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Published January 24th 2017

Financial Services: Building Trust from Knowledge

In an age of online banking, financial firms need to find ways to build relationships with their clients on a human level - we explore how in today's post.

Trust has never been so present, and so crucial, in our marketplace. When we purchase products, we trust that they’ll meet our expectations. When we order goods online, we trust they’ll be delivered or otherwise refunded. We deposit our entire fortunes into bank accounts, believing that our funds will be securely handled, and readily accessible.

Lemon laws and other regulations were created to fortify our trust in transactions – they ensure that if the seller doesn’t make good on their promise, the consumer is protected.

Trust is the cornerstone of all successful transactions.

For consumers, there is probably no industry where trust is more crucial than the financial industry.

According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, trust in financial services is among the fastest growing. But overall, the industry still remains among the least trusted of those analyzed. That’s why understanding how to build and maintain trust is paramount for financial institutions.

Of course, that trust will primarily be built on a reputation of consistently ethical business practices. But additionally, in an age of online banking and indirect relationships, financial firms need to find ways to communicate with and build relationships with their clients on a human level.

That’s where social media intelligence can support businesses: identifying who their audience is, what they’re discussing and sharing, and how to connect with them online.

Of course, social media data is not the holy grail for consumer insights – it will not resolve every question you have about your consumers. But with the right tools, team, and know-how, social media data can expose valuable hints, important ideas, and unignorable trends that can help financial firms get a better understanding of who their consumers are, and how to speak with them.

Audience Interests in Context

In this analysis, we examine the interests of Twitter accounts mentioning 41 financial services brands in Q4 2016 – that’s just shy of 600,000 tweets. The goal is to reveal who financial services audiences are, and what’s unique about them.

As a first step, let’s take a look at the industry as a whole.

There are some obvious leaders: business, family and parenting, sports, books. But it’s important to realize that some of these interests are just more prevalent in general on Twitter – they’re not unique to financial services. In some ways, this figure is telling us more about the Twitter world than the financial services industry. Looking at an audience’s interests in isolation is useful, but not that useful.

One of our recent reports examined how the interests of the financial services industry compared to 14 other industries.

Unsurprisingly, financial services over-indexed for business at a statistically significant level. But it also over-indexed for politics and animals & pets and under-indexed for music, sports, and fashion.

Now we begin to understand what’s unique about those discussing financial services brands on Twitter.

A Competitive Look

But for businesses, identifying what’s unique about their online brands within their competitive set is even more useful.

Consider MetLife, whose audience interests over-index in books, business, and animals and pets but under-indexes on music, environment, and family and parenting.

Meanwhile, American International Group (AIG), a key competitor, over-indexes in business, movies, and science but under-indexes in sports, photo and video, and environment.

Through these analyses, MetLife and AIG can identify the distinct audiences they attracted in Q4 2016. At an initial glance, this helps them better understand their brand within their competitive context. Tracking changes over time, businesses can then measure fluctuations in their brand identity.

Furthermore, MetLife can extend their analysis by examining the specific topics of conversation for those interested in books in Q4 2016: some discontent over losing the Snoopy mascot mixed with some cheers for a #smallbiz campaign with Giants player Michael Dennis.

The strongest keyword for those interested in business that mentioned AIG? Learn.

It seems AIG’s educational material has driven the most engagement from business-minded people in Q4.

By understanding their audience’s unique interests, financial services firms can determine how effectively their brand and content is resonating with specific demographic groups.

Comparing Business Lines

As a final comparison, let’s examine the audiences for two distinct divisions within a holding company: JP Morgan, an investment banking house, and Chase, their retail banking division.

Naturally, the difference between these two business lines reflects a divide between the audiences interested in the services each provides. That is, those mentioning investment firms in general over-indexed for business, books, and technology and under-indexed for sports, family and parenting, and food and drink.

In this analysis, we’ve used a cohort of 41 financial services companies as the baseline – but depending on their need, brands might only analyze against a specific competitive group or industry. Again, understanding context is paramount.

Trust from Understanding

For consumer insights professionals in the financial services industry, it’s as much about how to analyze unstructured social media data as it is about interpreting it.

Often, unique audience interest profiles are intuitive and unsurprising. But being able to reinforce and measure the crowd that businesses attract helps them plan their brand strategy, measure the changes in their audience and their competitors’ audience over time, and generally get a better sense of how they fit into the larger industry.

Ultimately, by knowing their audiences, financial services companies are better positioned to communicate with them in a way that maintains consumer trust, an ever more important factor in a marketplace where face-to-face interactions are increasingly replaced with automated ones.

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