Fears of Social Media in Regulated Industries
HootSuite is pleased to feature a guest post from HootSuite Pro Solution Partner, Steve Groller of DaBrian Marketing Group, LLC. Steve specializes in Search Engine Optimization and Web Analytics in the Pennsylvania area with clients in regulated industries.
For many regulated industries, from pharmaceuticals to financial services, the concept of social media marketing has yet to fully take hold. This slow adoption of social campaigns, despite their proven track record of greater visibility and reduced costs, primarily stems from one thing—fear. For businesses governed and regulated by larger bodies, social media is often a strange frontier laden with uncensored, slanderous commentary, nightmarish marketing loopholes, and legal nightmares waiting to happen. Because of these perceptions, many companies opt to play it safe by allocating their marketing efforts elsewhere. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little research and adequate planning, even the most regulated industry can benefit from going social.
Facing the Fear
Numerous studies show that consumers tend to seek out recommendations and suggestions from their friends and family before making a purchase decision. One study conducted by Bazaarvoice in 2011 found that 25-30% of consumers would never choose an insurance, healthcare provider, or financial institution without reading at least one piece of user-generated content. Social media plays an increasing role in this trend, with direct correlations to more brand awareness and visibility in target markets. Another study from Adology conducted in 2011 showed that social media is often a key part of the brand discovery process. Their results showed that social media sites account for nearly 36% of the actions taken after the average consumer sees a financial services brand or product in another medium. But sadly, for the industries facing regulatory strictures, integrating social media into a marketing mix brings the following perceived risks:
- Malicious statements from dissatisfied customers
- Inability to monitor the social activities of employees
- Constantly changing regulations by governing organizations
While these fears aren’t entirely unfounded, they are often rooted in inaccurate preconceived notions, both about social media’s capabilities and the tools at businesses’ disposal to monitor social interactions and customer feedback.
Overcoming the Fear
The first step toward breaking into the social world is education. Recently, a regional financial services client of ours was debating whether to pursue a social media marketing campaign. Their upper management was very unfamiliar with the purpose and value of social media from a marketing perspective. Our task was to create an educational presentation and make recommendations that would show both the benefits of social media and how such a campaign can be implemented safely. Our agency took the following steps to educate this client and work to overcome their fear:
Scope the competition
Researching competitors within a particular industry and understanding how they’ve utilized social media to their advantage is a great step toward crafting a social media marketing strategy. Doing this provided significant insight and allowed us to demonstrate the benefits of social media to our client’s senior management.
Develop a “customer-centric” policy
Outlining a clear policy pertaining to social media is paramount for regulated businesses. Addressing big concerns in the beginning is much better than having a legal mess later on. Our client had a policy in place but it lacked some essential guidelines, particularly around engaging with customers. Further, this policy was only used for internal purposes. While that may have suited their needs in the past, our agency felt that a more open, customer-centered approach to social media would be more beneficial for their marketing objectives.
Our recommendations included creating dedicated web pages that could point customers to the client’s various social media accounts, such as exactly where to go to voice customer service issues, as well as a “Frequently Asked Questions” section for any customers who are less-familiar with a certain platform. These sections of the client’s website served two main purposes: to reinforce trustworthiness with customers and allow the new policies to be changed should new regulatory policies surface. Our guidelines’ overall goal was to minimize any perceived risks as well as protect the client and their customers.
Once you get client buy-in, a business can utilize HootSuite’s social media management system to create posts, manage communications and customer feedback, measure engagement, reach, and respective acquisition / conversion data with its built-in analytics features. HootSuite ensures that a business’s social assets are well-protected with advanced security features, such as SSL encryption built in to its platform. In addition, limited permissions for social networking accounts can be designated so no unapproved posts or communications are sent out (an HootSuite Enterprise feature). Also, with HootSuite’s bulk scheduling feature, businesses can compile batches of pre-approved social media messages into one .csv file and upload them at once for scheduled delivery. The best part about HootSuite? New features are constantly being developed based on customer feedback for increased functionality and security.
In all, social media’s influence on consumers and its benefits for a business are undeniable. Regulated or not, in order for a business to retain existing customers, acquire new ones, and reinforce its brand and industry leadership, it must be involved in social. They certainly can’t let fear get in the way of that potential for growth and success.
Want to learn more about social media engagement for regulated industries? Our free HootGuide ‘Social Media Compliance’ is designed to help your financial institution employ best practices for social engagement while maintaining high standards on compliance and security.
Download the free HootGuide: Social Media Compliance.
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