The financial services sector has an opportunity to develop offerings, seek new business opportunities and diversify its stakeholder relationships using social media. The latest Ofcom report on ‘Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes’ (2015) shows that internet use has never been higher, with nine in ten adults online (a 27% increase from 2005) and 90% using apps on their smartphone. Along with higher internet use is additional social media consumption; 72% of internet users have a social media profile (was only 22% in 2007). Most importantly, 68% of internet users have gone online to bank or pay bills.

Changing media use has had a direct impact on the financial services sector and how decision making is being influenced. Research carried out by Greenwich Associates in 2014 revealed that a third of asset owners made an investment decision or recommendation based on social media output; 85% of which relied on social content from LinkedIn. Whilst Facebook is not deemed as a ‘professional’ network, the research revealed 78% of institutional investors in Asia Pacific said Facebook was used at least once a month to source financial information.

In my role at Lansons I’ve undertaken small-scale research that revealed since The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in 2012, the reputation of the financial services sector still requires urgent medical help. Of the 60,000+ conversations about banking culture on Twitter this year, many make scathing references to “Eton Old Boys” and unjust bonuses. With the election of a new government come further conversations about the financial services sectors’ behaviour. Just how do you weigh up regulatory changes against the sector’s 9.4 percent contribution towards GDP?

This figure includes fintech start-ups, insurance companies, and brokers. All face the similar challenge of doing business in a world where traditional media ‘touch points’ are seeing competition from digital alternatives. Conversations are taking place online; are you listening and making use of opportunities? Communication programmes must offer an integrated approach and the financial services sector has developed to cater.

After public consultation, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published its finalised guidance to ‘Social Media and Customer Communications’ (March 2014). Covering how financial promotions on social media should be conducted in a transparent and honest manner; tactically making use of the social features available. The Financial Services Forum recently ran a session on the “challenges of content marketing in B2B banking”; exploring how traditional networking can be used effectively in the digital space. Even at our offices in Farringdon, we can feel the innovation from fintech companies and projects being emitted from London’s Silicon Roundabout.

It’s the end of ‘business as usual’. Maintaining or growing market share is going to rely on the provision of competitive products, and the implementation of a slick social media programme that targets the right people, at the right time. It’s necessary for public relations consultants to be social anthropologists, supported by tools that can make sense of online data, and use innovative strategies to be heard above the competition.

Social innovation for your organisation could be:

  • Monitoring international reputation by conversations on social media or how articles are being edited by the community on Wikipedia;
  • Social media community management of Twitter profiles;
  • Advocacy programmes on forums;
  • Producing a podcast

Social innovation is making sure that the Google search results about your company are a true reflection of the work you do. The financial services sector has an opportunity to reinvent itself and invest in its future. It’s up for the industry to decide what the future of financial services looks like.

This article was originally published for Lansons’ Future of Financial Services event 2015. Register your interest for 2016 here.

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