Opinion: Four ways for financial firms to boost social media brand in Asia

Professional and financial services companies need to catch up and embrace digital and social media, say Ryan Communication's Damien Ryan and Peggy Wu

Damien Ryan, founder and managing director at Ryan Communication and Peggy Wu, the firm's digital strategist
Damien Ryan, founder and managing director at Ryan Communication and Peggy Wu, the firm's digital strategist

Digital and social media is transforming how companies engage and influence stakeholders in Asia. Yet, financial and professional services firms have typically lagged behind peers in other regions or other sectors, particularly where there is an institutional focus.

The most common reasons are a lack of resources, concerns around reputation or that the "head office" manages all programs.

Digital and social media (D&S) is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s arrived in Asia and financial and professional services firms need to embrace. Many peers are already onboard and using D&S as a competitive advantage to attract prospects and talent.

As one example, we are seeing banks in Singapore such as UOB and OCBC, shifting to digital to grow newer areas of banking particularly in wealth management.

What are the elements of a strong digital and social media strategy in Asia? Here are four:

Step One: Building the infrastructure

The approach to a social and digital strategy is no different than a communications and marketing plan. It starts with clear objectives, strategy, and tactics. We also need to understand where stakeholders sit in their universe.

If prospects are a stakeholder, are you targeting CFOs at Chinese SOEs? Is it Western in-house counsel at multinationals? If talent is a focus, are you seeking to hire from peer firms and where are they located? Be clear about your stakeholders as this will influence the type of content produced and platforms chosen.

The infrastructure generally includes three components: a social media management system; a content calendar; and policy guide. Even if your HQ is driving global social & digital, you will still likely require the above to manage and drive local content.

Step two: Content management and localised content strategy

A successful digital and social media strategy in Asia requires regular local content. A challenge for all companies is how to generate an ongoing stream. That’s often not the case for professional services and financial companies, where there is often plenty of content.

Not all content, however, may be relevant. Based on our experience, there are a few keys to success:
• Set realistic targets as it’s better to achieve one piece a week instead of promising - and failing - at a goal to deliver ‘daily content’
• Work with advocates in the business who are already using social media successfully in their personal lives
• Be nimble and flexible. For example, localising global content and generating short local content on behalf of internal stakeholders, if they are too time pressed for drafting blogs
• Tone of voice remains critical for blogs. Posting a piece of research online is likely to add little value to readers unless it’s written in, for example, "first person" and offers unique insight from a personal perspective.

Hootsuite is a popular choice for content management, as it’s fully integrated with all major social media platforms including WeChat, has unique analytics and compliance integration.

Another element of a great local strategy is using a broad mix of platforms tactics. In addition to blogs, short videos (Interview with Aireen Omar, CEO of AirAsia Berhad) and infographic (Goldman Sach’s infographic on Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect) are effective and high impact. Both are considered ‘content-rich’ platforms for search engine optimisation. They also both work well in Asia as a form of visual storytelling in a region of multiple languages and dialects.

Step three: Engaging in multiple platforms in Asia

A challenge for financial and professional services companies in Asia is managing multi-platforms, given the region has strong local language options (WeChat), in addition to the global juggernauts (LinkedIn).

Each has pros and cons for financial and professional services in Asia.

Here’s a brief re-cap:

Financial and professional services firms looking to raise visibility in the crowded markets of Asia should be turning to social and digital media channels. After all, many key stakeholders – including talent and prospects – are already on board. With planning and the right partners who understand both content and how to manage the platforms, a lot can be achieved to preserve and enhance the firm’s reputation.

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