Cognito & Hootsuite Breakfast Byte – 10 November 2015, London
Whether you’re selling ideas, expertise or people, you need to ensure your brand will survive in an increasingly digital market.
Cognito and Hootsuite joined forces to explore the challenges of implementing a successful social media strategy in finance. A host of B2B communicators gathered at London’s Coq d’Argent to hear from a panel representing asset managers, PR consultants, tech providers and, crucially, the regulatory perspective.
James Whiteman - Head of Investment Communications, Aberdeen Asset Management
Neil Gregory - Digital Engagement Specialist, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)
Kathryn Sutton - Social Media Manager, Schroders
Lindsey McInerney - Head of Digital Transformation, Hootsuite
Tom Coombes - CEO, Cognito
Moderator: Vivienne Hsu - Global Director of Digital & Social, Cognito
Of particular interest was the hot topic of ‘social selling’ – the notion of developing relationships to drive sales, often via social media networks. Is it simply a buzzword, or a necessary step change to future proof our businesses?
James suggested a new name: “Selling implies a product, not a relationship. Let’s call it social branding.”
The consensus was that it is indeed a buzzword – but one that gets the C-suite excited when they realise you can tie revenue to social media. Financial services has always drawn on relationships – social nurtures them much faster. And it is hastening the transition from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Revenue Officer.
Fast, easy and free?
The panel agreed that social media opens up myriad opportunities for financial services companies, often guilty of lagging behind. But how do you start? The first step is to get all stakeholders on board. Whether legal, compliance – or audience.
“Know your audience, and how they want to engage with you,” said Neil. “We held focus groups and discovered they didn’t want two-way engagement. Rather they wanted to be sign-posted, through Twitter and LinkedIn, to the latest publications and policy updates on our website. That has shaped our strategy.”
It may be a time-consuming, toe-in-the-water process at first, but once you get everyone involved, you’ll be surprised how quickly things move. The process can be smoothed by effectively mobilising your workforce.
Kathryn commented: “Social media is becoming a core part of many job functions, such as sales and fund management. Establish good governance and then empower people. Evidence suggests that the more touchpoints there are, the more an audience values a company.”
So start by focusing on a small group of digitally advanced people and exploring the sweet spot – then widen the lens.
The panel noted the appetite at their respective organisations for internal guidelines, whether a tailored training programme, guiding principles on the intranet, or an employee handbook. A structured approach prepares a bullish network of socially-savvy advocates.
Hungry beasts require constant feeding
Whatever your approach to social media, it should be underpinned by a robust content plan. A plan that creates interesting stories, whilst being flexible enough to fit an evolving regulated environment.
Understand what your clients and contacts want, and expect, from your content. They don’t want clumsy sales approaches – they want stimulating thought leadership. They want to learn.
Buyers feel more confident when the person they are buying from appears knowledgeable. When they know what makes them tick.
CSR initiatives can work particularly well on social media, alongside the usual brand messaging and investment strategies. Sharing adds a layer of authenticity – visual proof that people are embracing it, rather than just ticking a box.
It also allows your audience to identify with your company. ‘They may be an investment manager, but they share my values!’
A happy marriage
Our experts agreed – literally and figuratively – that social specialists should sit alongside digital marketing and website teams. Integration is important. The more entrenched the siloes are, the harder it is to build a winning strategy. This is where smaller companies have an advantage.
The discussion highlighted the importance of linking social content to email marketing, and to drawing data points from social into CRM.
“Hootsuite has made a strategic decision to develop its offering in that direction,” Lindsey advised. “Customers want social tied into CRM, HR, and other internal systems. They want to plug it into other areas to increase the impact.”
With social and digital disrupting the customer journey, we closed by asking the panellists for tips on navigating these changes:
- Make sure that your approach is closely aligned to business objectives – and that you measure impact to nurture board buy-in!
- Be platform agnostic – keep an eye on new developments and assess what best fits your needs. Good content can easily be adapted
- A closer relationship with compliance helps you move faster
- And finally, don’t underestimate the power of social – and the C-suite’s expectations once they realise the potential!