Financial Services, Strategy

1B Users Strong, But How Do We Reach Them?

Why Doesn’t Anyone “Like” Us?

I work for a financial institution that boasts some 65,000 members. That’s a lot of people. Facebook has over one billion users worldwide, though, of course, most of them aren’t in my credit union’s service area. Still, I have the potential to reach about three million people in that service area, which covers Minnesota and Wisconsin. So how come we can’t even reach 700 likes on our Facebook page?

My Credit Union is on Facebook. Who Cares?

My peers in the industry struggle with the same thing: Despite diligently posting day after day, and posting what we believe is engaging content (really, it isn’t all a big sales pitch!), we can’t seem to inspire much interest. A new “like” or comment makes any CU marketing team downright giddy.

Recently, while monitoring a competing credit union’s Facebook page, I noticed they were running a costume contest, with a $50 Target gift card as the prize. I found a picture of my 1-year-old, Nate, from his first Halloween last year. I cropped it, wrote a quick caption (“I’m bananas about credit unions!”) and posted it.

Banana Boy

We were one of only two entries, and with two “likes,” we won. I was happy about the Target gift card, but I felt kind of bad for the credit union, competitor or not.

Potential Ways Financials Can Utilize Social Media … and Maybe Even Get Some Likes!

As we move forward with our social media strategy, there are a few ways I’d like to experiment with building our “likers” base on our page. After all, what’s the point in stressing about finding the right message if nobody’s around to see it?

Here are a few ways financial services providers might get a bigger bang out of their Facebook efforts.

1. Facebook: A quasi-call center.

With larger financials like US Bank and Wells Fargo utilizing their pages as a customer service tool, it seems it will only be a matter of time before my members start thinking of Facebook before the pick up the phone and dial our call center. This is both exciting and scary. Exciting because if we do customer service well, the world can see it; and scary because if we handle a member complaint poorly, well, the same thing can happen, and the complaining member can also quickly and effortlessly shout about their experience to hundreds, if not thousands, of followers. Make sure you’ve got your A-Team handling any sort of social media customer service, so that any shares reflect well on you.

2. Plain old listening. It’s valuable.

There some very interesting conversations occurring in social media spaces. Individual users ask things like, “Got a great Thanksgiving stuffing recipe?”, yes, but they also ask things like “Where did you get your car loan?” and the answers they receive can be revealing. In addition, rants and raves occur, unfiltered. It’s like a giant focus group! Businesses, including credit unions, would be well-served to just pause between well-intentioned but ineffective posts about International Credit Union Day, and instead, snoop around. Look on other financial institutions’ pages, and, if you’re on the other platform (and you should be), try Twitter hashtags like #money. It’s the adult, modern-day equivalent of listening to the popular girls gossip while you’re locked safely in your bathroom stall.

Then, find a way to use the information you discover. Maybe you can use it for something big, like to develop a new product that would fill a need consumers are discussing. Maybe it’s simply to make your social media posts more relevant to your audience. (Once you determine what people want to know more about,  financially speaking, you can post about that instead of your latest mascot appearance.)

Note: Listening in to relevant social media posts can also be done more systematically by setting up social media monitoring tools like CoTweet. (More on this in the future, because I’m looking to dig into it.)

3. A great way to do good.

The Financial Brand suggests that banks and credit unions can use the power of Facebook to build brand affinity through charitable giving campaigns.Chase recently gave away $5 million to charities via Facebook, a promotion which garnered 2,510,642 “likes” on the bank’s page. Of course, there are economies of scale at work here (few CUs could afford even a fifth of that amount), but smaller institutions could find organizations that local residents are passionate about, and build a following by offering to donate, say, $5 for every new “like” or comment. Incenting engagement and doing good? Why not?

Are Ads the Answer?

Maybe. Facebook advertising is simple, affordable, and best of all, hyper-targeted (Facebook, 2012).

Facebook’s “Marketplace Ads,” which appear on the far right of users’ main pages, can be finely targeted to our desired market segments. Using Facebook’s self-service ad creator, marketers can choose to have ads appear only to users whose profile elements match those of their target audience: geographic location, age, occupation and interests are a few.

In addition, Facebook ads, like all things Facebook, give marketers the opportunity to show off their popularity. “Likes” or “I am attending” can show up as part of the ad or event promotion itself, so when a user notices several friends have endorsed a product, even a previously uninteresting product or service suddenly becomes relevant. I know I am always curious when I see a couple of friends (or maybe especially, if a couple of rivals) have “liked” a particular brand, product or event.

Surprisingly, the medium is relatively inexpensive, and offers marketers the advantage of setting their own budget, both daily and for the life of the campaign. Through a bid system which compares an about-to-be-launched ad to similar existing ads, marketers set the price they are willing to pay per click (CPC) or per impression (CPM). Once the daily budget is met, ads simply stop appearing on any pages.

Post promotion is another new way businesses can generate attention. With Facebook’s new algorithms, users now most often see pages and people with which they have a history of interacting. This could mean more bad news for credit unions that don’t get a lot of traffic; they can fall off of news feeds entirely. To combat this, businesses can pay to promote their posts, inserting themselves onto news feeds of all of their followers, history of interest or not.

Facebook offers a reporting feature to track the efficacy of any given ad or campaign. Demographic metrics, such as the age, gender, and geographic location of the users who have clicked is readily viewable. Plus, reports can show if the ad has carried any social weight, like when an ad is viewed by someone through a Facebook friend.

One downside to advertising on the world’s most popular web site is creative limitation. Ad copy can only be 135 characters long, and ad dimensions cannot exceed 110 x 80 pixels. With short words and a small space, creative teams will need to find compelling messaging that makes less more.

With this evolving medium, I certainly don’t have all the answers; however, I plan to keep experimenting until I find a few.

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