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Dreamforce recap: Financial firms can go social with the compliance officer's blessing

[Ed. note: Hearsay Social will be sharing extra details and compliance expertise in a special Dreamforce session today, September 19. This session, “Compliance and Governance for the Social Enterprise,” will take place in the Ralston Ballroom at the Palace Hotel from 3 — 4 PM.]

Hearsay Social representatives Kwesi Graves and Sanjiv Baxi at Dreamforce ’12 Financial Services Day.

By 2016, digital interactions with financial institutions will outnumber face-to-face interactions 250-to-1.
Brett King, bestselling author and American Banker’s Innovator of the Year (2012), shared this astounding statistic at the Dreamforce ‘12 Financial Services Day opening keynote, hammering home the point that banks, insurance companies, and other financial firms have no choice but to adapt to new social and mobile technologies.
It’s not just that children and young adults are growing up with smartphones and tablets. As a matter of fact, the most quickly growing demographic on Facebook right now is the 55+ age group. Across the board, your customers and prospects will increasingly expect you and your representatives to serve their needs in real-time over their platforms of choice, like LinkedIn and Facebook.
But what will the compliance officers think?
If you get compliance and legal involved from the outset, it’s true that they will have many questions and concerns, but no hurdle will be too high, according to Dreamforce speakers Adrian Mariadas (VP of Global CRM at Barclays Corporate) and Andrew Bartels (Director of IT at PSA Insurance & Financial Services). Be as open as possible with attorneys and compliance officers about your goals and methods, and they will more often than not be on your side.
Bartels even told the audience about how he put a white paper together for his compliance team, addressing all their concerns and laying out all the procedures in one concise document. In the end, his compliance team gave their approval to Bartels’ social media project.
Compliance, legal, and social media can all indeed get along.
After all, there are solutions (like Hearsay Social) that offer robust social compliance capabilities for FINRA, IIROC, and SEC-regulated financial firms. (And if you’re a Salesforce.com customer, you’ll be pleased to hear that yesterday we announced Hearsay Social Cloud Compliance for Salesforce, letting organizations in regulated industries fully embrace the socially connected enterprise in the cloud.)
All told, things are looking very positive for the financial services industry on social media, as more and more of the most respected brands, like Allstate, Thrivent Financial, and Ziegler, lead the way in social media adoption for insurance agents, financial advisors, and wealth managers.
Have any questions about social media for financial services? Feel free to leave a comment!

[Ed. note: Hearsay Social will be sharing extra details and compliance expertise in a special Dreamforce session today, September 19. This session, “Compliance and Governance for the Social Enterprise,” will take place in the Ralston Ballroom at the Palace Hotel from 3 — 4 PM.]

Forget Facebook tabs: Why Timeline and News Feed are prime social real estate for your bank

Ed. note: The following post, penned by Hearsay Social Compliance Officer Ally Basak Russell, originally appeared in ABA Banking Journal.

Facebook’s recent conversion to the Timeline format for business pages should be changing the way your bank approaches social media overall.
It’s time to adjust your strategy by taking advantage of the new format, as your existing page or pages will be automatically transitioned to the new format very soon, if they haven’t been already.
With this stylistic shift, Facebook encourages companies to tell stories and engage in two-way conversation, rather than using Facebook as just another medium for one-way brand advertising.
To this end, content posted in the Timeline appears in two adjacent columns with the most recent posts at the top. Also, banks have not one but two images to convey their brand attributes–they can now add a large cover image to complement their existing profile photo. (You can view an interactive schematic of the Timeline feature here.)
Changes in the treatment of Facebook apps, and the stress that Timeline puts on content will drive some new thinking at your bank.
Facebook Banks Timeline

How apps’ status changes

But perhaps the biggest change is that Facebook apps, formerly called “tabs,” can no longer be set as default landing pages when customers and prospects visit the bank’s page. Directing customers to a social campaign tab before they’ve liked your bank’s page is a term known as “fan-gating,” and this will no longer be possible.
Now, only the bank’s timeline can be the default landing page.
Additionally, these apps no longer take up prime real estate on your bank’s Facebook page. At first displayed on your page as small buttons, the buttons must be clicked by a user before they are taken to the app’s full page.
So, if tabs were the Boardwalk of social real estate in the old format, their replacement apps have now been relegated to social media real estate more like Baltic Avenue, or when done right, Marvin Gardens.
To be fair, apps can still be effective for soliciting participation in campaigns–by clicking on something, entering information in a lead generation form, or looking up the nearest bank branch. Since apps often mimic other digital campaigns, your bank’s digital presence will be cohesive and interactive when you use apps.

Rethinking your social approach

Another thing to consider: recent studies by Facebook show that after the initial “like” or viewing of a business page, consumers are not likely to come back to your page, no matter how positive their first experience.
Ever.
Consumers are 40 to 120 times more likely to see your posts in their news feeds.
So why should banks even spend resources to maintain a dynamic social presence?
The answer is simple: Compelling content, as opposed to compelling design or digital campaigns, is more important than ever because now the Timeline is the bank’s prime social real estate.
Essentially, if your bank is like many large corporations whose agencies invested heavily in Facebook tabs, you may want to pivot your social strategy.
Engaging with consumers based on the quality and quantity of your social copywriting is a change for which bank marketers should be prepared. This can be at the corporate or local branch level, but content must be authentic and human.

Candidates for content

What can your bank talk about? There are plenty of wonderful seasonal stories, stories about corporate philanthropy, contests, and educational resources that can be shared on the corporate bank page. Posting photos of employees is another great way to humanize your bank. Also, be sure to fill in your bank’s Timeline with its date of incorporation and other important milestones, like the introduction of a new product, service, or logo, or expansion into new regions.
Sharing localized authentic content is even better. Hearsay Social research indicates a six times increase in engagement level as measured by likes, comments, and shares, when companies incorporate local news, events, and preferences into content. This may include info on a local football game, charity event, or promotions aimed at the city’s sports teams.
Educational content for customers and prospects is also a sure bet to draw engagement. Banks can post tips on how to save for college or retirement, build credit, or apply for a loan.
Inversely, stale or bland corporate content won’t show up in customers’ or prospects’ News Feeds at all. This is because Facebook employs an algorithm called EdgeRank. This algorithm takes into account views, click rates, likes, and reshares, in order to determine engagement and to prioritize what appears in users’ News Feeds.
In short, if you have lots of engagement your posts will show up in News Feeds. In regulated industries like banking, writing content that is both engaging, helpful, and compliant can be challenging. It takes collaboration between the marketing and compliance/legal teams.

Fresher than eggs…

And you need to keep the content timely. You can’t just post when the spirit moves you. Facebook agrees with this, and has implemented various new features that encourage fresh content.
Pinning a post keeps it at the top of your Timeline for exactly one week. Even if new posts are created they will appear below the pinned content. Posts you might want to pin include special promotions, such as a bank fundraiser, an open house for a new branch location with giveaways for opening a new checking account, or a financial advisor sharing his top 10 tips to prepare for retirement. Similarly, highlighting a post doubles its width across the page, making it much more visible as users scroll through the timeline.

A stark reality banks must face

Facebook’s nearly one billion users don’t come back every day to be sold products and services.
They come back to connect with family, friends, and, yes, brands.
The shift to content and away from tabs allows your bank to be more authentic and compelling than ever before–deepening your relationship with customers through two-way communication rather than just one-way advertising.
If you can engage customers in conversation, they will have a reason to keep your posts in their News Feeds. And that’s crucial for bank marketers.

Handling negative customer sentiment on your bank's social media pages


The below piece, penned by Hearsay Social Head of Compliance Ally Basak Russell, was originally posted on ABA Banking Journal. The article explores the nuanced and still developing world of social media for banks, particularly in regard to policy for deleting and responding to negative customer posts:

The rise of social media presents unprecedented opportunities for banks to generate mindshare, build brand loyalty, increase referrals, and ultimately sell more financial products to more customers. Last year, bank marketers scrambled to popularize Twitter hashtags that reference their brands; add social icons to their websites, brochures, and television commercials; and create lead generation tabs that lived within their Facebook pages. This year banks are creating compelling Facebook cover photos for their timelines, enabling their employees on LinkedIn, buying sidebar ads on Twitter, and optimizing their social pages for SEO.

Where social platforms and traditional customer service intersect

These tools and practices have undoubtedly set new standards for cross-channel marketing in financial services. But in my view, the power of good old-fashioned customer service remains one of the most underestimated and overlooked marketing initiatives in the banking sector. This is especially true for community, mid-sized, and regional banks, which may have limited budgets, staff, and design resources for social media and other forms of digital marketing.
Studies show that banks risk becoming irrelevant or even offensive without proper social media initiatives and staffing in place. In fact, “Predicts 2012: The Rising Force of Social Networking and Collaboration Services,” a recent Gartner study, predicts that “[b]y 2014, refusing to communicate with customers via social channels will be as harmful as ignoring emails or phone calls is today.”
By publicly servicing customers on corporate and local branch pages and Twitter feeds, banks can resolve support and service problems in a timely and efficient manner. Likewise, banks demonstrate integrity by owning up to problems and letting consumers watch them make amends.
When consumers see their peers’ issues being resolved, positive sentiment about the bank is reinforced. Customer servicing through social sites is especially powerful when positive experiences are shared, liked, commented on, or retweeted. As bank employees resolve concerns or support issues, they promote their corporate values and model their brand attributes through the tone and quality of responses.
The downside of social networks is that they also create very public forums for disgruntled customers, ex-employees, or others to criticize bank products, services, or corporate leadership. Without the right support and planning, social media sites can also cause banks to run into regulatory and legal problems, especially when employee discussions involve highly regulated financial products such as checking accounts, credit cards, and mortgages.
These risks present a bank’s social media marketing manager with a serious dilemma: To delete or not to delete posts on the bank’s social media pages. Here are some practical points on when to remove and when to respond to negative consumer posts.

Removing vs. Deleting Data

To be clear, there is a big difference between removing a post from your bank’s Facebook wall or Twitter feed and deleting social media data permanently.
After all, customer complaint reporting, FINRA Advertising and Communications with the Public, SEC Books & Records, and even Truth in Lending regulations require financial services organizations to keep records of social messaging. To meet these requirements, many banks use enterprise platform vendors to capture, archive, serialize, and retrieve complete records of social media data. (Hearsay Social is a vendor of such services.)

1. When to Delete

Some marketers would caution against deleting comments in any situation. One recent study by BNY Mellon Corporation and St. John’s University concluded that “large corporations do not generally approach negative comments as public relations opportunities, but prefer to censor or ignore critical feedback.”
However, the following situations call for removing posts from a risk management, compliance, legal, or public relations standpoint. Be sure to contact your compliance and/or legal team before deleting or responding to a consumer’s post on behalf of your bank–it is crucial that marketing staff and financial advisors alike are trained on the compliance and legal significance of social networking.
Profanity: If customers and prospects will likely be offended by viewing the post, this trumps any positive sentiment the consumer will feel toward the bank for addressing the criticism head on. Most banks choose to delete such posts and even use automated platforms to detect and automatically delete posts that contain profanities.
Discriminatory statements: Banks must also be on the lookout to delete comments that could violate anti-discrimination laws. Conversations about mortgage rates or loans could trigger fair-lending issues.
Misleading advertisements: If your bank has launched a “local” social initiative and has regional or office pages or accounts, your bank should also remove posts that could be considered misleading advertisements by regulators. For example, conversations around credit cards could violate fixed vs. variable APR guidelines. Without proper disclosures, employees could violate Truth in Lending (Reg Z) laws around interest rates or payments. Consider prohibiting the discussion of specific financial products in your bank’s social media policy.
Non-public (private) customer data: In some situations, customers will post their physical address, date of birth, social security number, phone number, or social security number on social sites. As with profanities, many banks delete such posts immediately. Maintaining customer privacy is not just a security or regulatory issue–it also makes good business sense. Private customer data on your pages are likely to attract fraud and/or spam.

2. When to respond

Thankfully, there are times when the bank and the customer can get some use out of social platforms. Care is still required.
Respectful customer complaints: When customers get answers to their questions quickly, they feel valued. Keep up the conversation until the issue gets resolved. Apologize for inconvenience. Remember that if you don’t answer customers’ questions or negative comments, someone else may. Address any negative conversations early so they do not spread. Banks can demonstrate customer appreciation by interacting with customers in their preferred mode of communication. This will be especially important as Generation Y becomes the banking industry’s core customer base. Consult legal, compliance, and risk management teams often.
Mentions of competitors: As in any industry, the social team at your bank is probably inclined to delete or ignore questions or comments about competitors’ products or services. Consider this carefully.
Consumers know that no bank will get only positive feedback on its pages. Deleting praise of, or comparisons to, competitors could actually hurt your brand by impeding perceived transparency. If no other response is appropriate, acknowledge the criticism politely and move on.

Make your approach systematic

Customer servicing on social sites is an economical, effective, and authentic way to increase customer satisfaction, brand awareness, and bank affinity without utilizing overt marketing techniques. Perhaps nowhere else are customer service, marketing, public relations, and legal/compliance so intertwined as on a bank’s Facebook or Twitter page.
Training your social media marketing team on the regulatory and legal risks of responding to and removing consumer posts is crucial to any successful social servicing strategy. By doing so, you can take advantage of the tremendous upside of social media—creating an authentic, transparent, and meaningful dialogue with your bank’s customers and prospects.