Making social media work in financial services is tough. Regulation and compliance make maintaining a strong and interactive social presence a real challenge. In this blog I take a look at the social opportunities and roadblocks in this sector, and what we can do about them.

Last week HSBC’s social technologies specialist Aden Davies said that heavy regulation and compliance issues had left some aspects of the bank’s social media activities outdated. The bank receives several thousand messages from its customers a week, however responding to these queries often means getting multiple levels of clearance before publication. With this process sometimes taking up to three hours, it is incredibly hard to keep up with the pace of social interaction.

This is a problem we have frequently seen with our financial services clients. Regulatory controls regarding what is deemed ‘financial advice’ and other compliance challenges mean that it is very difficult to have genuine conversations with customers without exposing them to unacceptable levels of risk. However, consumers increasingly expect instant and frequent communication with their service providers via social channels.

So in one sense social media represents a massive headache for the financial services. However, in this age of epic disillusionment with our financial sector, it also represents a massive opportunity. Surely social is the perfect medium through which to begin to counteract the negative feelings that banks currently tend to arouse, and to engage with customers on a personal level, building trusting, satisfying relationships? So what can banks do to take advantages of the benefits of social media and to mitigate their risks? Well, there are no easy solutions, but here a few techniques we recommend:

  1.  Make sure your organisation has a written social media policy which is shared with all staff and thoroughly understood and abided by.
  2. If you need to get clearance to reply to customers, try to establish the quickest possible path to clearance and make it as fast and efficient as possible. Work out the average time it takes for this process to run so you know how long to expect to wait.
  3. Make sure that you immediately acknowledge all queries that come in, explain why you cannot answer right away and give them a timeframe for your response (and then stick to it!).
  4. If compliance are making social media activity a nightmare why not work with them to brainstorm ideas to make the process run smoothly? If they have helped co-create the process they are much less likely to stand in its way.
  5.  As well as external social media, it is also worth thinking about how you can use social technologies internally. This is a great way to harness knowledge within your organisation to innovate new ideas or solutions to business problems. See this report from KPMG for a further explanation of the internal social opportunities.