Guest Contributor: Andrew Carrier, Deputy Managing Director of Cognito EMEA
While the likes of Citi and American Express have embraced social media with aplomb on the consumer side of their businesses, the B2B financial services sector has been much slower to adapt these new channels. That’s understandable; it can seem like a daunting task. Where to start? What channels to use? Who will manage it? All the basic rules still apply. It starts with clear objectives and strategic alignment; it’s made hugely more effective by careful planning; and it benefits significantly from a little imagination and some careful monitoring.
At Cognito, over years of consulting with our clients on social media best-practice for B2B financial services, we’ve boiled our advice down to 10 golden rules:
1. Establish business objectives: Whatever you do, do not succumb to the pressure of “we need to do something in social media” and rush into anything. Like any other communications activity, begin by asking: “What are we trying to achieve?” …The answer to that simple question should inform everything you do and – crucially – what you chose not to do.
2. Align strategically: Social media should never be a silo activity that is handed down to a junior member of staff to execute. To be effective, social should be integrated with (and complement) other communications activities, executed by experienced team members and aligned strategically with your business’ goals.
3. Listen: Establish who you are trying to reach, what you want to convey to them, and how you want to do it. Spend time identifying the channels where your audience is holding its conversations. Then, there’s an enormous amount of benefit in then just sitting back and listening – learning how your audience interacts…
4. Embrace compliance rules and communications policies: Do not forget the important regulatory constraints of our industry. Work with your compliance teams: get them on board early and ask them to be clear about the legal rules – if any – that govern what you can say publicly in your particular role. If your organisation doesn’t have a social media policy (many do not) it will have existing policies in place that govern external communications like email and speaking to the press. Following the spirit of these and adapting them for social media will provide a solid framework.
5. Empower colleagues: Social media is far more effective when done as a group of individuals rather than one anonymous corporate face (see rule 10). So, make sure that existing policies are clear and that staff have clear parameters in which they can operate and helpful guidelines. After that, trust and empower them to use social channels. This has been a large part of Cognito’s social media success.
6. Advance the dialogue: Sharing other people’s content is good. Adding your own thoughts, opinions, and questions before passing it on is even better. Your aim should be to make people think, to add value, to drive the dialogue forwards. By all means draw attention to your company or product but only do so when it’s a natural way to advance the dialogue taking place. People can smell a sales pitch a mile away and don’t respond well to it on social channels.
7. Engage: Remember that one of the defining characteristics of social channels is that they are interactive. This is perhaps their most distinguishing feature. So, once you’re ready, be sure to engage with people in a two-way process.
8. Track, measure, and adapt: One of the key benefits of social channels is that they can be tracked so your activity and impact can be measured. Use this data, review it regularly against your objectives and adapt your strategy and tactics if necessary.
9. Commit to the long-term: There are no short-cuts in social media. Accept that it will take time to reap the benefits: to find those with common interests, to build relationships with them, and to begin influencing the audience. Be prepared to invest some time on a daily basis in the process. Once you start, keep at it and be regular.
10. Relax and be yourself: People engage with people, not corporate logos. So, be sure to inject some personality into your presence on social media. You don’t have to be too personal or reveal details of your private life but be sure to provide some insight into what you are like as a person: your interests, thoughts, and perspectives. Relax and have fun.
Andrew (@AndrewCarrier) is Deputy Managing Director of Cognito EMEA (@CognitoPR), an integrated PR and marketing agency focused exclusively on the finance and financial technology sector. To learn more, please visit www.cognitomedia.com.