Content Curation and the Financial Industry

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Neha Megchiani's picture

Content Curation and the Financial Industry

The historical relationship between social media and financial firms can be described as bearish at best. Trying to navigate hundreds of social media platforms while simultaneously complying with SEC and FINRA regulations is no mean feat, and it is no surprise that a ‘do nothing’ strategy was initially adopted as a response to the rise in social media. Only recently has that strategy progressed to ‘passive listening and observation’ and then warily to ‘active participation’. While financial firms have yet to fully embrace social media, the coexistence of two characteristics of the financial industry make it uniquely suited to benefit from the rise in social media – the importance, but lack, of trust in financial brands; and the threat of information overload on maximization of revenue. And although numerous social media platforms can be employed to face these challenges, content curation could make the adoption of social media both effective and efficient.

Defining ‘content curation’

Marketing expert Rohit Bhargava defines a content curator as someone "who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online"1. Content curation has often been compared to work of a museum curator – the ability to give a work of art context and prominence by identifying, authenticating, sifting, sorting and understanding numerous works is a behavior that can be applied to information as well.

For organizations, it can be applied to any combination of social media platforms based on brand presence across these channels. It encompasses actions such as deliberately picking and choosing what is retweeted on Twitter or deciding which in-house research would be most likely to connect with users through status updates on LinkedIn.

What has caused a recent surge in content curation is the abundance of information and media shared on social media platforms – so much so that it has become difficult to distinguish spam from valuable information. Where content curation really proves to be beneficial lies in the idea that the single act of content curation serves the dual purpose of being able to create value both externally through interaction with consumers and internally within an organization.

Creating benefits externally

Research has shown that trust is of paramount importance when consumers choose financial institutions they want to work with - 69% of consumers name ‘trust’ as the most important decision-making factor when picking a financial advisor2. However, consumers also rank Financial Services and Banks as the least trusted industries in the world3. Content curation can play a role in bridging this trust gap by increasing brand value through a display of knowledge.

Trust and knowledge go hand-in-hand. In fact, 47% of consumers named ‘knowledge’ as the attribute that would be most important in enabling a financial advisor to serve their clients well. In a world where organizations tend to mistakenly consider content synonymous with knowledge, consumers face an onslaught of tweets, emails and Facebook messages from the same organization everyday. This may work for industries where consumers desire frequent brand interaction, but financial firms have to grapple with the fact that their clients would rather minimize contact with their organizationsii. Until financial brands turn into consumer-friendly successes like Disney and Coca-Cola, they need to focus their communications so that maximum impact can be made with minimum interactions.

Although consumers may not want to hear from the financial institutions they conduct business with, this does not mean that they do not seek financial information online. Close to 50% of investors admit to using financial blogs and websites to get financial advice4. Another survey indicates that almost two-thirds of investors claim that peer-generated online content affected their financial decisions5. With overload of information quickly becoming a concern, users find valuable information hard to locate and recognize. They become, in essesnce, “content fried”. There is thus a white space that exists in this market for financial information – a white space that financial firms can fill while simultaneously increasing their brand value.

Content curation ensures that this happens. It delivers to users content that has been handpicked by the leaders and the best of the industry. It forces financial brands to focus and narrow their marketing strategy to align with the organization’s larger mission and vision. It increases brand awareness and brand visibility by directing traffic towards a company’s social media even when users are not actively searching for a brand. But more importantly, it increases brand engagement because curated content is more likely to be retweeted, commented on, shared and appreciated. And it is this brand engagement that serves as the catalyst for creating the much-needed trust in financial firms.

Creating benefits internally

The implications of content curation are not solely external. One of the main internal benefits of content curation is that employees can undertake it not just for consumers, but for other employees as well. Information overload and attention fragmentation have caused loss in employee productivity and in turn negatively impacted functioning of organizations across the globe. In the U.S. alone, it has been estimated that 28 billion hours and up to $1 trillion are lost to information overload each year6. Some Fortune 500 companies estimate that information overload has caused a $1 million loss in their balance sheets last year7. Information overload poses an even bigger threat in industries like financial services where organizations are extremely data-dependent. In an industry where information erodes in value every second it spends in a communication channel waiting to reach the right individual, content curation provides a viable solution. Content curation models illustrate how setting aside 15-30 minutes of time five times a day towards curating content can help employees process information more accurately while simultaneously establishing themselves as authorities in their field8. Morgan Stanley has been one of the few financial firms to successfully encourage a pilot group of employees to use social media on the job, but even their strategy has been plagued with the bureaucracy of heavy regulation – initial updates on LinkedIn are drawn from a library of pre-approved, compliance-friendly statements and each tweet undergoes a series of approvals before being seen by the public9. Being able to emulate Morgan Stanley’s strategy without the need or inclusion of heavy regulation is the challenge faced by financial firms.

Encouraging integration of online networks of financial analysts into the workspace allows employees to leverage information that is available both outside and inside the organization in an efficient manner. Modern-day successes like “The Lantern” Research, Finance 3.0 and Sum Zero have each amassed close to 4,000 members and 40,000 visits10 last year, and continue to grow at a rapid pace. These social media platforms aim to enable exchange of financial information by connecting industry leaders with their peers and by publishing reports and analyses complied by these individuals. They reduce the need of and dependence on an internal framework of knowledge within the organization and therefore contribute to lowering infrastructure costs. Content Curation on these platforms also helps keep employees motivated, connected and engaged. But most importantly, in the eyes of some firms, it produces tangible results on the bottom line of financial firms.

 

References: 
  1. “Manifesto For The Content Curator: The Next Big Social Media Job Of The Future?” by Rohit Bhargava. (September 30, 2009). Influential Marketing Blog on the web. Retrieved from http://rohitbhargava.typepad.com/weblog/2009/09/manifesto-for-the-conten...
  2.  “Bridging the trust divide: The financial advisor-client relationship”. (2006). SSGA and Knowledge @ Wharton, University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/special_section.cfm?specialID=70
  3.  “Edelmen Trust Barometer: U.S. Financial Services and Banking Industries”. (2012). Edelmen Insights. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/2012-edelman-trust-barometer-u...
  4.  “ING DIRECT USA’s ShareBuilder Investor Study”. (2010). Harris Interactive. Retrieved from http://content.sharebuilder.com/mgdcon/core/AboutUs/survey_results/White...
  5. “Social Media’s Impact on Personal Finance & Investing”. (2008). Cognent Research. Retrieved from http://www.cogentresearch.com/news/Press%20Releases/Social_Media_Final_0...
  6.  B. Spira, Jonathan. (2011). “Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization”
  7. B. Spira, Jonathan. (2011). “Overload! How Too Much Information is Hazardous to your Organization”
  8.  Content Curation Primer” by Beth Kanter. (October 1, 2011). Retrieved from http://www.bethkanter.org/content-curation-101/
  9.  “Morgan Stanley Advisors 50+ Win with Social Media” by Scott Peterson. (May 17, 2012). Relay Station on the web. Retrieved fromhttp://www.relaystationmedia.com/2012/05/morgan-stanley-advisors-50-win-...
  10.  “Worth the Investment – Social Media for the Financial Services Industry” by Carolyn Fraser. (2011). 7Summits Blog on the web. Retrieved from http://www.7summitsagency.com/uncategorized/worth-the-investment-social-...
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