
Social media also opens up a new channel for customer communication, which brings its own set of challenges and rewards.
It may seem hard to believe, but this was only a piece of our guidance on your Inbound Marketing strategy. From optimizing your website to taking advantage of good SEO strategies, there’s a lot to cover. Don’t worry, it all works together and makes sense!
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Post away, my friends!
Blogger. Speaker. Part-time Jedi.
Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.