Over at The Financial Brand, Tom Glatt Jr. has written a nice piece on the inane chit chat spewing from banks and credit unions (to which I would add some insurers and fund companies) on social media.
This is what happens, Glatt points out, when corporate entities dive in and join the conversation in social networks without a clear understanding of context or any clear plan.
But there is an underlying question that I think merits more attention: how does a corporate brand truly act “social” in social media and maintain credibility? Because, make no mistake, social media is about people connecting with people. Social media is inherently social and there’s a place for all the elements of human interaction, including the small talk and the chit chat.
The challenge is for the esteemed financial brand to get off it’s pedestal and actually engage with the people it serves. Financial marketers have spent decades honing lofty brands that are meant to be fortresses of credibility. After all, you’re entrusting your hard-earned money to them – they’d better know what they’re doing and be worthy of your trust.
Problem is, the trust thing isn’t going that well.
Financial services companies have a trust problem
According to Edelman’s 2013 Trust Barometer, financial services as an industry is still struggling to get out of the basement when it comes to trust.
And along comes social media acting like a megaphone for all this distrust. It’s no surprise then that people doing social media in financial services firms are making some mistakes in their eagerness to win the trust of their customers and social networks.
But the misunderstanding is greater than just source, content and context, as Glatt sees it.
The very concept of brand is being transformed by social technologies.
As Intuit co-founder Scott Cook has said:
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
This is a fundamental change that the financial services industry, it’s leaders and it’s marketers, haven’t completely parsed yet.
Personal brand ambassadors build trust
If you want to rebuild trust in financial services organizations and leverage social networks, you can’t just do social media as a corporate brand.
You also need personal brand ambassadors – people who invest their personal brand’s credibility into representing your corporate brand. Personal brands play a vital role in building thought leadership and engaging key clients and influencers for financial brands.
Financial brands need people to engage other people on their behalf. Any number of people could (and should) perform this role in an organization. It could be a C-suite business leader or a senior marketing person with the social chops. It could also be a skilled customer service rep with deep product knowledge and a flair for the social. Or it could be all of these people.
The ideal personal brand ambassador is intelligent and approachable, able to find and share relevant content to demonstrate subject matter expertise and engage in insightful follow-up conversations. A personal brand ambassador cares in a way that a corporate brand never could and puts their credibility on the line in doing so.
As social media morphs into social networking and social business, financial services organizations will realize they need to stop trying to “humanize” their brand with inane chit-chat and just empower more of the smart people working for them to engage on their behalf.