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Why social selling holds the key to winning consumer trust

May 23, 2019 / Marketing & Sales

Most people would sooner talk about politics, religion and romance than start a conversation on income levels or credit scores. Perhaps that even describes the person sitting in the cubicle next to you. Or you.

So how can your bank expect to stand out in a world where conversations about money remain so taboo? The answer is simple: Build trust.

When consumers choose banks or banking products, they most often go with the provider they trust the most. Building consumer trust when it comes to money, however, is no easy feat. Consumers need personal, human interaction they can relate to and rely on. Instead they suffer a deluge of stale, ineffective advertising through one-way channels. Banks blast messages via email campaigns and paid media, while customers engage with other brands through their phones.

It’s not that financial services organizations don’t try to reach customers. On the contrary, marketing spend by banks has increased steadily, especially as they push new digital products. As new innovations and boosted marketing strategies inundate the financial sphere, competition is heating up. But banks that want to rise above the noise must embrace a humanizing, authentic approach to customer connection. They can do this through social selling.

Why social selling tops other marketing methods

Traditional advertising fails because it can’t foster the customer connections social media can. Companies that invest in a social selling program—where employees share branded bank content on their personal social networks—see four to six times the ROI in earned media value within the first year.

Social selling humanizes brands, which, in turn, creates credibility. Consumers shopping for a bank want to make a personal connection that will help them feel secure enough to trust you with their financial assets. When their own peers tout a bank, it creates familiarity that traditional advertising can’t match. Case in point: Edelman reports that 62 percent of people are more likely to trust a brand’s social media content than its advertising, and when that content comes from an individual, twice as many consumers will feel comfortable enough to explore the brand’s page.

Overcoming the three challenges of social selling

The path to effective, social selling has its hurdles—but none are insurmountable. To maintain a personal connection with customers, you must learn how to manage these challenges. Done right, social selling can create brand trust. Here are three common social selling questions I hear from banks:

1. How do I quantify the value? 

Leaders often worry that social selling’s value will be impossible to quantify. If the ROI isn’t immediately visible, they reason, how can you track your strategy’s effectiveness? But think about what you won’t have to invest. Social media is actually more cost effective than traditional marketing methods. For every $28 companies spend to reach 1,000 people on TV, they have to spend only $2.50 to reach 1,000 people on social media.

Social media also allows you to clearly see the reach and engagement of your content. Cloud provider Rackspace, for example, attributes its $1 million worth of annual earned media value to its employee-led social media strategy, which in turn generated five times more content engagement.

2. How can I ensure adherence to compliance guidelines?

During the era of traditional marketing, time and simplicity were on your side. Social media brings new dimensions to compliance that can feel chaotic and even dangerous. (In 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority handed out $8.3 million in fines for 44 different electronic communication violations.) But the truth is that customers visit banks in person less and less. You must instead meet them where they are—and in theory, your social media content can reach anyone anywhere.

Still you can’t shrug off compliance, and social selling certainly requires a close eye on rules and regulations. You must also ensure that employees who speak for your brand on social media adhere to compliance guidelines. It’s a daunting task, to be sure. But you can diminish risk and alleviate individual pressure by leaving content creation to your marketing teammates. Let them own the process of creating compliance-friendly content for your entire team and you’ll save your employees loads of time and trouble.

3. As we scale up, how can I control the message?

The scale of social selling beats traditional methods because each connection you make has the potential to multiply. LinkedIn reports that employee networks are about 10 times larger than company networks. In other words, your employees have hundreds of connections and those connections have thousands more. As your reach grows, so does your audience responsibility.

The strategy behind social selling doesn’t just rely on employees to build trust with consumers: Your content must also provide value for readers. Don’t push products or services on customers through your content; instead, create trust through content that holds true value. Solve their problems, answer their questions and become a source of reliable information—sales will follow.

For banks to stay relevant, they must step into the social media spotlight. In today’s advertising landscape, consumers get bombarded with product and service offerings. As we know from our consumer lives, the glare is harsh.

When you harness the power of your employee networks to present your brand as more than just a financial institution, you become a trusted source of valuable, relevant and needed information: a standout source of inviting light.

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Doug Wilber is CEO of Gremlin Social, a social media communications company for financial service organizations.