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Innovate, drive new business and diversify relationships with social media

Financial services providers have an opportunity to develop offerings, seek new business opportunities and diversify their stakeholder relationships using social media. It’s unlikely that we’ll see the whole sector adapt as quickly as their audiences have done, but those who are smart about their developments in this space will realise significant competitive advantages. Social trends are not going away, and embracing them is an imperative in order to survive and thrive.

The latest Ofcom report on ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes’ (2015) shows that:

 – Nine in ten adults are online (a 27% increase from 2005)

 – 90% use apps on their smartphone

 – 72% of internet users have a social media profile (was only 22% in 2007).

 – Most importantly, 68% of internet users have gone online to bank or pay bills.

Changing media use has had a direct impact on the financial services sector and how decision making is being influenced. Research carried out by Greenwich Associates in 2014 revealed that a third of asset owners made an investment decision or recommendation based on social media output; 85% of which relied on social content from LinkedIn. Whilst Facebook is not deemed a ‘professional’ network, the research revealed that 78% of institutional investors in Asia Pacific said Facebook was used at least once a month to source financial information.

Our own research has shown that since The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012, the reputation of the financial services sector still requires urgent help. Of the 60,000+ conversations about banking culture on Twitter this year, many make scathing references to “Eton Old Boys” and unjust bonuses. With the election of a new government come further conversations about the financial services sectors’ behaviour. Just how do you weigh up regulatory changes against the sector’s 9.4 percent contribution towards GDP?

This figure includes fintech start-ups, insurance companies, and brokers. All face the similar challenge of doing business in a world where traditional media ‘touch points’ are seeing competition from digital alternatives. Conversations are taking place online; are you listening and making use of opportunities? Communication programmes must offer an integrated approach and the financial services sector has developed to cater.

After public consultation, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published its finalised guidance to ‘Social Media and Customer Communications’ (March 2014). Covering how financial promotions on social media should be conducted in a transparent and honest manner, tactically making use of the social features available. The Financial Services Forum recently ran a session on the “challenges of content marketing in B2B banking”, exploring how traditional networking can be used effectively in the digital space. Even at our offices in Farringdon, we can feel the innovation from fintech companies and projects coming from London’s Silicon Roundabout.

It’s the end of ‘business as usual’. Maintaining or growing market share is going to rely on the provision of competitive products, and the implementation of a slick social media programme that targets the right people, at the right time. It’s necessary for public relations consultants to be social anthropologists, supported by tools that can make sense of online data, and use innovative strategies to be heard above the competition.

Social innovation for your organisation could be monitoring international reputation through conversations on social media, or how articles are being edited by the community on Wikipedia. It could be community management of Twitter profiles, advocacy programmes on forums, or the production of a podcast. Social innovation is making sure that the Google search results about your company are a true reflection of the work you do.

Social media can provide return on investment for your business and manage your reputation. The same measurement capabilities at online advertising’s disposal can also be harnessed by PR practitioners too. Financial services providers have an opportunity to reinvent themselves and invest in the future. This window of opportunity will not be open forever, and smart organisations are already starting to steal a march on their competitors by embracing this change. As specialists in this field, Lansons stay ahead of the game and would be more than happy to discuss the ways in which you can use digital and social media to drive value for your business.

To speak to one of our digital specialists about how best to harness digital and social media for the benefit of your business, email digital@lansons.com and we’ll be happy to speak with you.