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How Financial Services Brands are Using Social Media to Create Relationships and Establish Authority

By Kyle Harper on January 30, 2019

I used to love going to the bank with my mom as a kid. The tellers were nice and seemed to remember everyone; they always made the effort to greet me specifically. And pouring our change into the counting machine became a sport for Mom and me, one where we'd attempt to guess the dollar equivalent of all those clunky coins. Sometimes she'd win, and that was OK because I made sure to always grab a piece of candy from the little tray on our way out-that was my prize.

Today, the personality of the banking experience has been somewhat replaced by the convenience of financial tech services. Modern financial brands approach personalization in their marketing strategy through technology that seeks to replicate the "service with a smile" mentality. Modern financial companies offer customers a number of digital pathways to interact with their brand from apps that deliver budget alerts to your phone, automated savings tools, and robo-investors that will plan for your future spending goals.

While faster and easier in many respects, this new distance between financial brands and customers has resulted in some trust issues. In 2018, financial institutions suffered a massive decline in trust from informed audiences, according to Edelman's 2018 Trust Barometer study. To battle this, brands have stepped up with a number of tactics, like increasing call access to human customer support or modeling their informative content after more personal narratives.

But for financial brands that want to make a human connection in the tech age, there is a critical platform that cannot be ignored: social media.

Social media marketing for financial services may be the perfect compromise between personality, accessibility, and tech-enabled convenience. However, this doesn't come without complications. Many financial communications are regulated above and beyond typical marketing speak, and customers coming to social media platforms may have highly sensitive issues they want to share or discuss. But with some creativity and a dash of personability, social media can become a powerful tool for establishing trust with your financial services audience.

Treating Your Customers like Experts: The Fidelity Model

One of the challenges many people face when it comes to finance is a gap in their perceived financial literacy. A handful of studies have found that when surveyed, many people reported that they have "high financial literacy." But when actually quizzed on basic concepts-like how interest is compounded or the difference between a 15- and 30-year mortgage-nearly half of "high literacy" respondents scored below 90 percent.

Basically, customers today would really benefit from financial instruction, but many won't seek it out or don't even know they need it!

Fidelity Investments responded to this dilemma with their social media presence, where they provide informative infographics, helpful articles, and often retweet insights from their top investment minds. The key here is that they never treat visitors as if they're beginners-all of their content presents an even mix of restated fundamentals and interesting technical topics that can serve any reader, regardless of their financial literacy level. This results in a social media experience that is rewarding for any visitor, while also establishing a powerful level of trust by making everyone feel equally welcome in the space.

The backbone of this fintech marketing strategy is Fidelity's strong content engine. While social media provides a great platform for immediacy, its shorter format doesn't make it a great space for extended conversation on in-depth financial topics. Rather, Fidelity uses this immediacy to support a high cadence content space which is constantly brimming with useful stories and articles for visitors to enjoy.

The takeaways are clear: Treating visitors with equal respect, and working to educate anyone who visits your space, can pay off big time for financial services brands.

Creating a Fun Entry Point: Social Media with Acorns

One particular pain point for financial brands, big and small, is capturing new entrants into the financial space. First-time investors, new savers, college grads beginning their careers: all of these audiences present a vital opportunity to establish long-term relationships, but the options available to them are often head-spinning-to say the least.

Fintech company Acorns has built a simple, automated app that helps users invest on the go by stashing away loose change from daily purchases. It makes for a very helpful and welcoming entry point for new investors, and their social media presence reflects this.

Acorns' social presence is a fun mix of interactive questions, blog content for those new to budgeting and investing, and more than a few enjoyable gifs. Unlike longer established brands, it doesn't rely on institutional authority to establish trust. Rather, Acorns works to meet its visitors where they are and is honest about how daunting finance can be, while simultaneously offering a simple entry point.

And supporting this effort is another strong content presence which is updated regularly with articles and useful strategies for visitors. Even for a finance marketing strategy that's centered around simplicity, Acorns recognizes the importance of having a space for extended conversations on financial topics and works hard to inform their visitors.

Getting Specific and Accessible: Penn Mutual's Social Media Approach

Some finance topics are more approachable than others. Understanding the importance of saving and budgeting, for instance, makes pretty immediate sense in most cases. On the other end of the spectrum, however, insurance can sometimes be a complicated and speculative financial avenue to explore.

Penn Mutual is a life insurance provider that has been able to mitigate many of these concerns for their visitors. Through their social media presence, they've been able to accomplish two smart goals: giving visitors access to the group's top-most leadership and connecting them with experts on specific topics of interest.

Let's start with access to leadership. One of the challenges of being personal in the age of fintech is that customers don't actually know anything about the minds that are directing their money's financial strategy. A brief browse through Penn Mutual's Twitter feed, however, gives visitors access to numerous interviews, articles, and insights, as well as direct access to their CEO, Eileen McDonnell. This put-it-all-out-there approach can establish an immense amount of trust for followers-knowing the ideals and strategies of your financial institution's leadership provides a unique level of certainty which regular marketing content can't often achieve.

This information also isn't presented in a vacuum that's separate from visitors' everyday lives. Penn Mutual's other smart social media move is to continually work on initiatives and provide content that's specific to topics idealistically aligned with their audience's lives. These include verticals like charitable giving and action and content geared toward veterans, among many other initiatives.

4 easy ways to add #charity into your #financialplan. @AndeFrazier with actionable tips. @_myWorth

- Penn Mutual (@pennmutual) January 9, 2019

What does it all add up to? While many people feel distant from their financial institutions, Penn Mutual is making a concerted effort to close the gap between their audience and their company's leadership, ideals, and interests. The result is a quickly established and lifelong-held trust.

Getting Closer

As banking, saving, investing, and insuring our lives becomes an increasingly digital endeavor, social media marketing for financial services will only grow in importance.

How to succeed? Focus on your audience as individuals. Provide consistent and helpful information that enables your visitors to feel like experts themselves. Constantly look for opportunities to ease entry for newcomers and to make leadership feel more personal for your longtime customers. So long as your fintech marketing strategy is based on the value of relationships built on trust, audiences are likely to keep coming back for more, which can only help your brand grow stronger and stronger.

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Featured image attribution: Zoë Gayah Jonker


Kyle Harper

Kyle Harper is a writer, editor, and marketer who is passionate about creative projects and the industries that support them. He is a human who writes things. He also writes about things, around things, for things, and because of things. He's worked with brands like Hasbro, Spotify, Tostitos, and the Wall Street Journal, as well as a bunch of cool startups. The hardest job he's ever taken was the best man speech for his brother's wedding. No challenge is too great or too small. No word is unimportant. Behind every project is a story. What's yours?