Doing social media marketing in a regulated industry isn’t easy. Legal considerations, regulatory red tape, and compliance restrictions can make your job more difficult.
Today’s guest is Regina DeMars, Director of Content Marketing and Social Media Strategy at First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO). How can financial services marketers make friends with compliance and win at social media? Get creative with solutions to problems.
Ben: Hi, Regina, welcome to the show.
Regina: Hi, Ben, how are you?
Ben: I'm fantastic, how about yourself?
Ben: Great to hear. It’s a nice Friday afternoon where I'm at, how are things on your end?
Regina: It's beautiful, sunny, and in the '70s, so it’s a perfect Friday.
Ben: Yeah, it sounds flawless. Would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience and explain your role at First National Bank of Omaha?
Regina: Great. Yes, I'm Regina Demars. I'm the director of content marketing and social media strategy at FNBO. In my role, I really focus on developing content that adds value to our audiences and elevates our brand reputation. My team works tirelessly on creating a lot of content in different formats that customers and potential customers are really seeking and focuses heavily on financial advice and guidance.
Ben: Very cool. I think you're in an interesting space, because anything to do with financial services and banking is going to be caught up in regulation, compliance, and things of that nature. I'm curious, in your opinion, from your perspective, or from what you've seen, what are some of the most common problems that marketers in financial services and banking face when it comes to things like regulation, compliance, and those sorts of things?
Regina: I would say the main problem would be the ever-changing regulatory environment and the timeline. Everything that highlights products we need to run after compliance and sometimes the turnaround time is much longer than the turning hour or minute on social media. Social media trending topics come and go very quickly, so to make sure that we remain relevant in the space, time is of the essence.
And our compliance team typically would like a week to 10 days, and we try to follow those time frames ideally, but we also have a really good relationship with our compliance team. They know that sometimes we need to email or call them with an urgent request, especially if something's trending that we want to leverage on our social media channels.
Ben: I suppose beyond maybe just the occasional emergency requests to compliance, what are some other top tactics or strategies that you found to be really effective at FNBO to get around some of the issues that you face with lag time? If you're trying to get something out that's timely but you might have to wait up to a week-and-a-half, how do you deal with that?
Regina: We have a lot of specific procedures in place to help alleviate any of those potential issues. We have a monthly social media governance meeting where we present ideas to a core group that includes compliance and legal representatives. They have an opportunity to provide us feedback on our efforts. We have a lot of internal audits that we go through throughout the year, just to ensure we’re following outlined procedures and make any necessary recommendations to help enhance those efforts.
Before we engage with influencers, bloggers, or small businesses, we work with our legal team to conduct negative news searches and can do background checks. That helps limit any risk or potential negative brand reputation concerns.
We also make it a point to try to understand all the regulations on an ongoing basis because they are changing, and these monthly meetings help us with the compliance team to let us know what things have changed, so we can work as far in advance as possible. We have very detailed and up-to-date social media policies that outline rules, regulations, roles, and responsibilities.
We keep all of our social accounts secure. We monitor our brand online, but some good advice too is not only should you monitor your brand, but since social media for financial institutions is very regulated, it's important to archive the content. All of our channels are archived in case we ever need to go back and report on past communication. A very close relationship with the compliance department just really helps make that more of a seamless process.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. It really sounds as though that relationship you've built with your compliance staff is really what enables you to move as quickly as you need to without upsetting anybody on that side of the company.
But say if I'm a marketer, and I'm listening to this conversation. Say, I'm at a bank or I'm working at some sort of financial services organization. And let's say that company doesn't have a positive relationship with compliance or with legal, or maybe they don't really have a relationship at all. How would you recommend that that marketer begin to build that bridge with that team in order to make it a mutually beneficial arrangement?
Regina: Our social media governance team has evolved, and we work with compliance and the rest of the participants in that group to help identify people who are interested in social media and who are more active, so they better understand the channel. We found that when we first started the group, we identified certain people to be a part of it. And as our monthly meetings happened, we’re like, wait, we really need people who understand the channels better.
That was a really good first step to say, who even wants to understand the social media channels more in-depth, and who is active because they really do have your best interests in mind. They just may not understand the channel and what you're trying to accomplish. It may just need some additional education.
We also found that showing things visually really helps, because sometimes when you try to explain it on paper, and people don't know the channels as much. It was a little more complicated, and they weren't really understanding our strategy. Now, as part of that group, we have people who are invested in social, and we share our overall strategy with them. We have regular training with compliance, which also helps them be able to give us recommendations on how best to accomplish our goal, while staying compliant.
Ben: Sure. From what you're describing, that sounds like that's a very collaborative relationship between your team and compliance rather than compliance just being like a big brother, or maybe a more appropriate analogy would be they're not like a disciplinary team that’s looking over your shoulder and making sure you're doing what they say. It sounds like you're really working together to make sure you're doing the right things.
Regina: Yes, it has definitely helped to have a strong working relationship. And we talk in our meetings—instead of saying no, how can we mitigate the risks and still move forward?
Ben: Something that seems so simple and yet is so essential for marketing teams—getting things done with other departments within a company, not only in financial services, but in general—is to work at building better relationships with those teams. In the case of banking and finance, your compliance and your legal teams are probably not out to get you. They just need to know that they can trust you to let them do their jobs, and that they can trust you to do yours.
The more that you can communicate the value of marketing to them, the more that you can communicate the necessity for those approval processes being expedited, then the better able you'll be to achieve mutual understanding of one another’s goals, and just the better you'll be able to create timely social media content, and work through those approval processes more quickly and effectively. Now, back to Regina.
Let's say the same hypothetical marketer who works at this financial services organization. Let's say they've gotten themselves up to a point where they're in a position like the one that you're in now where they have a good relationship with compliance, everybody is working together, things are great, and now they've got some breathing room to maybe do more creative things than what they could do in the past. Or maybe they now finally have the freedom to do anything at all with social (potentially). This person really could be working from scratch.
What are some types of content or some types of messaging that you found work really well for financial services companies that you might suggest they start experimenting with?
Regina: Yeah, from an organic perspective, we know that people are looking for educational, inspirational, and entertaining content. From a paid perspective, we focused there more on awareness, consideration, and conversion. We know sometimes the topic of banking can be a little boring, so we make sure to switch up our content.
We have blogs, photos, videos, motion graphics, infographics, and that’s worked really well for us. We found early on that stock photography doesn't always work, so we've been working on creating our own photo library of real photos with real employees, and often leverage our own employee photos. Because that helps drive a lot of engagement. It's really authentic.
We work closely with our SEO experts. They help us determine the content that consumers are interested in, and we build content from there. But our strategy, honestly, is always evolving to meet our customers’ needs, and we know people are looking for advice and guidance, which we push on our branded channel, so we are active on all of them—Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.
This year, we actually launched Cashology Facebook group, which was really designed to create a supportive, approachable community around personal finance. We create content on a variety of financial topics, whether it's saving, creating a budget, investing, or frugal travel.
We also created, this year, a YouTube video series that features our own employees called the Dollar Belles. Because from research, we found out too, that women are really seeking financial advice, but they want to hear from people like them, they want content that's approachable. We created a more light-hearted series. It’s educational, fun, and engaging. Again it really does strengthening our brand’s authenticity by featuring real employees in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
A few other components that I think are key to a content strategy for financial institutions—social selling, influencer marketing, employee brand ambassador programs. That has been a great way for us to show how FNBO is a great place to work and also a great place that you want to bank with. We create products and services that are relevant to younger audiences because you want to create that relationship early on, because that's when they're looking for a new banking relationship.
Debit cards aren't unique to a financial institution, but we've had a really focused effort on creating debit cards that have meaning behind them, so there's a stronger connection to our brand.
This year we launched a Be Kind Debit Card series with different designs like Girls Support Girls, there’s a card that’s focused on mental health awareness where we partnered with Boys Town to give a donation to their national suicide prevention hotline as part of their effort. Really everything we do, we're looking out there to see what topics are trending and how can we create a deeper emotional connection between our brands, potential customers, and our current customers.
Ben: Yeah, and that all sounds like awesome stuff. In particular, that debit card initiative really sounds incredible. I feel inspired hearing that as a marketer, but if I were to put myself in the shoes—just going back to this hypothetical banking financial services marketer who’s maybe approaching a lot of this more from the ground up. It sounds as though a lot of these things that you're talking about doing are things you have to build up toward, and they require staff, they require resources to really execute well.
But if someone is approaching this—maybe their department just isn't that robust yet, or their marketing maturity maybe just isn't there to be able to support all those activities yet, how would you recommend that marketer make the case for themselves to get the resources they need to really do work that's going to matter?
I imagine if they're going to go into a conversation with any kind of decision-making stakeholder, they're going to need a really good argument in their corner for—in a lot of cases—anything. To hire another person, to add software, or anything like that. If someone is in that position, what would be your best advice for them?
Regina: Yes, I've been in that position several times at different companies, and it is really important to educate people on content marketing and how it can have an impact on revenue growth. Show how content can build relationships, and relationships obviously are built on trust, and trust can help drive revenue. Anytime you can, honestly, do Google search to show the impact that reviews, referrals, and recommendations can have on your business, it's pretty powerful to show that's the type of content people are seeking.
They want education, advice, and guidance. If you do a Google search and you have a presence on social media channels, you have a blog, you have organic content, your name's going to come up more likely in the first age when people are seeking a new relationship and looking for a bank.
Any time that you can show how adding a person, creating a team can help you achieve your business goals, and have all the content tied back to those business goals at your company. I started out really with developing content pillars to show here are the messages we want to get out to customers and prospects, here are tactics we can do that, and here are our results that we've seen.
A lot of times, it comes down to testing things and making a case. Testing, we definitely did not launch all this at once. A lot of these tactics that I just talked about, they could've taken a year or two years to build up to being able to execute them, continuing to build a case for resources, and why we need to be in those spaces.
We always talk about, at FNBO, we want to have our messages where our customers are seeking them, so we have to have a presence. We also present a lot of competitors’ case studies and show the results that they're getting, and how they're executing in the social media space to help us be able to get more resources.
I guess the main thing, too, is you can't execute social strategy in a vacuum, and the more that you can engage the entire organization on how you can reach those business goals that are set by your company.
Ben: Yeah, absolutely. That's fantastic advice. The last question I’ll throw your way, let's say the same marketer, they've gotten themselves into a good place. They’ve got a lot of trust with compliance, they're starting to get more resources to do more things, do work that makes a bigger impact for the organization, for their customers, and they’ve put a lot of work into getting to that place.
And then they committed a compliance, a regulatory violation, or otherwise accidentally take some sort of action that puts all that trust and goodwill that they've generated in jeopardy. What would be the best way, in your opinion, for them to begin to recover from that mistake?
Regina: Mistakes do happen and they will happen, but it is definitely wise to invest in some sort of regular training, so everyone is on the same page. Working closely with your compliance team to determine what the issues were, have compliance host additional training. If it's the marketing team or the overall organization, just to ensure that everyone’s following the process, and procedures, documentation that’s on file to ideally avoid future mistakes.
And then kind of what we're talking about in the beginning, the better relationships you have with compliance upfront and putting together procedures, processes, meetings, or whatever works best for your company to help ideally avoid those future mistakes.
Ben: Yeah, for sure. I think that's sound advice. Like I said, that was the last question I had. Before I let you go, is there anything else that's maybe just right there on the tip of your tongue that you want to throw out there on this topic that you haven't had the opportunity to discuss yet?
Regina: I guess parting advice would just really be, it's important, as you're building out a content marketing strategy, social media strategy to look for on-trend ways to build content that makes an emotional connection between your brand and an individual. We've seen success by doing it repeatedly, consistently, and that helped to build long term trusting relationships. Those can really help drive affinity, affection, and attraction, and just really know your customers, and figure out the type of content, the messaging that they're seeking.
Ideally try to come up with some creative ways to deliver those messages to them.
Ben Sailer has over 14 years of experience in the field of marketing. He is considered an expert in inbound marketing through his incredible skills with copywriting, SEO, content strategy, and project management.
Ben is currently an Inbound Marketing Director at Automattic, working to grow WordPress.com as the top managed hosting solution for WordPress websites. WordPress is one of the most powerful website creation tools in the industry.
In this role, he looks to attract customers with content designed to attract qualified leads. Ben plays a critical role in driving the growth and success of a company by attracting and engaging customers through relevant and helpful content and interactions.
Ben works closely with senior management to align the inbound marketing efforts with the overall business objectives. He continuously measures the effectiveness of marketing campaigns to improve them. He is also involved in managing budgets and mentoring the inbound marketing team.