It’s been quite a year for commercial lenders. Nearly overnight, thousands of community banks began processing Paycheck Protection Program loan applications; since then, small businesses have been in great need of trusted, reliable lenders.
At the same time, however, commercial banks are shifting how they do business. In many places, social distancing guidelines limit face-to-face interactions. The relationship between lenders and small businesses has always required a personal touch, but lenders have to figure out how to get that without connecting in person.
Social media can be the bridge between banks and the business owners and communities who need them during COVID-19. With these five strategies, lenders can reach small businesses wherever they are, engage with them on a personal level, and build trusting relationships that will last.
1. Give your brand name a human face.
Commercial bank marketers can post all they want on brand social media pages, but it won’t be enough to build trusting relationships with small business owners. Banks need to activate individual loan officers as social sellers. This means that loan officers can post and engage on their own social networking pages on behalf of the brand. Not only does this expand a bank’s reach (employees have up to 10 times as many connections on social media as brands have followers), but it also helps build trust. People trust other people over brands.
2. Use social media to educate.
This is likely one of the most tumultuous times in business owners’ professional lives, but you can establish your loan officers as trusted experts to help them through it. With all of the information and updates around PPP loans flying around right now, news headlines can be confusing and overwhelming for business owners. They’re likely struggling to understand current lending options. Arm your loan officers with trustworthy, educational, and timely content to share on social media so they can position themselves as valuable resources.
3. Respond as though you’re face to face.
When talking to clients in person, loan officers wouldn’t keep them waiting for days to answer questions or respond to comments. They shouldn’t keep them waiting on social media, either. Many small business owners are under a lot of stress during these times. Loan officers can help by responding to posts, comments, or direct messages in a helpful and timely manner. Remember that social media is as much a customer service platform as it is a marketing tool.
4. Make strategic use of targeted paid campaigns.
Loan officers can certainly establish their expertise and build trusting relationships by posting useful content organically and engaging regularly on social media, but you can take the approach to a new level with targeted paid campaigns as well. Paid social is the most affordable form of advertising. For less than $3, you can get your brand in front of more than 1,000 specifically targeted individuals. And the right software can help you launch and manage microtargeted paid campaigns at scale to maximize your spend.
5. Don’t forget about compliance.
Things move fast on social media, but letting compliance slip could land your brand in regulatory hot water. Create a comprehensive social media policy in line with regulations from entities like FINRA and the FFIEC.
Then, train loan officers on this policy before they begin posting on behalf of the brand and create approval workflows to ensure everything they post is compliant. Social media software like Denim Social’s platform can help you digitize and enforce such workflows to make sure you check every box on every post. The software can also automatically archive all posts and engagements in case you ever need to prove compliance to a regulatory body.
Commercial lenders might not be able to connect with small business owners as they once could — but that doesn’t mean the relationships have to be any less personal. As small businesses need lenders now more than ever, banks can use social media to cut through the social distancing barriers to reach business owners in need and earn their trust as go-to lenders.