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Need to up the social game at your FI? Follow the campaign trail

Mar 13, 2020 / Marketing & Sales

While he was still a presidential candidate, Mike Bloomberg ran an ad campaign that, while it may not have been too well-received, can teach us something about what works on social media — and what doesn’t.

Bloomberg hired popular Instagram accounts to post memes about him with the intent of building a more relatable, self-aware persona, but the plan likely backfired when commenters criticized the campaign.

So what do viewers go for on social, and what does that mean for your bank? During the 2020 election season, other presidential campaigns appeared to show us that grassroots advocacy (rather than paid sponsorship) is the ticket. Although these campaigns spent more than $100 million on digital advertising this election cycle, their organic efforts are equally important and can provide much-needed lessons for bankers.

Since hitting a peak just after the 9/11 attacks, trust in the federal government has been in steep decline, so who better to build trust among constituents than constituents themselves? By empowering trusted supporters to advocate for them, candidates can spread their messages across the front lines. The truth is that many financial institutions could benefit from some trust-building work of their own; empowering advocacy on the front lines can bring measurable results for financial institutions, too.

Candidates empower advocacy by using the right tools to build connections with supporters — banks can do the same thing with their customers and employees. These tips from the campaign trail can help:

Communicate in a way that builds connections

Politicians must make sure they have recognizable branding and a clear message. They must also figure out how to speak their audience’s language to empower supporters to share and spread those messages. For example, instead of using paid memes, Elizabeth Warren’s campaign organically formed a “meme team“ made up of creative volunteers that used fun pictures, GIFs and videos to convey the candidate’s messages and build support for the campaign. This content also provided a way to combat trolls.

Memes served her campaign by co-opting the language of the internet and conveying authenticity — which is something financial institutions can do on social media as well. Bank marketers should also look for ways to adapt and join conversations that are relevant to customers. One way to do this might involve using social media to tell the personal triumphs of customers who used banking services to reach major milestones.

Empower advocacy from organic supporters.

Organic supporters are out there, and smart campaign teams train them to use social media in an advantageous way. For banks, the best place to start looking for those supporters is in their own offices. Employees are already using social media in their personal lives — and when they share a message, it can boost reach by more than 500 percent and garner eight times more engagement than if a brand shared the same message. Employees should be trained and empowered to use these channels to deliver messages that support the financial institutions they work at.

President Trump’s reelection campaign is doing something similar by teaching volunteers how to create action-based images and start community conversations with hashtags. Using this strategy, the campaign can ensure its messaging is both organic and controllable. Financial institutions can take a similar route by encouraging employees to share content about their banks on the channels they already use, such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Make it easy for your supporters to advocate for you

For banks, making it easier for employees to share content is also key. Bank employees and political advocates alike will shy away from posting something if it feels too difficult. That’s why Pete Buttigieg sought to make it easier for his supporters to post on-brand content. In fact, his full influencer handbook included colors, graphics, and photos relevant to his campaign. By making these assets easy to find and use, Buttigieg’s campaign sought to build an organic social media presence that is both visually appealing and cohesive.

Banks should take a page from Buttigieg’s handbook and create a how-to guide to help employees create social media content that feels both natural and professional. By reinforcing a bank’s visuals and messages, employees help build a trusted image of the brand in consumers’ eyes.

Campaigns often serve as social media innovators by leveraging the power of social media to help bridge trust gaps. Banks and other financial institutions can employ the same principles to build stronger connections with customers and other audiences.


Doug Wilber is the CEO of Gremlin Social, an integrated solution that combines social media marketing with ABA-endorsed compliance tools.