I want to get something off my chest – something that’s been grinding my gears for several months.
It’s the two excuses we’re still coming up against in the financial services sector to avoid social media marketing:
- “We’re not sure we can justify the cost because it’s difficult to link sales and leads to activity – i.e. to demonstrate return on investment.”
- “Social media is difficult because of the regulations in our industry – I don’t want to get my company into trouble.”
I feel sufficiently irked in the autumn of 2015 to be forthright in my responses to those excuses.
Firstly, the conversation about whether there is a financial return to social media is finished – or at least it should be. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still important to know if your activity is driving sales and leads (and how you’re going to prove it). But my argument is that not knowing the answer to this question is no longer a good enough excuse to do nothing.
This is because the uptake of social and digital technology by, let’s face it, virtually everyone is now no longer in doubt. So arguing about whether social media has an ROI is like agonising over whether the office phones have an ROI. We use them because the people we do business with use them.
Take Millennials. This is the generation that most of the businesses we speak to are interested in – the next generation of wealthy high-achievers. Its members must be mystified by the slow, stuffy, stale online activities of financial firms. Millennials were born into the technology era. Their purchasing decisions are less influenced by conventional advertising than the social proof of online reviews, especially ones written by people they know. They go straight to Twitter or WhatsApp when they’re unhappy with a product or service, not the company’s customer service department.
This is, perhaps, obvious. But what might surprise you is that British high net worth individuals (HNWIs) are also using social media in their droves.
According to Ledbury Research, which studies the habits and demographics of the well-heeled in the UK, at least 75% of HNWIs used social media regularly in 2014. Some 47% actively used LinkedIn, which makes sense since so many are businesspeople, but 42% said they used Facebook and 13% used Twitter.
So we’re agonising about financial ROI as if using social media is optional. It isn’t anymore.
All of which brings me onto my second argument, which is connected. Given that we know our clients and customers are using social media and we don’t need to justify using it by citing the sales it is driving, we can think of it as an essential tool to communicate our brand, rather than to drive people to products and services. Of course, we’ve been doing this for a long time in our PR, advertising and sponsorship activities.
And It’s the right time to be talking about brand!
Investment and savings distribution patterns are going through a generational shift.
The growing role of online platforms — like Wealth Horizon and Nutmeg — is increasing the importance of strong branding for product providers. Even for companies who deal only with intermediaries, like the Nucleus wrap platform.
A strong brand — if coupled with solid product performance — will help providers to gain recommendations and to stand out from among the competition.
The good news is that some interesting developments in the industry are offering ideas as to how financial services businesses can reinvent their brand image to engage with digitally-savvy customers.
Next week, I’ll post MRM’s “Five things to remember when building your brand online” with lots of current good practice examples from the UK’s financial services industry. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to make sure you don’t miss it – just fill out the form at the bottom of this page.