Last week I had the pleasure of debating the role of social media in banking and finance with Nick Jones (Head of Digital Communications at Visa Europe) and Keith Lewis (Social Media Manager at Zurich) in the latest CIPR C-Suite podcast. Podcast host Russell Goldsmith has blogged about it here, and you can listen to the podcast on iTunes.
Social has transformed the way businesses engage with their customers and potential customers, and that’s as true in financial services as any other industry. Despite the three of us coming from quite different parts of financial services, we all felt that this is an exciting time for social in the sector.
Digital is now the primary way most of us access our banking services – I haven’t been in a branch or even phoned my bank in years – and social is a central part of that experience. So what lies ahead for social in the financial services sector? Let me jump on that year-end bandwagon and predict some trends for 2016…
Consolidating rather than innovating on platforms
As Nick commented on our podcast, when we were first getting into social four or five years ago, new channels would come along and everyone was happy to experiment for a month or two before disposing of it. Platforms would rise within weeks – and fall away even more quickly (who remembers Ello now?).
Social has grown up, and as it gains the attention of the c-suite there’s more demand to focus attention – and spend – on platforms that already have established audiences, ensuring these deliver tangible returns. Tolerance for experimentation will fall.
Fighting for attention on Facebook
Facebook recently rolled out its Instant Articles feature – which means users are served a version of content from Facebook’s servers, rather than directed to publishers’ own sites. Early indications show this could be a huge change to the way the internet giant directs traffic to websites outside of its own ‘walled garden’.
Commentators are widely predicting that Facebook’s algorithms will prioritise Instant Articles over links to websites. And while it’s traditional media publishers who are being courted to publish direct to Facebook now, brand publishers are the next logical extension. Expect to have to pay Facebook to get eyeballs on your blog content before long.
Banks finally embrace Instagram
2014-15 saw many brands dive into Instagram, but financial services firms have been slow to follow suit. Financial products are necessarily complicated – as are the regulatory demands to explain these in detail, which has led the sector to focus on long-form content.
But people find finances complicated – scary, even – and snackable content provides a means by which we can demystify what we do. A few are starting to dip their toes in the water, most notably Capital One and American Express. In the coming year more banks, insurers and payment providers will switch to visual formats in order to make their products simpler and more appealing, particularly for millennials – learning from media and other industries how to boil down messaging for the format.
Making conversation to conversion seamless
The growth in mobile wallets means that in a couple of years payment has gone from being the most annoying part of any e-commerce experience, to being simple.
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have introduced buy buttons, making social and mobile commerce integrated. App developers have monetisation front of mind, so that conversation leads seamlessly to conversion. FinServs are likely to get in on the game this year, using social to collect leads directly from apps.
Mobile wallets get social
Taking that one step further, mobile wallets are becoming even more integrated into IM 3.0 apps. This innovation has been driven from the East, with Chinese banks offering payment services within WeChat as long ago as 2013.
WeChat has continued to build more financial products into its offering, from merchant payments (a bit like Shopify) to a nascent Private Bank called WeBank.
This trend continues to spread across emerging markets – where people are less likely to have traditional bank accounts – with WeChat-powered payments breaking through in Africa.
This innovation could spread to mature (Western) markets in 2016, as tech firms become bigger players in the finance space. Millennials, in particular, don’t just expect to talk to their bank on social – but expect to be able to transact there too.
Keeping it real(time)
While the integration of transactional and lead generation features into a wide range of social platforms could allow financial firms to generate tangible income from social, at the same time it places greater demands on those managing social channels. Customers expect 24/7 presence for customer services, and the growth of channels like Periscope require community managers to be more responsive to spot and respond to issues.
2016 looks set to be a demanding year for social media managers in finance, with increased demands from both consumers – to respond and provide better and more integrated services – and from those in the boardroom to show value. But if we rise to the challenge, the year ahead could be when social grows up and becomes a transformational force in finance.
What do you think of my predictions? What do you think we’ll see in 2016? Let me know in the comments below.