Commentary

Social Media Is Trust-Building Machine -- Use It Wisely

The Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Ultimately the bond of all companionship, whether in marriage or in friendship, is conversation.” The same is certainly true for how companies -- particularly those in the financial sector -- communicate with their consumers on social media.

Even before words like “quarantine” and “social distancing” became part of our everyday lexicon, the use of social media by financial services companies had been growing exponentially. 

This industry (traditionally slow to embrace the new in marketing) routinely uses its social media wisely to create new sales funnels; recruit new talent; promote corporate social responsibility programs; and maintain and grow professional audiences — and more.

However, communicating with empathy and understanding has become more important than ever — qualities consumers don't always associate with the financial sector.Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometerreport shows that since 2012, the sector continues to rank at the bottom of the 15 sectors researched. 

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So how do you change that perception on social? Here are some tips for using social media that may be helpful for every industry, not just financial services.

Don’t just talk — listen. Start by revising the idea that social media is simply another marketing channel --  it’s much more powerful than that. Consider social communications as a means of listening to (read: actually hearing) your customers, building trust and creating genuine human connections -- something that for obvious reasons is especially useful now. 

In writing, there’s an old adage: “Show me, don’t tell me.” It means don’t merely tell your readers something, show them examples so they can see it for themselves. Empathy is a little like that, too. People don’t want you to tell them that you empathize with their situation, they want you to demonstrate your empathy, and social is the perfect venue for that.

Consider the goodwill HSBC engendered with its #TogetherWeThrive initiative, (effectively promoted on its social media), where it worked with local charities to provide bank accounts to people with no fixed address. This campaign helped reassure customers that there are real humans on the other end of their phone calls, emails and chats.

Engage and repeat. Social media is where your customers will turn if they’re having a problem, a question, or looking for feedback. It’s also where they’ll turn to find out whether other people are facing the same issue, or to ask their networks for advice. 

Consider it an early-warning alarm offering an opportunity to correct problems before they snowball. Use this feedback and insight from your customers like your own test marketing group. Engage, ask questions, find what they love about, for example your new banking app, what they don’t, and/or what a particular audience group wants from their bank. 

During a major crisis, like a pandemic, social media offers valuable feedback on how your brand’s communication strategy and crisis response is being received by customers (and the wider public). 

Think of your social media as this big, trust-building machine between you and your customers; use it wisely and you can earn a wealth of goodwill and stacks of genuine human connections. All you need to do to begin is to follow the advice of Mr. Wilde: Start a conversation and become a companion to your customers on social media.

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