TwitterFacebookLinkedInEmailMessengerBy now, most banks have dipped their toes into the social media waters. In fact, 90 percent of banks are using Facebook, and more than half use at least one other platform. At its best, social media serves as a flexible, direct-to-customer communication channel that can enhance sales, customer support, marketing and product strategies. Unfortunately, many banks view “getting social” as simply another channel for corporate communications—not as a collaborative medium—which limits the effectiveness of social media. One of the best ways to maximize a bank’s investment in social media is to consider how to strategically incorporate social media into the bank’s overall business strategies and objectives. When implemented appropriately, social media provides powerful tools for banks to enhance their strategies related to brand management, customer engagement, sales and product adoption. Connecting the Bank’s Brand Directly to the Customer The primary business objective most bank executives associate with social media is brand building and marketing. After all, creating awareness of your bank’s specific brand in consumers’ minds is an essential first step to achieving the business results needed for growth. Social media platforms have come to realize that, for businesses, this is often the top goal in leveraging social media. So, to support their own growth, these platforms have launched tools and campaigns aimed at helping companies achieve this. Facebook, for example, has launched a “Brand Awareness” ad campaign designed to help companies advertising on the network measure their brand awareness ROI. The best way to leverage social media for brand awareness objectives is to ensure that every post or conversation reflects the bank’s brand strategy. This consistency builds consumer trust and contributes to brand recognition. At a tactical level, this involves engaging with customers and followers of the bank’s social media channels in a way that strengthens brand identity. This can involve everything from product information, financial health-related topics, connecting visitors with community programs the bank supports or replying to consumers regarding comments left on the social network. Social media also provides banks a tool to differentiate their brand identity from competitive institutions. By highlighting the bank’s culture, mission, value and vision, consumers who share similar ideals and goals can connect directly with the bank. For instance, a certain college town-based community bank might specialize in accounts and services for college students and young professionals. The bank’s social media can focus on products and topics of interest to this age group: student loans, managing finances, establishing credit or buying that first car. The key to making social media effective, though, is avoiding talking only about the products themselves. Instead, use the “social” in social media to tie the bank’s services to the targeted audiences’ needs, wants and dreams. This will help humanize your banking products, as well as your brand. David Jones is group director for William Mills Agency in Atlanta, a role in which he manages and leads strategic public relations plans for companies operating in the financial services industry. In his time at the agency, David has worked with a diverse group of companies to build brand recognition and enhance visibility in the marketplace through media placements, trade show strategies and social media initiatives.