Paid Social Media Marketing for Financial Institution Growth

Money iPhone Calculator and Mac
(Last Updated On: February 14, 2022)

Organic social media marketing is a valuable tool. Sometimes, it’s not enough. That’s where paid social media marketing can help you achieve your financial institution goals. Let’s talk about how they work together.

Think about your social media strategies as a building. Organic is the structure, forming the walls, rooms, and roof. Your paid efforts are the finishing touches like paint and decor. It’s not an exact metaphor, but you get the point!

To be clear, paid social media marketing will not stand on its own. At least, not well. And you’ll spend a lot of money getting poor results. The only ones who will be happy are the social media companies you keep paying.

Where Does Paid Social Media Marketing Fit?

As organic reach on social media continues to decline, businesses are embracing paid tactics to keep in front of their target audience. The latter also can improve the performance of their organic strategies, driving more engagement.

If you think it’s tough to connect through social media, you’re not wrong. Brands see a median engagement rate of 0.09% per Facebook post and 1.6% per Instagram post. It’s worth thinking of how you can inspire engagement in fun and clever ways.

Since in-person efforts are stymied for the foreseeable future (as Floridians, we’re really jealous of those who can safely transition back into activities), social media is an important part of your engagement.

Will the social media platforms help prioritize organic over paid? Probably not. They have $18.4 billion reasons to keep the trend going. Social media advertising is big business. 

Briefcase of Money

So organic is a struggle and paid can get expensive…what to do? It’s all about the middle ground. Take a hybrid paid/organic approach and combine the advantages of each:

  • An organic social strategy is your best path towards building an online community
    • After all, you can’t respond to customers through a Facebook ad
  • Paid efforts can help acquire and convert new customers
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Getting Started with Paid Social Advertising

Choosing Your Audience

Ad networks allow incredible targeting. You’ll be shocked at the degree you can specify a promotion. Frankly, it’s worrisome how detailed the profile the social media companies have on each of us.

Mask with Stars

Of course, since you’re working for better communities, that power is in good hands. Remember the buyer persona you made? Even if it’s hyper-specific, chances are you’ll find that market through social media advertising.

If you don’t already have one mapped out, you’ll need a free buyer persona template. And now you know your audience. They’ll help you decide where to put your efforts.

A previous article discussed demographics of social media platforms. Look at your buyer persona. Now look at the demographics. There’s your audience.

And if you’re still stumped, go with the most popular social media platforms for financial institutions: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Product specific efforts may mean looking towards additional platforms. For example, a campaign targeting first-time car buyers may include the younger demographics of Snapchat, Twitter, or Instagram.

Before you do this, make sure you understand the “language” of that platform. It’s easy to look out of place if your posts from Facebook end up on Snapchat.

For example, Instagram users seek out image and video-heavy content. And best practices mean using different dimensions and video lengths than you would on Facebook or Twitter.

This applies to both paid and organic efforts!

Now that you have a basic audience in mind, let’s use a possible buyer persona for your financial institution, and go from there:

Car Buying Carl

Bearded Man

Location: Southeastern US
Age: 27
Gender: Male
Education: Bachelor of Science
Hobbies: Craft beer, traveling, pro sports, and running
Job Title: Corporate Development Associate
Income: $63,000
Relationship Status: Single
Financial Goal: Purchase a new car
Challenges: Limited disposable income due to student loans

Using our persona, we can build targeted ads on our desired platforms to attract Car Buying Carl and plenty more like him. And those factors aren’t all that’s available.

Yes, Facebook really does know that much about you. We weren’t kidding about the great power claim above.

In fact, you can even take your existing follower/visitor list to create a “lookalike audience”. Facebook will look at your list and identify common qualities to help better serve your ads to people with a similar profile.

Remember how you say your members are different? This is a perfect way to get in front of new people who are special just like them!

Choosing Your Channels

With an audience and plan at the ready, it’s time to pick where your efforts (and investment) will go. Since this article is about social media marketing, we’ll leave the other mediums for another time.

Chess Pieces

Today, we’re going to focus on Facebook. However, so you’ve got them at the ready, here’s a common list of where you may spend advertising dollars online:

  • Paid social media advertisements (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) 
  • Retargeting advertisements across the web
  • Google AdWords/Pay per Click (PPC) Ads
  • Display Ads

A robust inbound strategy may include all of these to maximize brand exposure. Remember how some products or companies “follow” you around online? That’s your goal, too.

Sidenote: Everything here is part of your larger inbound marketing strategy. Make sure you’ve read our guide to content marketing for financial institutions to get the most out of your effort.

Just getting started with paid social media marketing? Facebook ads are a great place to start. Here’s why:

  • Easy to get started
  • A large percentage of your potential (and existing) customers are on it already
  • You can retarget past website visitors while promoting to current customers and building new leads

Defining Your Goals

Arrows on Bullseye

What’s the point of your ads? The obvious answer might be, “lead generation”. You’re not wrong, but it is only part of the picture. Consider that paid efforts are just a piece of your inbound strategy.

Some institutions look to drive traffic, raise product awareness, or increase customer adoption of an under-utilized car buying service.

Others are just building their following and seeking engagement and page/account follows. It’s about the relationship and meeting is an important step.

Before you launch a campaign, define your goal. This will help you determine your audience, content, offer, and possibly even your budget. 

So, what’s your goal?

Some ideas:

  • Drive loans
  • Grow membership
  • Engage current customers
  • Build your social audience

Maybe you’re ambitious and want all of the above. It’s possible, but challenging, especially if you haven’t already built a strong and trusted relationship with your audience.

Create campaigns with intention. Each should be tied to a specific goal, with your key performance indicators (KPIs) helping you measure success.

To put in perspective: You could use page Likes to measure the success of your loan application effort. It won’t tell you anything of value, so you shouldn’t. But you could. Please don’t.

Tips for Launching Your First Ads

Start Small

This is important. You’re going to make some missteps. Targeting won’t be spot-on. A sure-fire path to failure is pouring your entire quarter’s marketing budget into these first campaigns.

Coffee Spilled on Papers
You’ll make mistakes. Clean up, learn, and get better next time!
Embrace Boosted Posts

One smart way to start small is to experiment using the Facebook post “boost”.

It’s not a full-scale ad campaign. When you boost a post, you’re promoting organic content you already shared to a larger audience. This helps you learn what content performs well and lets you tweak your target market with low investment.

While Facebook would love for you to boost posts right when they go live, testing found this isn’t the best strategy for exposure. Ideally, use content that does well organically for 24-48 hours, then give it a little “boost”. This extends the post lifetime.

Keep Targeting and Budget Limited

Ready to launch a full ad campaign? Great! Once again, start small with your budget and audience. Target too many at once and your content won’t resonate, meaning your ad performance will suffer. Like Google Adwords, it’s cheaper to promote engaging content.

Consider a small-scale campaign targeting a few thousand people, over 30-60 days. Once again, monitor its performance to help you learn what strategy works best for your content and audience. It’s also a great way to figure out where you get the most “bang for your buck”.

More money doesn’t necessarily mean more results. What it does guarantee is a headache when you’re explaining the ROI of your first-time Facebook ad campaign. And likely ensure that will be your last one. So let’s be smart and do it right!

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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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A/B (And C!) Test Your Audience

Black and White Crowd of People

Regardless of the platform, you want to avoid using the same ads for your entire audience. Good thing they all support A/B (and even C) testing. 

Some of your target audience is already in a buying journey. Depending on where they are currently, you’ll want different content to fit their needs.

You can use your MCIF to easily segment your audience within your CRM or marketing automation platform. This gives you cues to apply in your social platform campaign.

Don’t forget about the filtering of the platform! Segment by shared characteristics (geographical, purchase behavior, interests, etc.). Here are a couple of hypothetical audience buckets you might use to advertise different products/services:

  • Account holders with active car loans
  • Customers who are business owners
  • Non-customers on your email list
  • A “lookalike” audience based off of your customer list of mortgage holders
  • College-educated users age 21-35 with household incomes above $80k
    • Living in rural areas
    • In-market for a new car
    • Have kids

Whenever you think you can’t go any more specific, there’s more filtering available. Just don’t get carried away. Tailor ads to your desired audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey).

Remember, the ad you run to someone who’s never financed a vehicle before will be much different than the ad you run to a repeat customer who’s used your credit union for their last three car loans. 

A/B/C Test Your Content

Test Tubes and Dropper

Now that you have a handle on your audience, it’s time to start testing your content. Which means more than changing how you say the thing. Medium counts now, too. Focus again on where your target is in their buyer’s journey and experiment with:

  • Content Type
    • Images
    • Videos
    • Text-only
  • Content Offer
    • eBook
    • Free Consultation
    • Discounted Rates
    • Downloadable Guides 
    • User Generated Content
  • Design
    • Color Scheme
    • Image choices (i.e. images with people vs. images with objects)
    • Typography

There’s an infinite amount of experiments you can run on social media. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Isolate one variable at a time and run variations within the same campaign. Think of your core brand guide and let the content evolve out of it.

Paid Social Media Ad Example

Interactive mortgage calculator for determining monthly payments.
Target audience: First-time homebuyers

Home Calculator

You decide to create three variations of the ad. Copy and audience is the same. Promotion is to people who meet the following criteria:

  • Men & women aged 25-40
  • Household incomes $75k+
  • Would-be first-time homebuyers more likely to move
  • Using geographic boundaries, isolated to a local area with lots of new development

Copy Sample

“Take the guesswork out of your home-buying experience with our interactive mortgage calculator. Calculate your monthly mortgage payments in 90 seconds or less!” The CTA button says “Begin now”.

Of course, this can be A/B tested (just like the imagery below) to find the message that best resonates with your target audience.

Imagery Testing

The experiment tests three different images: One that’s just a picture of houses, and another that shows a child in the backyard, and a final one with a woman enjoying breakfast in bed (seen below).

Condo Complex
Girl Looking at Treehouse in Yard
Woman Eating Breakfast in Bed

You run the ads concurrently and look at their performance 3 days later. Turns out, the one with just the houses got a few percent lower CTR and the other two performed similarly. So, you pause the low-ranking ad.

Now you know people want to see other people. A subsequent test might try to better target kids, couples/co-living people, and single buyers.

That the platforms will automatically run the A/B testing for you is fabulous and gives you one less thing to do managing the campaign.

Ad Spend

Use the tools provided by the platform to see what per click/impression costs will be. Set goals for the number of sales generated, then work backwards to the ad (considering what percent will engage, convert, and buy/sign up for a product).

You can always change the budget for both total spend and individual click, so start on the low end and monitor over the campaign.

Optimize Your Content For Each Platform

Mobile Phone Social

Each social media platform accepts certain types of images, videos, and other formats. Your role as an advertiser is to comply with those specifications. Otherwise, your ad may not run or your performance will suffer. Don’t worry, they’ll help!

Just as you have to adapt your content to suit each platform, you have to adapt your ads as well. Check out this cheat sheet for an exhaustive list of social media ad specs across every major social media platform.

You’ll find the specifications for image sizing, placement, resolution, and tips to optimize them for best results. Each platform has many choices for how and where your ad can appear. These affect the design of your content.

Make sure it works where you’re having people see it!

In-App Ads

When you build ads on any service, they don’t have to just appear on that platform. Pick up your phone and open any free game. Notice the ads? Yep, yours could be amongst them, if that’s the right target persona.

In fact, Facebook claims that Rewarded Video is the number one revenue-generating ad type for many of their customers. Ok, so what’s rewarded video? Great question. Ask someone under 25. It’s ok, we got you covered.

In many gaming apps, you can pay real money for in-game stuff (in-app purchases). Sometimes, they’ll give you a reward if you also watch a video. That’s a “rewarded video”, and you can make those, too!

So grab your loot crate and get recording, I mean playing, I mean converting leads!

Measuring the ROI of Social Media

How do you know if your ads are working? 

You’ve got a ton of metrics to help you determine success. Compared to organic social media, this is easy! (Of course, remember that your organic strategy is what helps your paid efforts shine). 

Man Looking at Charts on iPad

Track some or all of these metrics:

  • Campaign Activity
    • CTR (Click Through Rate)
    • CPC (Cost Per Click)
    • CPM (Cost Per Thousand)
    • Conversions
    • Conversion Rate
    • Clicks
    • Impressions
  • Campaign Responses
    • Sign-ups for content, webinars, events
    • Consultations 
    • Applications
  • Web Traffic (remember those UTM codes!)
  • Audience Size Growth
  • Audience Engagement

Ultimately, it comes down to revenue. Even if you generate thousands of clicks, it doesn’t mean much if people aren’t applying for loans, opening accounts, or otherwise becoming a customer! Hold up, though. It might not be the ad’s fault.

If your campaigns do well but conversion rates are low, it’s possible where they arrive isn’t matching expectations. Perhaps the call to action isn’t compelling or doesn’t feel like it matches the ad that brought someone there. Tweak, test, and improve.

For the best reporting on your campaign, you’ll want to set up social media attribution tracking. If that link feels overwhelming, don’t worry. Every platform has their own monitoring suite. It’s just easier when you can bring it all into one place.

Resources to Learn More

We covered a lot in this article, but there’s still so much more to learn (for us as well!). To dive much deeper into all of the steps we discussed, take a look at some of these resources:

Future Marketing Evolution

Your paid social media strategy must tie into a comprehensive inbound marketing effort. Yes, we keep saying it, but this is important. Combine paid efforts with organic social media, e-mail marketing, content marketing, and more.

Social media is a space with near-constant iteration. Change happens daily. And you need to remain current with the latest compliance requirements for financial services.

Man Looking Through Binoculars

Lest you worry that means it gets harder everyday, breathe easier! Social media platforms want to earn more advertising dollars. Part of that is in improving their systems to help you better understand the success of your campaigns, make changes on the fly, and launch new content quickly.

Like most things, the more you do paid social media marketing, the better you’ll get. You’ll learn to identify what’s working faster. With a better feel on your target audiences, you will more effectively produce content that drives engagement.

Your efforts will generate leads, upsell customers, and reach your revenue goals while spending your ad dollars efficiently. And it will do so while helping build an engaged community, benefiting your other marketing efforts.

Get there by keeping content fresh, carefully evaluate your audiences, and ensure every campaign is tied to a specific goal.

It’s a changing world for financial institutions. Make sure you stay informed by Subscribing to the Learning Library. We’ll do our best to share honest guidance on a wide range of topics you care about.

Joe Winn - CU Geek

Blogger. Speaker. Part-time Jedi.

Focused on helping your bank or credit union grow in the face of emerging challenges.