Marketing budgets are being cut or unchanged year after year forcing bank marketers to continually to do more with less. While I could do an entire post on budgeting strategy, that post would inevitably find its way to a discussion on social media. Laura Pomerene, Marketing Director at First National Bank and Trust, would probably agree. Laura and her Marketing Coordinator colleague, Britney McKay, have recently introduced social media into their marketing plan (in April of this year) and the push to do this didn’t come about without a well thought out strategy according to Laura:
“It was important for us to first develop a strategy before jumping in feet first. A common perception by management was that we needed to take advantage of this ‘free’ medium. We were cautious not to blindly and badly throw a Facebook page out there without thinking about what we wanted to accomplish. We started when we felt comfortable with our initial strategy, which was to align our brand first with a community focus.”
What many banks don’t realize, is that social media won’t transfix your mission, vision and values, it will transform it. First National Bank does have a twitter account as well, but they don’t plan on implementing their strategy until next year. I would say that while social media is very important to the future relevance of your financial institution, a written down strategy of its intended use and maintenance are even more important, since as the adage says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” The last thing you want to do is engage in these social media networks and have them fall dormant. A study of 314 banks on twitter found that 1 in 5 of those banks became Twitter quitters. Social media is important, but so is heeding the advice from this study from TheFinancialBrand.com, showing that “many are just going through the motions, spewing lame tweets about rate changes or happy holiday wishes. These guys can probably find more productive things to do with their time.”
Now, if not right away, the social media discussion always turns to Return on Investment. ROI is important, but the on a 70,000 foot level, it should be seen more as ROR (return on relationships). Before First National Bank launched their Facebook page, they hired a company called General Sentiment to create a benchmark report, partially to determine what was and what is being said about them. In this process of creating a strategy and implementing some kind of ROI, Laura was careful to listen to one of her colleagues, Jeff Marsico as he pointed out that “if you’re measuring in terms of the number of eyeballs, you’ve just lost the credibility of your CFO!” As you plunge into your strategy you will repeatedly have to justify the time and future expense of what you are doing to get management buy-in.
“We looked at the competitors in our marketplace and very few are using social media well and none of them have really taken a strong role in thought leadership. We think this could have some enormous opportunity for us. The challenge we have is getting the buy-in to actively involve more of our talented employees in this process,” says Laura.
You first need buy-in of your management team on your initial strategy to get buy-in to use these talented employees. In the end it is a matter of showing social media as a solution to doing more with less and then involving the management team and talented front line employees to carry out the strategy that will become a big part of the future success of your bank.
Of course it’s not just banks that are in need of buy-in to get a social media strategy up and running. New research has found that 72 percent of businesses using social media do not have a clear layout of goals or strategy. As manifested before, a lot of this comes from not having a clear understanding of what the ROI looks like, something that keeps management from buy-in.
Rob Ployhart, a professor of business administration at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, says that “the data businesses are looking for will be available within three to five years, making social media more credible in the eyes of some businesses. In the meantime, however, businesses can still utilize social media as a part of their business. Ployhart recommends businesses set clear goals and policies to maximize the impact that social media can have within an organization. Overall, Ployhart says businesses must have confidence in social media above all else in order to reap the benefits that it can offer.”
The take away here comes down to one word…strategy. Strategy can paint a picture of the benefits of doing more with less and what ROI looks like now and in the future. All of this provides a strong case to full company buy-in, specifically management.
“In today’s world, we are all interconnected. Companies that are thinking about this proactively are the ones that are probably going to have an advantage in leveraging this technology,” Ployhart said. “I’d be surprised if the first few companies that get in there don’t have a lasting competitive advantage.”