Red tape's no match for the best social strategies. (Flickr photo credit: ebergcanada)

I know that financial services isn’t the first industry that comes to mind when I say, “the bleeding edge of social media.” It seems that some firms are perfectly happy focusing on traditional marketing, without much innovation in social, and it’s easy to understand why, given the regulations and red tape that they must constantly navigate to remain successful.  But here’s what you might not know. There are, in fact, innovators in the FinServ-social space, and their campaigns are every bit as fresh and engaging as those we see in young verticals like SaaS.  Let’s look at four of them.

1. Deutsche Bank

This 140-year-old global institution needed to find a way to facilitate social-professional collaboration between its 80,000 employees. The road to vendor selection and adoption was led by John Stepper, who finally found a strategy to meet the dual challenges of adoption and risk/compliance team approval. From an article in FierceFinanceIT:

John Stepper

So how does one overcome the regulatory hurdle and make social tools useful? Start small, both in scope and in message. By focusing on low-risk internal functions, Stepper identified a subset of the DB workforce whose collaboration activity would get past the compliance team’s filter. Then, to encourage quick adoption, he employed a microblogging platform that would be “lightweight and easy” for teams to start using.

The results so far? Nearly 40% of Deutsche Bank’s employees are now using a Twitter-like solution to work together in real time. As its value is recognized in other parts of the organization, that number will continue to grow.

2. Deloitte Financial

So much of a company’s success with social media can be predicted by their attitude toward its potential. Deloitte, according to a piece on Law.com, sees social as an opportunity to “attract attention, business, and new hires.” The company is demonstrating their expertise with podcasts, hosting interesting debates, and analyzing industry trends in the space.  But particular focus has been placed on Deloitte’s innovation in social recruiting.  As a student at Kellogg School of Management describes it:

The @lifeatdeloitte Twitter account, which is used by a different Deloitte professional every week, is a particularly novel approach.  Not only does rotating the user keep the feed interesting, it also capitalizes on the intrinsic value that people attach to personal viewpoints, which have made Yelp so popular, by allowing people within the company to describe their experience. (…)

I’m hopeful that as the firms begin to accept the value in social media, more people at all levels of the firms will be encouraged to use these channels in order to communicate their experiences, which in turn will build up the brand.  Instead of hearing about a firm’s new white paper on “How Green Energy Is Driving Innovation,” I’d rather hear first-hand accounts from the consultants that are experiencing this everyday.

A tweet from @lifeatdeloitte

3. TD Ameritrade

In their “Invested Life” web series, TD Ameritrade documents the lives of a diverse array of real investors as they consult with independent financial advisers. Two things about this project stand out as particularly innovative. First, the fact that the series is featured on a 3rd party website, MSN.com, is a smart play. This exposes consumers that may not be familiar with the company’s offerings to their subject matter expertise—in other words, TD Ameritrade is engaging consumers where they choose to spend their time, instead of waiting for them to visit the TD Ameritrade website. Second, as this NYT piece points out, the company goes to great lengths to make sure the advice handed out is objective:

According to Mr. Sidebottom, the cast members of the Web series were not required to be TD Ameritrade clients. (…) Ms. Sherwood said she was unaware during production of “The Invested Life” that TD Ameritrade was the sponsor.

Each “opinion seeker” has their own profile on the site, a special twitter handle and a personal blog where they write about the experiences they have in the world of investing. Needless to say, we’re not talking about a series of thinly-veiled infomercials for TD Ameritrade products and services. We’re looking at a series filled with substantive advice and unscripted interactions. This is radically different from the stereotype of the stuffy, old-fashioned FinServ corporation.

4. USAA

We’re far from the only ones recognizing USAA (a Bazaarvoice client) as a social media innovator. Forrester devoted a case study to their leadership in social, and they are one of the top ten most-followed financial institutions on Twitter, while also leading the pack among insurance firms. Instead of hopping on the social bandwagon for competitive reasons, USAA became the leader in social because they were consistently “discovering latent, hidden demand among customers and capturing it.” In an excerpt from an interview with our own Meghan Meehan, Tom Vaughn, Director of Social Media at USAA, expands on their winning strategy:

112,286 Likes on FB!

Social media and community initiatives are critical for USAA’s continued success. We have been a word-of-mouth company since our inception in 1922, with much of our growth coming as a result of members sharing their experiences with friends and family. Now, social media is transforming our relationships with members. Social tools allow us to better understand member needs so that we can stay engaged with our members. This ultimately results in strengthened relationships between each member and USAA. As we improve upon these relationships, members will tell even more of their friends and family about how much they trust USAA – continuing our history of growth via word-of-mouth.

Big strides in a controlled space

This list is by no means exhaustive. We’re seeing impressive social initiatives by Intuit, State Farm, Ally Bank and a host of others. The best financial services companies are listening, responding and providing value like never before. By recognizing them, we hope to encourage others to join the conversation.

Interested in how Bazaarvoice has helped financial services clients like USAA? Learn more about how we can help you build trust through the voice of the customer or request a demo.

6 Responses to “4 financial services companies that don’t suck with social media”

  1. title aside — the financial services industry has been slow to adopt social media for a variety of issues (compliance being a huge impediment). Thought this was a good case study of some that are pushing the envelope,

  2. Noted. Not sure the message would have traveled as far, to the same effect (I’ve had some of the companies mentioned thank me for writing the post), if I had toned it down. But you’ve given me something to think about, for sure, and I thank you for that.

  3. Noted. Not sure the message would have traveled as far, to the same effect (I’ve had some of the companies mentioned thank me for writing the post), if I had toned it down. But you’ve given me something to think about, for sure, and I thank you for that.

  4. Jpinkert

    Thanks for your honest response, but it raises a new issue insofar as your reasoning seems at variance with the “listening” message that Bazaarvoice usually advocates. Rather than taking your cues from executive book titles and headlines, you’d be better served making time to understand the communication styles and sensibilities of business segments you’re trying to engage.

    In their blogs and in online forums, professionals like financial advisors, lawyers and physicians typically don’t toss around snarky tropes, nor respond favorably to consultants and vendors who do. While “doesn’t suck” is a commonly used term of art in tech, marketing and social commerce circles meant as a mild compliment, you cannot assume that professional services organizations and practitioners will interpret it in the same way.

    If you’re genuinely interested in engaging with professional services audiences as potential customers, I encourage you to consider tone and style as well as content.

  5. While I understand your concern, the title wasn’t meant to be condescending. I actually based it on the working title of CEO Brett Hurt’s upcoming book, “How to Make Your Company Suck Less,” as well as a blog post by Sam Decker of the same name (link: http://bit.ly/ceAACR). Thank you for being honest with us; we certainly appreciate the feedback.

  6. Jpinkert

    Do you really think that headline reflects well on Bazaarvoice? Is condescension a winning new businesss strategy?

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