In social media, conventional wisdom dictates that campaigns should be reactive, impulsive and fun. However, for financial institutions and insurance companies, this type of approach can seem perforated with risk and the antithesis of normal business practice. Then how should financial institutions and insurers ‘do’ social media? About three weeks ago I received a phone call from one of the prominent insurance companies in Uganda asking whether I have bought an insurance policy before. Surprisingly it’s hardly a week ago when my Bank called me asking if I would be interested in some of their loan products. In both scenarios I was tied up with some chores but I requested them to send me their website links so that I could be able to read and acquaint myself with the products.
To my astonishment, the insurance agent had earlier on confessed that the information on their website was insufficient and therefore not convincing whereas the loan officer told me that he was not sure whether the loan products information was available on their website. On asking him why such a large Bank in Uganda could not have information about its products on the web, he simply said the information is always available but it takes months to be updated on the website. Both cases are very common in many other regions in Africa, whereby word of mouth marketing still holds a larger percentage of banks and insurance operations.
From the conversation that I had with the insurance agent, it was clear that the problem was actually stemming right away from the communication and marketing strategies that encourage more talking skills that writing convincing and effective content. Currently, many financial institutions and insurers have an ambivalent relationship with social media. From a business development perspective, it isn’t generally seen as a strong avenue of customer acquisition. Many firms have recognized social media’s importance for direct customer relations; however, the risk of making an embarrassing mistake often puts companies off investing in social media further.
One of the most straightforward steps that financial institutions often neglect is analyzing what their customers are saying on social media. This goes beyond having a social media manager monitoring Twitter and Facebook and actually necessitates using software to measure the sentiment of customers, key words and pinch points. Many banks would be shocked by the divergence between what traditional customer service surveys tell them and the very negative reception many banks receive online.
Social media represents the world’s largest focus group, there is nothing that banks or insurers do that should preclude them from tapping this information to better understand their customers. What is needed within these organizations is a change in mentality. Taking social media seriously and creating target oriented and effective content that is sharable.
Social media management should not be the sole preserve of the customer service team or a social media manager. By making social media a company-wide responsibility that is overseen at the highest level, a comprehensive strategy aligned with the organization’s business goals can be implemented. This strategy will allow set procedures to develop that mitigate risk and ensure actions are aligned with the company’s core aims.
Of course, setting up a strategy should be more than a tick box exercise. Real investment needs to be made. Software that manages listens to and analyzes all of a company’s social media channels can help to establish order to the process and allow tangible goals to be set. For example, a bank’s social media audience can be segmented into backers, current customers and targets – consumers who should engage with the business but don’t. How these segments change as the social media campaign develops can be an indication of the relative success or failure of a bank’s overarching customer service policy.
All the signs indicate that in the coming decades social media will become the only way consumers interact with brands. Banks and insurers will not be excluded from this trend. To ensure that your company is not playing catch up, it is important to start taking social media seriously now. There is absolutely no doubt that for those who thought that Social Media and content creation are a passing fad; you really need to think again. Rather than spending two hours convincing an individual through a conversation, be more authentic by creating sharable content that speaks to millions of people in your market.