Millennials—people born since the early 1980s—have flocked to social media. And as habitual users themselves, they expect businesses and organizations they interact with to be on social media too. For financial institutions, the question is not whether they can afford to take advantage of the social media channel, but whether they can afford not to.

Social media has the power to help organizations foster better relationships with their customers and other stakeholders, providing opportunities to engage in two-way conversations and build a community. Advocates suggest, though, that firms don’t just talk about their own products and services. To be relevant, companies also need to direct their followers to other sources of interesting and useful information.

One financial services firm to seize the opportunity is Morgan Stanley, a US investment bank. In July, the bank became the first large US broker to relax its social media policy, allowing staff to send their own messages on Twitter. Staff with at least 15 followers and who have completed a training course can now write their own tweets, although they are restricted to certain subjects and need a supervisor’s approval before they can post their tweets.

This type of policy can offer definite advantages for organizations. A large US company gained an unexpectedly large reach for their company messages when it allowed staff to post from their personal accounts. In the extended audience, which now includes followers of employees’ personal accounts, 92 percent had not been previously reached through existing corporate social media accounts.

For millennials, the social media landscape looks very different than the more traditional ways firms present themselves, through corporate websites, for example. Social media platforms, give young consumers a feel for the company and a quick way to connect with a real person. In fact, many young consumers believe that the public nature of the communication compels companies to act more quickly than they might otherwise.

Read the report
Read the report

The result for companies is that they need to be genuine in their actions. Social media platforms help them connect with customers, but on the flip side, they also make the company’s actions visible and allow the external community to keep watch. Organizations heading down this path must recognize that social media is a much bigger commitment than simply launching a site or opening a new social media account.

Nevertheless, it’s a commitment worth making. By being bold, building a social media presence and creating “cool things,” financial services companies can keep millennials engaged. At the same time, they can increase brand awareness, and provide quicker and more effective responses to grievances or other negative messages.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at a company that has embraced social media—and what we can learn from their experience.

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