Many of the rules of social media don't really apply to financial services.
For example, we're told that brands should publish unique or compelling content that will resonate with users and "go viral." But what if the content is a hilarious but slightly inappropriate video? Financial services firms need to stay away for a whole host of obvious reasons, not the least of which is the damage posting such video would do to your brand.
This same logic applies to the rules of social media etiquette, where the margin of error for financial services brands is equally thin. Just one funny or irreverent Facebook comment or Tweet can seriously backfire. Always err on the side of professionalism, demonstrating expertise, and building trust with prospects. If your social media comment does none of these things, delete it right away (and walk away from your desk, just to be safe.)
With that in mind, here are some media etiquette tips for financial brands.
1. Be transparent. Say explicitly how you help clients and make it easy for them to contact you. Similarly, if you're on Twitter, profile your financial analysts who also have business-related accounts. One can argue that in this digital age, we're losing a sense of mystery. But that logic shouldn't apply to social media for financial services.
2. Don't rock the boat. Here's where classic dinner party etiquette applies. No one wants to hear someone chattering endlessly about politics over Thanksgiving dinner and similarly, no one wants to hear a financial services firm pontificate on any topic that could be considered political or divisive.
3. Give and take. Similarly, an annoying dinner guest is annoying precisely because he doesn't make an effort to actually make conversation. More than anything, social media for financial services is about building connections and interactions with prospects and customers. Make sure to respond to comments, throw questions out to your network, and go the extra mile in addressing a concern.
4. Don't mix business and pleasure. Your brand's social media pages should be for business purposes only. Convey this directive to administrators lest they act on an impulse to post photos of them tailgating at the 49ers game.
5. Take a deep breath before responding to a negative comment. You'll naturally want to defend yourself and your brand, but financial services firms certainly can't come across as impetuous or over-eager. Take down the comment or wait a while for responding. (And click here if you need tips on how to respond.)
6. Edit and spell-check. Posting comments or blogs with typos or grammatical errors is bad for the brand.
7. Be judicious. People have a finite attention span so every post or comment should count. As we previously noted, don't waste viewers' time with irrelevant posts or anything that can reflect poorly on your brand.
8. Remember your audience. These tips don't mean to suggest that your social media must be drab and boring. The trick is to know who you're writing to — a college student with loans? An affluent, middle-aged investor? — and speak to them accordingly.
Now we'd like your thoughts. What's the most important element to effectively leverage social media for financial brands? Do you encourage your analysts to play an active role on social media? Do you provide them with formal guidelines and policies?