(A version of this article was originally published on The Financial Brand.)
There’s a saying among successful people in business. Who you know is more important than what you know. In the age of digital social networks, this has never been more true.
For many business people, the network of people they know and who know them is their most valuable business asset. In the old days, people called this their Rolodex — that convenient rolling card index for business contacts. But the real value of a “Rolodex” was the relationships it represented, not the convenience.
Similarly, contemporary digital social networks are far more than collections of contact information. They’re places where financial executives communicate with each other and share insights — where they can conduct relationships in between the times when they actually see and talk to people. Online social networks also afford opportunities to discover new connections and grow business networks.
While few successful bank and credit union executives doubt the importance of the networks of people they know, not many of them effectively use digital social platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to grow, enhance and add value to their networks.
Frankly, most banking leaders are missing out on the benefits of online social networks.
There are several reasons for this discrepancy. For one, many leaders don’t understand how valuable these digital relationships can be. There’s a lack of awareness of the key digital influencers in fintech and finance, and the strategic value of influencers in a business ecosystem.
Financial executives don’t have a lot of time for exploring — for listening — in social networks. As a result, there’s a knowledge gap and many executives just don’t understand what they’re missing out on, or that they’re missing out at all.
With this in mind, here are three reasons why every bank or credit union leader should make more time for social networking.
1. Communicate with your business network
Many people, including financial executives in marketing or other areas, use Facebook personally to stay connected with friends, family and even follow some businesses they support. They share pictures, comment or ‘like’ things other people share, and maybe even use Messenger to communicate.
So, why not do the same on LinkedIn? Why not connect with the prospect you met today, or the vendor you met on that conference call yesterday or the speaker you really liked at that conference last month?
These people make up your business network — and they all have networks of their own. Increasingly, people are using their online social networks to filter the world and answer such questions as “Who should I listen to,” “Who should I hire,” “What should I read,” or “What conference should I attend?”
Used effectively, digital social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter can help finance and other business executives stay in touch with people efficiently, communicate with people they don’t see or talk to often, and even discover new people who could be important to know. Perhaps most importantly, digital social networks can help filter an increasingly noisy online environment.
Don’t have time to grow and develop your business network? Maybe you need to think about how you’re using your time.
2. Stay current in rapidly changing times
Change is happening at an accelerated pace in financial services. Demographic changes coupled with technology innovation is combining to disrupt entire business models. How do busy bank, credit union and fintech leaders stay up to date?
Sure, they can (and should) attend conferences, read industry publications and as many books as they can handle. But conferences can be expensive, not just in terms of cost, but in terms of time. And what about between events? Books can provide deep insights, but are often dated in terms of their details by the time they hit the market because things are changing so fast.
Industry publications, blogs and even social media streams can help. But the volume is crushing and the quality is variable.
Which is precisely where digital social networks offer value. Real-time networks like Twitter and, to a growing extent, LinkedIn offer access to financial industry influencers and curators who can help filter these large volumes of content and distill what you need to know. Online social networks offer access to subject-matter experts who have a commitment to sharing their knowledge and insight in exchange for you sharing yours.
This kind of human crowdsourcing of knowledge and thinking is an essential tool for everyone working in the financial industry today. And if you’re not doing it, you’re likely missing some important insights.
3. This isn’t your last job
Social networks have democratized content publishing, audience engagement and influence. Bloggers can write and publish and attract their own audiences. Many of the most influential financial services people online have been doing this for the better part of a decade. Social networks enable influencers, thought leaders, and many others to connect with each other, share ideas, and collaborate.
Digital social networks are the gateway to online banking industry and fintech communities, rich with insights, discussions, and people who can help you and your institution. Whether it’s thinking through challenges, evaluating new innovations or finding opportunities or talent, influence networks are flush with value.
Paying attention to networks of influence can help bank and credit union executives grow their own influence. What does this matter, you might ask. Chances are, this is not your last job, your last big project, or your last venture. The knowledge, insight and relationships that can come from genuine and authentic engagement with influencers in social networks will be invaluable for navigating the future of finance.
Ask anyone who’s been actively engaging online in the past five or more years. It’s changed many people’s business lives and career paths for the better.
How to Get Started with Influencer Outreach and Engagement
Here are steps bank and credit union leaders should follow to increase your social network and open new doors to enhanced insight.
- Think of LinkedIn as your calling card for people you’ve met. Update your LinkedIn profile and make sure you have a current summary, profile and picture. When you meet new people, connect with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch.
- Consume as much finance industry content as you can and share the most valuable and insightful material regularly in your social networks. Be generous and kind in sharing your opinion and always strive to add value in your social network interactions.
- Take time each week to pay attention to and comment on content that others write and share. Engage people personally in your online network.
- Think of Twitter as a conference you attend every week. Seek out people in financial services and beyond whose ideas, perspectives and personalities attract you, then share their content and engage with them.
- Get to know who are the online influencers in financial marketing or whatever your specific area is. Focus on the ones whose ideas and insights speak to you and strive to get to know them.
When in doubt, look around and find someone who is doing social networking right and ask them who they pay attention to online or how they find and make time for digital social engagement. There are many social influencers who are more than willing to assist.