19 Tips for Crafting a Social Media Strategy

When it comes to cooking up a social media strategy, the recipe varies from lender to lender. Sure, some ingredients remain consistent ― like management buy-in, brand awareness, and compliance concerns ― but their measurements vary.

Though banks are still fine-tuning their formulas, here’s a look at some social media best practices, as outlined by Jay Reed, senior consultant and client relationship director at ath Power Consulting (www.athpower.com), and Denise Rossi Henn, vice president of e-business at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (pnc.com), during a session at the recent Consumer Bankers Association conference.

Put someone in charge. Once you develop a strategy, assign a project manager. “This is a large-scale initiative that always seems to take longer than originally thought,” Reed said.

Pick providers. The sites a company chooses to concentrate its social media efforts on, largely depend on the lender’s specific strategy. You could use Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Some companies use the Apple App Store to present web apps.

Go in with eyes wide open. Determine your objectives by listening, talking, and researching. “Then you can set expectations and set measurements,” Henn said. “Know who’s accountable and who’s involved.

Educate. C-suite executives may only have heard about certain social media sites from their kids. “Prepare them for the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Henn said. Lenders should also get employees ― like compliance and risk officersaround the organization comfortable with the technology.”

Take it slowly. As you launch, don’t feel the need to dive in headfirst. You’re not going to have everything in place on Day 1. “Maybe a blog is the first thing you do, as opposed to Facebook,” she said. “Crawl before you walk before you run.”

Keep sites updated. “You can start and get into conversation, but don’t give up on the communication,” Reed said. “If that’s a resource issue, make sure you have the resources.”

With compliance, tread carefully. Look at compliance as hurdle, not a barrier. “Your lawyers have to understand the rules and regulations so that you can move forward,” Henn said. An idea is to get compliance officers engaged with others that have already accomplished the task at hand. “That may not be another bank,” she added. “You may hook them up with the lawyers at technology companies or automotive companies.”

Involve employees. Employees must be informed of the risks and benefits of social media. “There’s a standard protocol they need to know about,” Reed said. “When posting, think, ‘Would you say this in front of the boss? Would you say this to a neighbor or friend?’”

Establish policy reviews and employee signoffs. Once you take the plunge, you’re liable to the risks, whether you have your own site or not.

Heed privacy policies. Is a bank legally obligated to take down a customer post that includes personal information? “That hasn’t been addressed yet, but you need to consider,” Reed said.

Monitor and archive everything. Form internal partnerships early and scrutinize online activity.

Move servicing conversations offline. When interacting with customers, know when to take what can start as a public conversation and make it private. Keep it within the original channel ― Facebook or Twitter, for instance ― but use those sites’ direct-messaging functionality.

Solicit customer feedback. Use information culled from social media sites to bolster formal loyalty and brand satisfaction surveys. Customers especially like contests and promotions. Other popular actions are showing support for the organization and looking for recommendations, Reed said.

Respond to customer concerns. “If you create a blog, it’s not social if you don’t allow customers to offer feedback,” Henn said. “Let them know that you’re listening.” Reply to positive ― and negative ― comments.

Mine customer comments. “Customers are giving you a lot of great data,” she said. For instance, reviews typically delineate what customers like or dislike about specific products.

Track success. Though it may be difficult, try to assign a dollar value to a post or tweet. When reviewing customer feedback, “look back to your objectives to determine what you’re going to use for measurements,” she said. “Use that to help inform your systems and determine what success looks like. It’s about engagement. If one of your objectives is brand awareness, then measure that.”

Be creative. “Don’t be afraid to test and learn,” Henn said. Look at how other industries are leveraging specific channels and then analyze the business value for your bank.

Look ahead. When thinking about the future, poll customers about what they want. What’s your favorite app? What are you doing on your mobile phone? What’s there now that wasn’t there five years ago?

Be prepared. Always be prepared for a crisis.

―Marcie Belles

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