“I’m a financial solutions provider. Not Shah Rukh Khan or Virat Kohli,” says Rajat Mehta, president and country head -brand, digital & retail marketing, Yes Bank. It’s a fact that all brands on social media must never forget. Khan or Kohli post a picture of their morning stubble and they get engagement rates that put Venezuela’s inflation to shame. Mundanity and cute kittens, however, don’t produce the same result for a bank or insurer, naturally. That is why ‘Content is King’, a term bandied about indiscriminately, has never been more vital.
Banks were early adopters of social media for marketing. They took to it like a hipster to craft beer; Twitter is an effective service channel to monitor and address customer issues. Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are more effective for affinity based targeting and brand building. Instagram gives financial institutions the opportunity to have softer communication. And now, with encryption issues sorted, instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are the new frontier. Goldman Sachs is even using Snapchat to hire younger millennial recruits.
Lakshmi Goyal, head, brand and marketing, Standard Chartered, says, in the early days social media was used just for information dissemination, today, “it’s an engagement and business acquisition tool.” Banks are thinking outside the vault. In 2016, StanChart gave the world the first marathon that was run on-ground, on digital and in virtual. #RunForAReason trended for 21 hours on Twitter. For insurers like Aegon Life social is a way to demystify daunting subjects in a way that won’t make you cry. Aegon regularly ropes in comedians and influencers like Atul Khatri and Vir Das for digital-first campaigns like #NothingWillHappen. Why? “Because they talk in a way that’s relatable and relevant to our target audience,” says Shamik Banerjee, chief marketing officer, Aegon Life Insurance. It’s been over five years since banks got serious about social media.
Now we wonder how the Great Social Experiment has worked out for them and their “relationship” with customers. So BE checks in with two banks, one that’s been around since 1994 and the other was born in the digital age, to see how healthy their social credit history is.
“We were born the same year as Facebook,” says YES Bank’s Rajat Mehta, “Today we have 860 branches. But in the early days we had to leapfrog our geographical limitations. Social media was a natural fit.” The fact is, says Mehta, customers are trying to connect with brands more than ever before.
The bank has ten times more social media interactions over last year. Be it neutral (80% interactions are of the ‘Hey @YESBANK, just saw your branch on my road!” variety), positive (“Great service.”) or negative (“@YESBANK, DIE!”, for representational purposes only); “It’s very important to acknowledge and engage with speed, empathy and authenticity.” Respond carelessly or droid-like and your fan count will drop faster than a Soyuz re-entry capsule. Two years ago, the bank took a content-centric approach and now the drops are “minuscule”.
It’s also generating content for social platforms offline. Yes Bank branches double-up as community hubs for events around social and environmental themes like rain water harvesting, teaching kids how to recycle and senior citizens how to use Facebook. Thus creating shareable content opportunities and taking the discussion online. Two hours after a user posted a picture of an over-flowing garbage dump outside a branch, Yes Bank had a response – a cleaned up bin. In return it got a thumbs up from customers.
The brand turned a potential crisis into an opportunity to generate goodwill, which, let’s face it, is often as good as it gets. Built-in real intelligence, brand mentions flagged in real-time and interactions with the right people all go a long way to drive up engagement rates. For instance, says Mehta, “Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl tweeted about us. It was important for us to pick that up and respond with as much wit and humility.” Yes Bank is the highest followed bank brand (900k) and the fastest growing bank brand in the world on Twitter. (Source: The Financial Brand, as on March 29, 2016 )
Last year, ICICI Bank’s ‘Gift A Livelihood’ social media initiative, a campaign to get more deserving candidates for the ICICI Academy (which trains and helps underprivileged youth) got 20,000 referrals in 6 to 8 weeks and reached over 20 million people. The most effective initiates on social platforms are participative in nature.
Campaigns like ‘Day in a life with Pockets’ where bloggers were invited to use, for a day, ICICI’s social banking Facebook app only and share their stories. It generated 9.6 lakh impressions. Sujit Ganguli, head – brand, ICICI Bank, says banks fall into two traps on social media: 1) Talk technical, have a conversation but no connection 2) Don’t talk business, instead “have beautiful conversations” about what you did over the weekend. “How does that help my brand or add value to my audience’s life?” asks Ganguli. ICICI decided to always talk about what they do best – money and how to live with it when it’s abundant or scarce.
Activities including contests like #KnowYourBudget and #KnowYourTax are prime examples of keeping core competencies at the center while having simplified conversations about finances. Besides using social media as a service and marketing channel, it has also become, says Ganguli, a significant avenue to generate new business which has,for ICICI, become a sizable activity.
The cardinal rules
Even the Iron Bank of Braavos must follow the laws of social media marketing. Here are the Cardinal Rules based on insights from Tripti Lochan, CEO, VML South Asia, a full-service global digital marketing and advertising agency, which created ICICI’s Pockets.
Rule 1: Stop thinking “I want to have a relationship with my customers”. Because customers aren’t rushing to change their status updates to ‘In Relationship’ with my bank! Financial intuitions must stop labouring under the misconception that social will change what users basically feel about a bank.
Rule 2: Social is a great tool for customer service. Tie up social channels to call centres and the last mile to quickly get to solutions before problems become nightmares. Only then are you valuable.
Rule 3: Treat social media platforms as important acquisition channels for new product launches. Recently, for a Singaporean bank’s new product launch, social media gave the secondlowest CPA over all channels including call centres.
Rule 4: Don’t be Hrundi Bakshi (the bumbling buffoon played by Peter Sellers in ‘The Party’). Think of the brand as a stranger at a party. You don’t just infiltrate a group conversation and start talking about yourself. One must have a point of view, leverage the interests of the group. Proactively get insights through listening and social analytics. Listen first, find relevant conversations and put your brand in the middle of it.
Rule 5: Use the power of affinity targeting. Show your content and promotion where appropriate. If a product or offer is relevant to a customer’s status change then she’ll listen instead of treating the message like it’s the Bubonic Plague.