Dr Ray Welling: Honest Lessons in Social Media

University of Sydney lecturer, former journalist and content marketer Dr Ray Welling not only teaches the next generation of content marketers, he has co-written a book about digital disruption along with papers on social media influencers. Susan Burchill from The Dubs asks how the financial services industry could improve their social media marketing.

What do you think is holding the financial industry back from doing great social media marketing?

It’s this whole concept of risk management. I’ve worked in financial services and in the pharmaceutical industry which is also highly regulated.

Even producing highly-edited and reviewed press releases, reports and webpages is a long and painful process. So the idea of responding quickly and conversationally on Facebook is a completely foreign concept to many financial services organisations. That’s one reason why financial services industry organisations are not making the strides in social media marketing that other organisations are.

How can a financial brand harness the power of social media while at the same time balancing risk?

Content marketing! You can reduce your reliance on needing to be immediately responsive by creating a lot of useful evergreen content. If you’re trying to address a customer pain point rather than focusing on me-me-me, if you aim at being useful, then your material can more quickly get through the compliance process.

If your content is a sales pitch though, customers see through that. Your customers don’t care about your product like you do. What you have to care about is solving your customers’ problems; and if you get that right you’ll be successful.

You can reduce your reliance on needing to be immediately responsive by creating a lot of useful evergreen content.

Is employee advocacy through social underutilised? Could that be a thing in financial services?

Financial brands could do better at employee advocacy, but in my opinion the power of front-line employees spouting your marketing message online is really overrated. Customers are a lot more cynical now than they were in the past; if I see a teller or business development person saying on Facebook or LinkedIn how proud they are to work at their bank or their investment firm, my bulls**t detector goes off.

By all means let them advocate, but don’t tell them what to say, don’t give them a script, don’t ask them to say real motherhood statements. Customers are going to look at that and think, of course you’re going to say that, you get paid to work there.

Where I think employee advocacy works is when somebody feels moved to say something about your company rather than you pushing them to do it. If it’s authentic, it can be really powerful.

What about social media influencers?

If you pick your social media influencers carefully – people who are skilled at talking about brands, then it could be a useful tool.

When I say pick them carefully, one of the things that makes an influencer successful is they understand who their target is and get into commercial arrangements that are a good fit with their target demographic. They shouldn’t just go for the money.

I was talking to my undergraduate digital marketing class the other day. I said to them, if you know that these people are getting paid to mention these products, why would you buy that product? And they said, because they follow this person and relate to this person. They know that the influencer has an obligation to them as a follower, that they would never get in a commercial relationship with somebody who didn’t fit their ethos.

The influencer is the filter – so if they mention a product, even though they’re getting paid for it their follower is more likely to buy it.

How could thought leadership be done better in the finance industry?

Again, it’s about being authentic, and it’s about being customer-centric. If you can identify customer pain points and write about them without talking about your company, then I think it can work quite well.

I love what Richard Branson does. He probably does mention his own organisation more than I’m comfortable with, but generally, the sorts of things he talks about are great.

Also, Adam Grant – he’s a professor at Wharton business school, and he wrote a book about givers and takers. His philosophy is if somebody asks you for help, you should try to help them – and he’s created a big personal brand around how people should behave in the workplace and in their lives, and about leadership; and I feel that what he says is really authentic.

I know he’s building his personal brand, but I feel like he’s not actually trying to promote himself but rather give me useful tools that I can go and use in my professional life or personal life.

If you use thought leadership to solve your customer problems then you can also establish your credibility as someone who is knowledgeable in that subject.


*This article was originally written in The Dubs on 5 June 2019. 

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