Blackrock is the ultimate Wall Street behemoth with over $6 trillion in assets under management (AuM). No other firm ever has managed so much money. On Facebook, if you search for “Blackrock”, a Blackrock Steakhouse (unrelated), with its 25,000 fans appears on top of the list. Blackrock (asset management) has 22,000 fans.
It’s not that the asset manager is neglecting Facebook, you will see regular posts in various formats, including video — it is more a case of inefficiency. Someone in the social media team is doing their job diligently. It’s just that it doesn’t convert well.
The anecdotal evidence about Blackrock is a sign of something broader than a social media issue. It tells us something critical about the content from the financial industry in general and offers an easy hack to fintech players and financial startups.
Social media followers versus marketing messages
Blackrock has a larger audience on Twitter and Linkedin, 358,000 and 402,000 followers, respectively, totalling 780,000. A modest amount given the firm’s leadership position and brand. The rest of the industry follows a similar pattern. The top 8 pure players in asset management average 450,000 followers and. Twitter and Linkedin contribute 3 to 4 more times to the total than Facebook.
Their lack of Facebook success is not due to lack of efforts. Most of them post regularly, in a wide range of formats. Simply, their message doesn’t resonate there. Only 33% of financial services companies have acquired a customer through Facebook, compared with 73% in retail (source: Hubspot).
Other social platforms appear negligible, Blackrock’s Instagram account shows just over 2,000 followers.
Simply put, the conversation that these brands are having with their audience is a business one, and that’s a conversation that doesn’t usually happen on the social media where you share your lunch and holiday pictures (and spend most of your time on).
The social continuum
Most financial services have transferred their traditional approach to the “new” platforms.
Scroll through their feeds, and you will see an overwhelming majority of posts in the following categories:
- Advice, research or insights related to products (from Pimco’s Facebook feed)
A Strong Defense Can Win Championships: Actively Managing Your Cash and Short-Term Investments
PIMCO is positioning ultra-short and short-term bond portfolios with the goal of not only navigating rising rates but…
- Careers and company culture (from Blackrock’s Facebook feed)
How to get a job at BlackRock, by the head of global trading
Based on our annual Ideal Employer survey of more than 6,000 financial services professionals worldwide, BlackRock has…
- CSR (from Fidelity’s Facebook feed)
Reducing paper use is just one way we’re committing to #WorldEnvironmentDay! #FidelityAssociate
- Awards or milestones (from BNY Mellon’s Facebook feed)
The above examples were taken randomly from recent posts. The common factor is they are all “business content”, mainly about the company.
Instead of adapting messaging to how people consume media today, many financial institutions produce product-centric content that focuses solely on features and benefits. (PWC, Financial Services Viewpoint, 2015)
In that light, it is unsurprising that giants like Blackrock, Amundi, Pimco average just over 10,000 Facebook followers. We expect these firms to talk about business, finance, the economy and perhaps people use Linkedin and Twitter for that reason. What is striking, however, is that the content is not about anything else. According to PWC’s Financial Services Viewpoint:
Financial institutions have been selling to customers the same way they did half a century ago.
A different approach
TransferWise is a peer-to-peer money transfer service launched in 2011, and currently moving over $2bn monthly. They used to focus their communication on their cheaper rates, with a good measure of bank-bashing.
When they started talking about “bilingual kids”, “one-way ticket” and sharing immigrant stories, foreign exchange transactions acquired a deeper meaning.
A recent Transferwise post:
A special invitation to our community of customers. Join us this ... Thursday at 1.10pm (BST) as we live stream Mission…
As a result, their Facebook page grew by nearly 40% in the last 12 months.
Another startup, Wealthsimple, promotes personal stories to reach a millennial audience on Instagram, a platform where traditional players are barely visible. Combining a strong visual identity with a magazine approach, the online investment manager doubled its followers in the last six months to reach 23,000.
Hold on, but why is this a hack?
The approach is not radically new, but in the financial world, it is a hack. Large financial organisations can’t just adopt it. It will require considerable efforts to stir in a different direction to what they have been doing for decades. Marketing teams are often fragmented, working toward different goals. They are also usually relatively small for the size of the organisation. The heavy lifting in terms of customer acquisition is done by the sales team, focused on building strong one-to-one relationships.
These legacies can’t be erased overnight.
It is also a hack to circumvent regulatory risk. Talking less about products and more about customers is a lot safer from a regulation point of view (obviously, compliance still needs to be involved in the communication).
Blackrock doesn’t really need Facebook. You probably do.
Eventually, large firms will adapt. However, to do so, they will need to go through a time-consuming and costly transformation. Until that trend is in full bloom, there is a perfect marketing opportunity for fintech startups who can get it right from the start.
Blackrock’s success is enduring for many reasons that can’t be listed here, but its size undoubtedly contributes to it more than its marketing and social posts.
The opportunity for Fintech players is to ditch the product pitch and instead create customer-focus content that is bound to resonate more.
By doing so, they can also leverage the largest social media platforms, namely Instagram and Facebook, where market leaders are less present.
The other good news for fintech startups is that they just need to take 1/6,000 market share from Blackrock, i.e. one billion dollars in asset under management to reach a major milestone.
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