Social media being used for educational purposes. It’s not a new concept, but it is continuously being used for new applications. among the most recent is the use of social media for educating consumers about money management. it’s not just individual financial planners that have turned to social media for this reason, but the companies themselves. Amidst legal issues and user privacy concern lies a hope that the financial industry as a whole can regain the trust of the American consumer base, turning to social media for marketing and brand-building goals.
Doing so could be a tight-rope walk, but TIAA-CREF and Putnam Investments are among those financial industries that are targeting their core demographics through the use of social media, according to this report. Aggregating educational content and tools, extending online classes and games and socially-driven challenges, these institutions are hoping that the combination of useful content within a virtual environment can help them to gain long-lasting relationships with customers.
Content is the key to this particular method of acquiring and retaining customers, as many corporations have learned that building a Fan Page on Facebook isn’t enough. The juxtaposition of content and presence is a rather lofty goal that many brands have been trying to archive for the past year or so. Improved options for integrated social network and mobile apps have made it easier for third parties to offer a higher level of convenience to their customers, with the growing adoption of this applied technology increasing the trust factor around such marketing and brand-building campaigns.
This trust factor is very important when it comes to the use of social media by financial institutions. The legalities of having an interactive web presence as a financial institution or a financial adviser are very specific in what type of information can be shared online. For the most part, those partaking in social media towards the education of new and existing customers are sticking to the educational realm, providing information that does not cross over into the advice arena.
Utilizing games and challenges that encourage a user to enlist the participation of their friends is another tactic that these financial institutions are using, which can actually increase engagement and produce longer site visits. That’s all well and fine for the companies providing the games and challenges, but I’m rather curious to learn of the success rates of such attempts at luring in customers.
Making education fun and social is something I think could be useful in several areas, far beyond the financial realm. The ability to passively consume content at your own pace, combined with the options to learn in an enlivened environment, could really pay off for certain establishments. Some banks have been trying different variations of this for a few years now, with some even creating virtual environments within the likes of Second Life in order to create a space for teens and adults to learn their lessons is a safer manner.
Providing the information many consumers are already looking for is another good move on the part of TIAA-CREF and Putnam, with Putnam being particularly aggressive in this regard. The benefit for the consumer is the option to access information they would have likely stumbled across had they been online researching for themselves anyway. The danger, of course, is that a company such as Putnam could be rather biased in its curated offerings to customers and new clients.
Nevertheless, it’s smart for a brand to position itself smartly within social media, giving consumers a mini place of research refuge (even if its slanted). The use of social media in this way will help to drive the web in a more semantic direction, hopefully offering a way for search engines to give users answers to their questions instead of just links to third party web sites.