Here To Stay: Sustaining Social Media Efforts Requires Vigilance
Published in Bankers & Tradesman on 6-11-2012.
When social media was in its infancy, most of the questions we got were related to getting started, launching a new site and the whole issue of why social media is important. Today, many of the questions and concerns center on how to do a better job of managing existing social media efforts, how to measure them and where to take them into the future.
There is no doubt about the powerful nature of social media as a communication channel. Social networks reach 82 percent of the global Internet population. Usage is at an all-time high among all age groups. Social media is a strong force. Scott Cook, founder of Intel, stated “a brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
Social media is a critical part of your brand. A study by Forbes Insights and Webber Shandwick revealed that executives attribute 52 percent of a brand’s reputation to how social it is online today, up from 45 percent a year ago. They also project that 65 percent of a brand’s reputation will come from its online sociability in three years. Half of your brand’s reputation is built online through social channels.
Here are some brand building tips:
Determine your identity and stay true to it. How does your mission, vision, branding elements and tag line all fit into who you are as a brand? Timex conveys a very different feel than Rolex. Your brand is your personality and what makes your institution unique.
Protect your brand. Capture your brand name across a variety of social platforms before someone else does.
Take advantage of branding opportunities. YouTube and Twitter, for example, allow backgrounds to be customized and changed quite easily.
Have a consistent look and feel. Incorporate the same or similar images and branding on your social sites as on your website and other marketing materials. Recognize, however, that each social site is different, and cater content to each.
Be approachable. Convey your personality through less formal writing, and don’t be afraid to have fun. Consider enlisting one or more people to be the “face” of your institution online. Wells Fargo Bank’s Twitter photo shows a group of employees. It’s been shown that on Twitter, page icons of people have more followers than those with logos. People want to connect with other people.
Have a conversation. Respond when people tweet at you or post. The simple act of a response lets them know you are listening. This will also differentiate you from the big brands because they rarely respond.
Softly promote. Utilize Facebook’s cover photo, for example, to softly promote contests, product and even website launches. Be aware of their rules for cover photos, though, which include no calls-to-action or contact info.
Sustainability of a social media effort is a very real challenge, particularly at the community financial institution level. Consider how to include customer service and other departments in your social media effort. Marketing, PR and communications are most often aligned with social media efforts, but customer service, sales, CRM, product development and HR are often left on their own. A working social media team may help where employees are cross-trained and there are contacts in different departments. Social media is a huge customer service channel for many retailers and other businesses. Facebook now has a direct message function allowing one-to-one communications. Financial institutions should be prepared for increasing customer service questions via social media channels.
One of the keys to optimizing your social media efforts is in integrating communications among channels. Dean Bank in Franklin, for example, ran a social contest recently encouraging people to “like” the bank’s Facebook page; those likes would translate into a donation to Relay for Life. The bank amplified the communications by running a Facebook ad, sending an e-blast and putting a prominent communication on its website.
Monitor and listen to what is being said online about your brand. The Economist Intelligence Unit, a research business with The Economist Group, found that 39 percent of retailers worldwide don’t measure social media; just 8 percent use a paid tool; 35 percent use free tools; and 17 percent use a combination of free and paid. Sixty percent of marketers use friends, followers or likes as a success measure, even though deeper analytics are more meaningful.
Look at engagement as another key factor. Did you know that one study showed you can raise engagement by 15 percent simply by asking for engagement? Keep in mind that at one point or another, 70 percent of people are spectators and won’t interact. Those people are important too. They are watching and listening and may not respond to you, but can be influential to their friends.
We know that change is the only constant with social media. Facebook comes out with at least one radical overhaul each year. Formal social media evaluations should be done periodically.
Audit existing sites – are they still relevant? Unmanaged sites can reflect more poorly on a brand than not being present at all. Is your social presence growing and vibrant? Consider what is next – is it Google+, Pinterest or something else, and how do those fit into your goals? This year, the big trends are mobile, video, tablets and eReaders. Do you have remote deposit capture yet? Are you incorporating video in any of your channel communications? It’s difficult to predict the future, but one thing appears certain, social media in one form or another is here to stay.