If you’re interested in financial technology (fintech) and how it is transforming financial services and the banking industry, you’ve probably come across Jim Marous.
He’s currently co-publisher of the online publication The Financial Brand and a veteran of the financial services industry. If there’s a list of the most influential voices in fintech (and there are many), chances are Marous is near the top.
I reached out to Marous to get some insight into his online strategies and learn more about how and why he does what he does in his online activities. Here’s our conversation.
What is your strategy online?
Jay Palter: Here’s what I see you doing. You share frequently. You focus on Twitter and LinkedIn. You promote others. You leverage your personal brand. You pay attention to influencers. What am I missing – how would you describe your strategy?
Jim Marous: My primary mission is the same as it is in my role as co-publisher of The Financial Brand and owner and publisher of the Digital Banking Report – to provide a gateway for additional insights into what is happening in the world of financial services. I have always enjoyed learning and sharing my knowledge with others. Social media and a strong content strategy allows me to create and curate strong research and insights that are needed by the financial services community. My strategy is to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ for what is happening in financial services distribution, fintech, innovation, digital technologies, customer experience, financial marketing, data analytics and the future of banking. I do this using our publishing platforms, social engagement, speaking at events and at our annual Financial Brand Forum.
How much time do you dedicate to online engagement and how do you find that time in your schedule?
JP: Time is always a barrier for people, but the most successful online influencers seem to spend much time. I guess the question here is how do you make that time most efficient?
JM: Many people who are recognized as ‘social media influencers’ use a lot of tools to time engagement. I have yet to find a tool that provides me the ability to personalize what I say, who I say it to, when I engage and who I include in subsequent conversations. Because we publish daily articles on The Financial Brand shortly after midnight most days of the work week, the starting point for my content strategy is pre-set. What happens thereafter is based on dynamics which include the importance and timeliness of the content, what additional content is available during the day in my key subject categories on social channels, and how popular any engagement becomes. Quantifying the time spent is tough, but I probably spend 1-2 hours a day, 7 days a week monitoring and engaging on Twitter and LinkedIn. My time is limited to a degree, since I am also creating new content for both our daily articles on The Financial Brand (usually 1,200-2,000 words) and the Digital Banking Reports (10K+ words).
What tools do you use to make your online activities more efficient?
JP: Everyone seems to use Buffer – do you? Any other tools?
JM: I remain somewhat ‘old school’ and don’t use any tools consistently. This is not because they don’t work, but because I feel that automating the process is ‘playing the game’ as opposed to trying to engage with followers on social channels. In other words, all the social media communication I do is done ‘manually.’ That said, I do leverage LinkedIn Groups to distribute my articles (a reach of over 150K targeted readers) and use a small group of highly engaged followers to assist in the distribution of articles and selected posts. I also have lists of people I follow and search terms on Twitter and Google to find great content to share.
Describe any tricks or special techniques you use online?
JP: For instance, I’ve discovered that there is lots of backchannel discussing via Twitter DMs that many people don’t realize. I know you do this, so can you expand on your group discussions with other influencers? Are there other “tricks” or techniques I’m not aware of?
JM: I am not sure if there are any ‘tricks’ to becoming a go-to source of insight. That is not to say that there are not ‘tricks’ to getting a higher social media score or to get on ‘lists’. The lists and social scores are great, but I have always avoided buying followers, using tools that follow people who will follow you back, or other games to get followers. Again, it is my mission to build engagement by providing value as opposed to ‘beating the system.’
I do try to follow a format of communication on Twitter that includes a strong headline, link, hashtags, company credits and an engaging visual. I have tested many different alternative formats, but the one I currently use works best. For LinkedIn, most of my updates are posted to groups which allows for a future email distribution in many cases. This gives the update a bit of an extended shelf life. I also post partial articles on LinkedIn and provide a link to the entire post.
Finally, as many of my followers know, I do not have a problem with posting the same tweet, with alternative (or the same) composition multiple times during a day or over a string of days. This is because Twitter is a ‘moment in time’ communication channel for many that is only seen while online as it happens. I want to be there when my audience visits.
Who really influences you online?
JP: I know you probably don’t want to name names and exclude people, but are there a few people out there (maybe outside the finserv industry) who’s thinking and/or online activities you pay attention to? Who influences the influencers?
JM: I am very fortunate to be involved in publishing two very powerful platforms – The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report. These publications, and my global speaking, have allowed me to come in contact with the best in the business. As I often say, “My designation as a ‘Top 10 Influencer’ is an honor, but it comes from meeting and getting to know very influential people.” That said, I am part of a small group of 20+ people committed to changing the complacency in banking through public dialogue and communication (the ‘Fintech Mafia’). Finally, I also have 30+ close friends in the industry who I rely on regularly. These people are easy to determine if you follow my tweets and retweets for a week.
Why are you drawn to social?
JP: I’ve found that online social networkers are just social people – they enjoy meeting new people, making new friends. That seems to be you. Can you talk about that?
JM: I started publishing a ‘blog’ for the financial services industry 9 years ago this month with the simple intent of learning about social media while self-educating myself and those around me. My efforts became much more formal when I joined Jeffry Pilcher at The Financial Brand. I found that social media helped generate more followers, which generated more pageviews. It also helped expand my reach of people who I got to know in the business far beyond what I ever imagined.
I suppose you would also be correct in saying that I am a ‘social’ person overall. I enjoy using Twitter and LinkedIn to stay connected for business and use Facebook and other channels to stay in touch with personal friends. I try not to mix the two categories too much even though I have many business connections who I definitely consider good personal friends as well.
You obviously get business benefits, but how do you measure or quantify them?
JP: This is the old ROI discussion. I’m interested in how you measure, both in terms of quality and quantity – and how you see the ROI discussion.
JM: Of all the people I know who are ‘influencers’ on social media, very few can quantify their efforts in dollars and cents. In my case, I am able to easily quantify (and justify) my efforts because my emphasis is on generating pageviews for The Financial Brand (which supports our advertising rates) and on generating subscriptions and report sales for the Digital Banking Report. In both cases, we can track where our readers and subscribers come from through digital measuring tools. We know, for instance that while Google is a major source of readers, LinkedIn generates subscribers, readers and purchasers. I am, in actuality, part of a ‘media’ company that is supported by our daily publication, advertisers, sponsors, subscribers, readers and attendees at events.
Why build your personal brand as much as your corporate brand?
JP: My personal view is that personal brand is more powerful than corporate brand in social, but is often left on the table. You seem to leverage your personal brand very effectively. Are you consciously doing this in a strategic way? Can you talk about how your personal brand figures into your strategic use of social networks?
JM: For decades in the banking business, I have had a mission to build the brands I represent (digital marketing firms and now my publications) through a strong personal brand. I have never tried to separate the two or promote one over the other. When I write or speak, I am Jim Marous, co-publisher of The Financial Brand and owner/publisher of the Digital Banking Report. While I do not have a social media presence (yet) for the Digital Banking Report, we do have a strong engagement for The Financial Brand on both Twitter and LinkedIn. This engagement will be getting even stronger in 2017.
What makes an online influencer?
JP: Sum it all up for us – what does it take to be effective and influential online? Traits, habits, personality, commitment.
JM: Whenever anyone asks how they can become more effective and recognized online and in social media, the equation is not very difficult. The commitment to the equation is where most fail. To succeed, a person must be committed to serving the audience they want to reach. No matter how your audience is defined (mine is financial services institutions and their employees), you need to ask yourself, “Why would I want to follow another person on social media.” The equation is to provide valuable content to a select segment, consistently, on easy to access platforms. This does not have to include a blog, but it helps when you can create your own content. What this definitely involves is a significant commitment of focused time. People want a consistent sequence and cadence of timely and insightful communications.
For more information:
Read Jim Marous on The Financial Brand and the Digital Banking Report.
For more information, visit jimmarous.com.