Well, whaddya know? A big survey has found that UK banks are actually REDUCING their social media marketing budgets considerably.
Reason? They got involved on a ‘me too’ basis and haven’t seen the value…
Reports PR Week:
“A Pearlfinders report has revealed that in Q4 2011, 22 per cent of financial services sector companies said they intended to invest in social media activity, but this fell to just eight per cent in Q1 and six per cent in Q2 2012.
The amount of online criticism directed at the big beasts of the UK banking world – Lloyds TSB, Barclays, RBS, HSBC, Co-operative and NatWest – was also revealed.
Pearlfinders MD Anthony Cooper said the results showed an ‘interesting about-turn’.
‘We saw investment in social media increase steadily throughout 2011, to reach the highest levels ever by the end of the year.
‘However, as financial services brands embraced new methods for communicating with customers, they opened themselves up to criticism and negative sentiment.’”
Now, the financial marketing sector is one I know pretty well and UK banks have some issues, for sure.
For one thing, their products aren’t obviously sexy, easily conveyed through nice pictures or video, or actually that easy to market because of tight regulation on ‘financial promotions’.
Rules make giving – or being seen to give – ‘financial advice’ fraught with difficulty, which presents some challenges for banks in terms of the type of content they can produce (not that they generally make a very good fist of that anyway).
Furthermore, the big banks consistently poll rock bottom for customer service and must be at an historic low point for public trust in the wake of repeated financial scandals. So I’m sure they get a lot of flak on social sites.
(As an aside, who really wants to ‘friend’ their bank on Facebook anyway? If you’re anything like me you probably regard your bank as, at best, mundane necessity. Free-wheelin’ charisma explosions they ain’t.)
As the article notes, “the results contrast with the survey’s findings about social media investment in other sectors, such as FMCG/food and the charity sector, which rose during the most recent quarter.”
Nevertheless, you as a business owner must take heed of this. Banks may be neither great marketers nor great things to market, but:
a) The financial sector is generally an early adopter of online marketing methods. If banks are now questioning social media, it follows that businesses in other sectors could be too in coming months.
b) Bottom line is they’ve thrown a ton of money and expertise at social media and simply aren’t sure if the light’s worth the candle.
Expect another report to come out in the near future saying they’ve reinvested that money in email marketing.
Sorry to keep harping on about it, but email’s still the ‘killer app’. Have you noticed how all the social sites want your email and update you there when they’ve got something they want to tell – or sell – you?
That’s because email enters the personal realm in a way social cannot. It has a permanence about it that social, by its very nature, cannot replicate. It also has come to represent our official, ‘business’ correspondence in a way that social cannot.
To paraphrase the Flight of the Conchords, when you get email, you know it’s ‘business time’.
I’m not against social marketing, far from it (how could I be, when in good conscience one of my free workbooks is called ’30 Social Media Hacks: A Cheat Sheet For Building Your Business With Social Media’?).
But let’s get it in perspective.
See social marketing in its wider context, as one of many marketing tools at your disposal, and not as the magic bullet that’s going to solve all your problems.
Used right, social marketing is a branding opportunity, powerful viral marketing tool, traffic source and relationship-builder.
Used wrong, as the banks seem to be finding, and it’s a labour-intensive resource-drainer.
Email’s not going away. It’s been in common usage for 15 years already and my bet is you’ll get 10 more years out of it, at least (how much would you bet that Facebook will last for 25 years, out of interest?). Furthermore, you own the email database you build up, unlike your social followings which are not in your control.
I even have a sneaking suspicion that the dark secret the social media gurus will never tell you is that their prized possession is… their email list!
So make email your focus, and support it with social. Limit your time on social sites and don’t equate frittering away time on them with ‘marketing’. It ain’t.
To learn how to get started with email marketing and for regular tips on email list building, traffic, and, yes, effective social marketing, do please get my free workbooks and newsletter from the box below.
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