Three ways to connect with banking customers using social media during COVID-19
Dr. Karen Sutherland is a Social Media Educator, Researcher, Speaker and Coach from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Her forthcoming text, ‘Strategic Social Media Management: Theory and Practice’ will be released internationally by Palgrave Macmillan in September 2020. Below, she outlines how banks can connect with their customers during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has left many in the banking and finance sector feeling perturbed. During the lockdown period, branches were closed and retail and business banking customers experienced considerable losses in revenue as their bricks-and-mortar stores were also shut down in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
Many businesses were required to pivot and adapt quickly to the changing environment to provide ways for their customers to continue to engage with their products and services from home. These solutions largely involved offering online shopping, reworking products and services for home consumption and of course, home delivery. However, throughout this intense period of adaption and innovation experts kept urging business owners about the importance of social media marketing during COVID-19. Yet, how banks can use social media to maintain and strengthen customer relationships during this pandemic requires discussion. Here are three suggestions that may assist:
1. Provide Helpful Content
Research your audience’s needs and provide information that will help them through this time. Do not try to sell them your products and services. Instead, stay on top of the developments for businesses in your country such as the announcement of relevant Government grants or changes to social distancing requirements and become a valued and credible source of information that can assist them. Write useful blogs that provide relevant examples and actionable advice that can be applied to your customers’ business and share the posts through your social channels. Here’s an example from Westpac Bank in Australia who wrote helpful content to support their customers throughout COVID-19. Encourage discussion on posts and be ready to respond in a timely way to keep that two-way communication flowing. Of course, you cannot provide customized advice or sensitive information, but you can point customers to more specific information and services that can assist them.
2. Embrace Video to Continue Face-to-Face Communication
Face-to-face is often touted as the most effective form of communication because it allows participants to hear tone of voice while picking up on non-verbal cues. Clearly social distancing has made meeting in person problematic, but this does not mean that face-to-face communication cannot continue. Banks are encouraged to embrace video to maintain at least some form of face-to-face communication with their customers until social distancing measures are lifted. Video can be used effectively in a range of different ways, including:
· Video Consultations: Using tools such as Zoom to continue face-to-face meetings and consultations can really help to build and maintain customer relationships.
· Live Video Q&As: Have business bankers available for 20 minutes every day (or week) to provide general advice to people watching who post questions during the broadcast. The beauty of this format is that live videos on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter stay on your business page as a resource for followers to watch later if they missed it live.
· Video Tutorials: How To videos demonstrating how customers can perform specific relevant tasks throughout COVID-19 can also really help them while increasing positive associations with your organisation. The Commonwealth Bank created a range of helpful YouTube videos to guide their customers through online banking.
· Group Video Events: Facebook now has Room functionality within Facebook Groups, which can be created around a specific topic and allows up to 50 people to video chat at the same time. Banks could facilitate networking events with other business owners or a group discussion to help foster a sense of community around their brand. Instagram also now has Room functionality and LinkedIn has recently launched LinkedIn Events.
3. Don’t Tell Customers ‘We’re All in this Together’. Show them.
Once COVID-19 hit, our inboxes and social media newsfeeds were clogged with businesses assuring us that ‘we’re all in this together’. It became such trend that a compilation video was made to prove how most corporate COVID-19 ads were the same. Avoid this repetitive rhetoric. Actions speak louder than words. Customers do not want you tell them that you’re there for them, they want you to show them. Banks can do this on social media by:
· Being timely and sensitive in responses to comments, questions and messages. Forget the canned, corporate responses. Instead, write compassionate and considered responses customised to each customer’s question. Remember, social media is a long-term relationship management tool and people prefer connecting with real people.
· Facilitating an online community to help address a need. Be the conduit for business owners to collaborate and share experiences and advice to help each other through our current situation. Invite customers to join a Facebook or LinkedIn group set up via your business or company page to provide a helpful space for business owners to connect and provide support to each other.
· Providing great content. As mentioned in the first point, understanding your customers current challenges and providing problem solving social media content will help to strengthen your relationship, build your credibility and above all increase their trust in your organisation. Without trust, there isn’t any relationship.
Using social media to connect with banking customers does not have to be a confusing endeavor. To do so successfully requires a deep understanding of your customers’ needs, the motivation to help them using problem solving content, keeping up face-to-face interactions using video and actively providing support rather than making promises to do so in an email or advertisement. The best way to use social media to build relationships, particularly now, is to stop selling and start helping.