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Guest Blog: Harnessing the power of social media in Financial Services

by Richard Bassinder

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 23 October 2019

It’s quite easy to think of social customer insight as quite a new thing but actually, insight from consumers has been around since the dawn of time.

It's nothing new

It’s quite easy to think of social customer insight as quite a new thing, that the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have enabled. But actually, insight from consumers has been around since the dawn of time. Think of this “customer complaint” that someone chiselled onto a guest house wall in Pompei: 

“We have wet bed. I admit, we were wrong, my host. If you ask ‘Why?’, there was no chamber pot.”

Pompeii 79AD

It’s arguably the first TripAdvisor review of all time! What’s changed? Well, the sheer volume of customer insight, via social media. For brands, it makes it increasingly hard to decide what it is we should be listening out for, and how to act on this insight.

Here at the Yorkshire Building Society, we’ve taken quite a journey along the road of harnessing social customer insight, and we now use it to inform our campaigns and strategies. I wanted to share some of our thoughts and tips along the way.

Social media - the world’s biggest focus group?

I like to think about social media as just that – the world’s biggest focus group. Broadcast models have shifted from one-way messages from brand-to-consumer, to multiple conversations happening all day, every day. Brands are a part of the conversation, rather than the conversation-starter. And social listening is the key to unlocking what customers are talking about. Given the volume of what’s out there, a useful starting point could be to answer the following questions about your audience: 

  1. Where are they? Which social platforms do they use? 
  2. Who are they? How old are they? Where are they based? What are their interests? What are the questions they are asking? 

Using a tool such as Orlo, you can monitor mentions around brand/product names, service requests, corporate responsibility mentions and posts about key spokespeople. However, it’s important to identify not only what to measure, but also what you’re going to do with that insight. And metrics will vary depending on your goal. If we have a campaign centred around awareness, for example, we might measure things like reach, impressions, likes, mentions. Whereas a charity campaign might focus more on engagement. 

Measuring the mood

Social listening also allows us to keep a finger on our customers’ pulse, get a sense of what is important to them, and create reactive content as a response. 

For example, we spotted this tweet: 

“I’m in no rush to move out yet. Once I start work next month, I’ll help my parents w/ the mortgage and start saving for my own property.” 

Suddenly, we had a story. An actual conversation with a consumer. We’ve used this insight to influence how we’re looking into generational lending, where there are three family generations in one house. That led to creating products that would work specifically for them. 

Another reactive listening success story is when we monitored specific phishing keywords to catch a potential scan. We were able to identify someone talking about a phishing scam being enacted, so we took down this threat in about two hours. 

Case study: #aplacecalledhome

Our most powerful example of actionable social insight was sparked by the following tweet:

“Everyone’s going on holiday and I’m sitting here saving for my bloody mortgage in rainy England.” 

It got us thinking and we started looking at people’s attitudes to mortgages and saving. There was a feeling that you could either have fun, or you could save, but not both. We also discovered that when people talk about homes, they don’t necessarily touch on the topics of mortgages and savings. Similarly, people never actually use the term “first-time buyer”. That’s reserved for financial journalists and people within the industry! Customers talk instead about their home aspirations and things they want to buy. Our campaign #aplacecalledhome was created in response to those ideas. It’s deliberately inclusive because a home can be anything – you could be renting, living in a houseboat, or a shed. We set out to become a commentator, campaigner, educator and ally in the territory of homes, to build our heritage and product expertise. 

We looked at a few key areas and used our social listening to help drive this:   

  1. Imagery. We asked people to capture the feeling of their home in a photo, which generated some fantastic user-generated content for the campaign. We didn’t include our branding in any of our content, as we wanted to start a conversation, rather than promote our products in a direct way. 
  2. Language. Our campaign also used really aspirational language around homes, putting to one side the conversation about getting a mortgage. 
  3. Public consultation and charity work. We asked people about their ideas of home and worked with the charity End Youth Homelessness to help young people into rented accommodation by paying their deposit. 

The results? Within just two weeks of this sustained campaign, we moved from the outskirts of the conversation about ‘home’ on Twitter to right in the middle of it. Just by listening to our customers. 

Final takeaways & tips

It can be overwhelming to tackle the volume of social listening, so I recommend the following approach: 

  1. Clearly define your objectives before you start.
  2. Listen beyond the obvious brand terms. Think proactively about why your customers need you, and which topics you can talk expertly around. 
  3. Seek to understand your audience and which platforms they use. 
  4. Ask questions, rather than broadcast. Social media is a dialogue.  
  5. Have your comms strategy and infrastructure in place. This will most likely include departments outside of marketing, such as customer service, product, etc. 

If you crack this, the gains can be huge. Finally, never forget that you’re not only competing within your own industry for your customers’ attention. You’re competing against every other brand on your customers’ timeline. Your content and campaigns need to be the best in every industry.

Richard Bassinder

Richard is a social media expert and marketing strategist with 15+ yrs experience in Financial Services, developing content-driven strategies based on deep analytical insight

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