Should financial services brands develop an influencer strategy?

Influencer marketing was the hottest industry trend of 2017. Google searches for the term increased by 86%. So, should financial services (FS) brands jump on the trend? If yes, what are its rewards, and its risks? What should FS brands consider when developing an influencer strategy?

Why work with an influencer?

Brands work with influencers to gain access to an otherwise hard-to-engage market, be it a demographic, a geography or users of a channel or platform. Influencers can be used to shortcut access to such a market, or as a (potentially cheaper) alternative to targeted paid media advertising. The complexity of the arrangement varies from one-off paid-for social posts to a relationship built over time, channels and campaigns.

What’s the reward?

To illustrate the reach – and potential power – of an influencer, the Huffington Post et al reported that celebrity model Kylie Jenner allegedly caused a 6% fall in the value of Snapchat just by asking, in a tweet to her 24.5 million followers, if anyone used the app anymore. Despite the high-profile cliché, ‘influencer’ does not necessarily equal Twitter-happy celebrity or 20-something Instagram street-fashion vlogger. An influencer could be a subject matter expert or an authoritative thought leader, be it on Blockchain or APAC investment trends.

But is it right for FS brands?

FS brands will have to use social media if they want to engage younger demographics. Social may seem obvious fertile ground for a high street bank’s marketing activity, but should an investment wealth management be looking to work with influencers on Instagram? Perhaps yes. In a recent Editions Financial whitepaper, our Director of Content Strategy Kevin Hearn explored how FS firms are trying ‘to shift the demographic dial and attract a younger audience’. The rewards could be lucrative:

“The High Earning, Not Rich Yet (HENRY) cohort is hungry for information on accumulating and maintaining wealth. But they don’t necessarily trust information offered by ‘the man in the grey suit’ who advises their parents. They are digital creatures who live on the internet and trust their peers more than any other generation.”

By engaging with HENRYs on social, a wealth management firm can initiate customer relationships that could bear fruit in future. But by marketing on social, FS brands would still face the challenges of relevancy and trust. Working with an influencer could make the difference.

How working with an influencer could win brand trust

An influencer offers brand endorsement through association: their followers trust them, so they’ll trust your brand. Followers trust the influencer either because they identify with them as a peer or because they trust their expertise and authority.

“Make sure you are comfortable with what they stand for, and what they say on social, as their content is beyond your control. This may be an unacceptable risk.”

According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in peers (‘the credibility of a person like yourself’) is at an all-time low (54%, down 6% on 2017) but is still relatively strong. So, for B2C for example, a tactic would be to identify a personal finance blogger with whom to work. And while the FS industry is still generally viewed with an element of distrust, people such as technical experts, ‘financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50% or higher’. So find a subject matter expert who commands authority, such as an industry journalist or an independent financial adviser to champion your brand.

Get brand fit

As well as researching your target audience to ensure your relevancy, your influencer must be relevant to your brand: it’s a two-way fit. They must be an ambassador for you. Make sure you’re comfortable with what they stand for, and what they say on social, as their content is beyond your control. This may be an unacceptable risk.

Build a relationship

In the same way as for a freelance writer or contributor, you’ll need a contract obliging your influencer to post or mention your brand your brand a certain number of times within a specific period. But the ideal is to build a relationship with them, rather than just pay them for a retweet. Then they will be invested in your brand and perhaps even genuinely advocate it.

Meet the regulations

As with all types of marketing in FS, brands should pay particularly close attention to FCA rules and guidelines on social media use, such as an individual endorsing a specific stock or investment idea. To get around these potential pitfalls, think how you can use your influencer in a less direct, more strategic way, such as creating softer tangential content or real-person brand storytelling that generates a halo effect for your product or service.

Metrics, measurement and ROI

A further challenge, as with content marketing in general, is getting your ROI numbers right. Identify the correct metrics to measure that ROI. Does the influencer activity drive movement towards a business goal? What will it mean in terms of cold, hard, bottom-line results? A paid-for tweet by an influencer with a large following may achieve reach, but that’s about as vain a metric as the number of email sends. Did any of your influencer’s followers convert as a result of the campaign?

So, think in terms of business growth goals and actionable funnel-based bottom-line metrics. And, of course, get your tracking in place so you can measure success in terms of sign-ups, app installs or adviser appointments.

It takes time

Again, as with content marketing in general, an influencer campaign may not immediately result in conversions. But it could generate awareness of your brand with a new audience, it could break the ice with a difficult demographic, and it could lead to a lifelong customer relationship.

If you want to explore an influencer marketing campaign please contact Editions Financial today.

James Teideman

BY James Teideman

James is a Content Strategist at Editions Financial. Thanks to many, many years experience in all things content and digital marketing, and a passion for the dark but beautiful art of content marketing strategy, he loves to advise financial sector clients on how to delight their users - and their bottom lines – with inspiring, compelling, business-driven content.