Make social more than a marketing department to reap the benefits

By Rob Coyne

Rob Coyne, GM, EMEA at Hootsuite, discusses the benefits of making social more than just a marketing department.

100% of Fortune 500 organisations maintained a social presence through 2018. For financial services social can bring an organisation closer to its customers, give brand advocates a powerful voice and create a two way dialogue which can increase loyalty. The bottom line is social is no longer a “nice to have”, but a must have.

However, many financial services businesses are not using social channels to their full advantage as they are failing to innovate. For these organisations to really benefit from social they must make sure their strategies are proactive and adaptable to changing customer needs. This will help them show ROI to the wider organisation, which is critical. The focus should be on demonstrating that social has clear returns; this way the board will have no choice but to continue to invest. This approach will take social beyond the marketing department and make it a key driver for success across every aspect of the business. 

Using social data and technology  

To develop a mature social strategy, where an entire organisation can benefit, social has to be integrated across the entire customer journey. Start by using social data to create a holistic view of the customer. This will support all departments in understanding customers’ individual needs and enable them to tailor services and communications accordingly. To create this view, social data must be integrated with existing analytics platforms such as Adobe Analytics, CRM systems such as Salesforce, and customer experience platforms such as Adobe Experience Manager. Joining these sources of data together to create wider insights will allow financial businesses to better adapt to the ever changing needs of the customer.

This can’t be achieved by an organisation using legacy technology which silos social data. Within the financial services industry, only 7% of financial organisations report having a highly integrated technology stack. This means many businesses are using fragmented technologies that sit on top of each other, rather than working together. As a result, it makes it almost impossible to bring data together to get a full view of customers and prospects. This is a hugely important hurdle to overcome. Organisations must invest in technology that reduces data clutter, and allows departments to work together to deliver personalised content and tailored customer journeys.

Relatable social content  

Once an organisation knows its customers better, it must provide them with the best possible content, but this can’t come at the expense of the basics. Financial services businesses need to combine tried and tested processes for responding to customer enquiries by posting timely, relevant and engaging content. 


Organisations have to take a more human approach so they don’t come across as a detached corporate voice ‘shouting’ at their audiences. Thankfully, social provides financial organisations with the opportunity to create real human connections at scale. A good way to do this is through employee advocacy programs, allowing staff to tell their personal stories to highlight the organisation’s USPs. Facebook has noted the demand for this approach and has updated its algorithm to prioritise content from family, friends and real people over that of businesses and brands. A company taking this forward thinking approach is MAPFRE, a Spanish insurance company, who have rolled out an employee advocacy program powered by Hootsuite Amplify, equipping employees to share approved brand content with friends and colleagues via their personal social media accounts. The program is helping employees build their personal brand with thought leadership and branded content, while at the same time increasing the company’s reach and engagement on social media in an authentic way. The sharing of new openings, investment in innovation and feel good stories from across the company on employees own networks allows the company to get their stories out in a way that is organic and relatable. Organisations not looking to capitalise on this trend are missing a trick. 

It is also important to note that creating relevant and relatable content will be a step change for some organisations. This is why experimentation is critical. While you can’t always get it spot on, you do need an open mind. Trying new things, exploring new trends and then measuring the approach should become more widely adopted. 

Wells Fargo is a great example of a brand that has got experimentation right when it comes to social. The brand has created a varied blend of content and has ventured beyond the traditional topics expected from a bank. The range of issues highlighted on its posts interests not only Millennials, but even academic audiences. They have also heavily invested in emerging platforms, ones often not used by traditional players. For example, they use Instagram to show the human side of their organisation through nostalgic photos. Not a typical social strategy for a financial institution.

Video content is another key area for business brands to focus experimentation. Data from LinkedIn shows that videos are five times more likely to start a conversation on LinkedIn than any other content format. This is backed up by recent Hootsuite data that suggested short-form social videos (less than two minutes) were the highest performing content in 2018. Social advertising is another opportunity for innovation. Instagram has grown to 15 percent of Facebook spend, with 25 percent of Instagram advertising shifting to Stories. This means that companies need to think holistically about how they put their message out there and whether it could be done in a less traditional, but more engaging way. 

Social helps meet business objectives 

As with all new ways of working, if an organisation is to truly embrace social, change needs to be supported from the top. In order for marketing teams to prove the value of social to the decision makers in the business, they need to speak their language. While marketing understands the potential of social media to increase revenue, lower costs and protect the health of the brand, executives need to connect it to concrete business outcomes. To achieve this, the marketing team should mirror the strategies and metrics of high-performing revenue channels, such as email, paid media and website optimisation. By reporting in a language executives are accustomed to, the marketing team stands a much better chance of convincing executives that social is helping to achieve business goals.

The power of social

Social can no longer be viewed as an add-on or afterthought in financial services organisations. These businesses have the opportunity to develop digital ecosystems which not only meet but exceed customer expectations. However, to do so they need to take a holistic approach to social by  integrating existing platforms like their CRM, using employee advocacy programmes and experimenting with more engaging content. Winning over the hearts and minds of customers calls for a human approach, and this will only be made easier with the data and insights from an organisation where social isn’t confined to the marketing team. 

For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.

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