Research shows senior executives also have to lead finance institutions on social media

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Most financial institutions in Australia use social media in some form to communicate with stakeholders and to drive customer engagement.

But new research from Hootsuite and Linkedin suggests that in order to maximise engagement, Australia’s finance industry should be making better use of its executive ranks to share their message.

The research, which sampled 851 institutions across the Australian financial services industry, found that fully “42% of the organisation’s social media performance can be attributed to the activity of executives”.

That is, the personal touch of an executive on social media is often more powerful than the brand itself utilising social media tools like LinkedIn or Twitter. Which means that for Australian financial services firms, a company, and it’s executives, it’s not a question of if they should be on social media but when.

Mark Dick, director, Sales Solutions, LinkedIn Australia said “whether in financial services or any other industry, customers, employees and shareholders are demanding an authentic voice from their business leaders”.

“In turn, the executive’s ability to influence their organisation’s brand through social engagement has never been greater.”

Of course this is a natural extension of the digital world customers now exist in.

That, according to the survey is because customers are increasingly looking online to engage with companies and “people want to talk to people, not brands, and starting the conversation should come from the top”.

The reason this is important, and can generate an attractive payoff for established Australian financial institutions, is the nature of the disruption that the industry is undergoing. These disruptors often have a transparency and efficiency that established institutions appear to lack.

Of course, established financial institutions don’t have to stay the current path.

“Banks have the technology and funding to build digital solutions, but they lack the openness and straightforward narrative of startups. Communicating through social media can help financial institutions drive customers to their platforms,” the research says.

Amy McIlwain, global industry principal, Financial Services, at Hootsuite said “we believe that digital is rapidly disrupting Australian banking and financial institutions”.

“With the explosive growth of social, executives in the Australian financial services industry are in a unique position to proactively lead from the front, engaging and empowering employees and sales teams on social.”

So it’s down to the executive suite to put the human face on financial service firms – something that is often difficult to realise.

So how does an executive at a bank, wealth manager, consumer lender or other financial institution in Australia engage with customers to support their company?

LinkedIn has identified “nine core activities that leading social executives are partaking in on a regular basis, above and beyond their peers”.

These activities, what LinkedIn calls the “social executive”, include connections, skill endorsements, publishing frequency, engagement with articles and content shared, as well as sharing frequently.

This works, Hootsuite and LinkedIn say, because “today’s online audience is immune to marketing jargon and the hard sell from financial institutions, however customers are happy to engage in conversations about products and services”.

“To build customer relationships that lead to conversions, financial institutions need to leverage social to engage with prospective clients, and social executives can lead the way.”

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital, with financial apps on any device and the barrier to a disruptor seemingly falling further, the survey suggests “digital will ultimately become the final platform for all banking service”.

Companies that can get to that ecosystem and have their executives engage in it “to build deep, long-lasting relationships with customers” will ultimately not only survive, but thrive.

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