Financial Service Firms are Cozying Up to Social Media


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Pat Allen of RockTheBoat Marketing has done a good job of keeping up with which financial services firms are doing what on the social web. She did a synopsis of panel discussions held at two recent industry events – the Investment Company Institute (ICI) General Membership meeting, and their Operations and Technology Conference. Those paraphrased included senior people at big brand names like Vanguard, Hartford Life, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments Institutional, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and Edward Jones, as well as other firms such as First Eagle Investment Management, Franklin Resources, LPL Financial, and Northern Trust.

The blog indicated that Hartford Life President and COO, John Walters, and First Eagle Investment Management President and CEO, Bridget Macaskill, said that they “don’t get it,” but the rest of the participants in the various discussions were either actively engaged or very interested in social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were the most referenced social spaces.

What was of most interest to me – as a social media consultant with a long history of product and marketing launches – was the underlying tone of caution in the comments that related to what Ms. Allen categorized as Risks, Compliance, Staffing and Technology . Both Amy Dobra, principal at Vanguard and head of the Retail Client Experience Group ,and Sheryl Larson, Vice President and Online Marketing Manager at Northern Trust, understand the role of social media as a listening and engaging medium, and actively encourage others to get involved. However, some of their advice implies that there is something that companies should be apprehensive about when it comes to social media:

Go into it with eyes wide open. The software, the policies, procedures, the ability to do it at scale—everything is not all in place yet. (Dobra)

There’s the risk of launching something without the ability to support it. It’s not a project, it’s a commitment to a new channel. It requires a plan. (Larson)

We need to prove this out before full-time staff is added. (Larson)

I acknowledge that the technology tools needed to monitor and record social sites are new and should improve over time, but launching new product and marketing programs is a tried-and-true process. Put a strategy in place, get buy in from all involved parties, put together a comprehensive implementation plan with assigned tasks and timelines, create policies and procedures, train everyone involved, and staff up for success. When a company is entering into lesser-known spaces – like the social web – comprehensive planning, not piecemeal implementation is advised. Even if you begin with only one part, there needs to be a detailed working plan and a full commitment from the financial services company that a presence in the social web is vital to success.

When I first started driving in New York City, a more experienced driver told me that you have to be aggressive but smart – being cautious is what gets you into trouble. The same holds true when entering into a quickly evolving medium like the social web.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Catherine Sherwood
Catherine Sherwood is a consultant specializing in social media, strategic marketing and common-sense search engine optimization. Her insights and expertise are backed by 20+ years of business experience at the senior executive level.


  1. There are many financial institutions that see social media as a huge “compliance risk.” That’s the industry’s term for the burden of “regulatory disclosures.” They think that if you tweet something about your checking accounts, you need to also tweet that you are insured by the FDIC/NCUA and that you are an equal opportunity lender. It’s even worse for investment firms and brokers who must be cautious of “forward-looking statements.”


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