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A Community Banker��s Perspective on LinkedIn's Top 6 Myths

A Community Banker’s Perspective on LinkedIn's Top 6 Myths

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Eric considers himself a “recovering banker” of 15 years, who for the past eleven years has focused his efforts as a digital strategist, helping his clients (mostly community banks) better understand and leverage the power of the Internet as a strategic business tool. An award-winning web designer with WSI, the world’s largest digital agency network, Eric is a two-time contributing author to the best-selling book Digital Minds – 12 Things Every Business Needs to Know About Digital Marketing. Consistently rated in the top five digital marketing books on Amazon, the book is in its second edition and available in three languages.

A sought-after, nationally-recognized speaker in the financial services industry, Eric is a member of the National Speakers Association and loves sharing his knowledge to help educate and inspire others. He is the co-creator of a weekly webinar show called Free Webinar Wednesdays, founder of the Banker Education Series webinar series, and serves as a faculty member at several banking schools around the country where he teaches bankers about digital strategy, online marketing and social media. He is a WSI Certified LinkedIn Professional and holds undergraduate degrees in business administration and psychology. While working full-time as a community banker, Eric earned his MBA and completed the three-year Graduate School of Banking program in Madison, WI in 2003.

Professionally, Eric helps his clients in all areas of digital marketing, which includes mobile-responsive web development, search engine marketing and optimization, social media strategies, e-mail communication, and “big-picture” digital strategic planning. He’s the co-founder of DigitalRCP.com, a service created to help businesses understand their risk when it comes to operating in today’s digital world. When he’s not helping his clients succeed online, he can typically be found on one of his many bicycles training for his next mountain bike/triathlon race or spending time with his wife and two (very spoiled) golden retrievers.

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Summary:

As consumers continue to spend more time online, it's important for today's community banker to know how to connect and engage with their customers, prospects, and the communities they serve through digital platforms, like LinkedIn. To get the most out of these platforms, some common myths need to be dispelled. 
 

Why Community Bankers Don’t Engage On LinkedIn

It’s no secret that LinkedIn is a go-to social networking site for most community bankers. The business-focused social network provides lower compliance and security risk compared to the other platforms. Community bankers can more easily find and connect with their target market on LinkedIn, especially if they're interested in connecting with business owners or other professionals. All that being said, I still hear bank senior management utter words of resistance to using LinkedIn, and it’s, unfortunately, holding them (and their bank) back from needed progress.

During one of my recent mountain bike excursions, I listened to a great podcast from the LinkedIn expert “Mr. LinkedIn” Mark Williams over at LinkedInformed. In the episode, he shared a research study recently conducted by another LinkedIn expert, Rolf Hans Mors. Mors interviewed 17 LinkedIn influencers and authorities to list some of the myths still believed about the platform. While the article in itself is certainly well worth the read (check it out here), the author summarized six key myths that carried through most of the responses.

As I read the article, I couldn't help but think about the numerous conversations I’ve had with community bankers. The faster we as community bankers can get beyond believing these myths and engage with the platform - and each other - the more success we will find, and our time online will be much more productive

Here are the six top myths and my perspective on each of them as it relates to the community banking industry. Here we go…

Myth #1 LinkedIn is Only For Finding a Job

If I had a dollar for every time I heard an executive resist the idea of empowering their workforce with LinkedIn training, I may not be a millionaire--but I probably would have a couple of hundred bucks in my pocket. In its inception, LinkedIn may have been a resume focused platform, but that certainly is not the case today. 

Individuals using the platform are sharing thought leadership, engaging with one another through direct messages and audio conversations, even LinkedIn's new Stories feature is providing new and creative ways for participants on the network to share information and engage others in conversation. If someone is going on LinkedIn with the intent of using it purely as a resume, they're missing the boat. Bankers can share helpful and relevant content and positioning yourself as a subject matter expertise and a trusted source of information for your target audience.

I’ve also heard bank executives express concerns about other banks discovering their staff and poaching them if they start looking “too good” on LinkedIn. First, it’s important to understand that you can't keep someone from leaving your bank if they're not happy. Consider the counter-argument, however. What if you don't train your employees to represent themselves and the bank in the most professional and attractive manner online? Wouldn't you rather build a culture of excellence and empower your team to use the platform as a relationship-building tool? This will make their job more enjoyable, they will find new business, and you will keep them as a loyal employee.

Myth #2 You Can't Get Any Business Out of LinkedIn

It may feel counterintuitive, but you’ll have greater business success on the platform if you’re not constantly promoting your products and services. Let me explain. 

You become more attractive to your ideal customers when you are sharing content that educates. This is how you can build rapport and attract buyers. This might fly in the face of traditional sales, but in the world of social/virtual selling, it's all about the relationship. 

I often give the example of Citizens Bank of Edmond’s CEO, Jill Castilla (follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter). In addition to being a personal friend, she's someone I look up to as it relates to building a brand and establishing yourself as a trustworthy source of information on social media as a banking executive. You'll find her active on LinkedIn and Twitter, oftentimes sharing her own personal cell phone number publicly and inviting anyone to get in touch with her directly with a question. At an event a few years ago, I had the privilege of being in the audience when she spoke to a room full of bankers and she made the statement that “over 40 million dollars in new loans and deposit accounts have come to her bank as a direct result of her participation in the social media”. 

This isn't speculative or fuzzy math; it's new customers telling her the reason they're doing business with her bank is because of her involvement on social media. The information she's sharing, the guidance that she's giving, her commitment to the local community, etc. All of this matter and can result in a substantial amount of sales for your institution.

Myth #3 You Should Only Connect With People You Know

Don't underestimate the power of meeting new people on LinkedIn. It can open up doors and opportunities that otherwise might never have been able before. On LinkedIn, you have the ability to explore and reach out to second and third-degree connections (people who are connected to your contacts).

When you do reach out to these individuals, there's a certain tact that needs to be taken, as many do it incorrectly these days. Spend some time learning about the individual, what information they share, their interests, and when you do ultimately engage, make sure that the conversation is relevant to them and puts their interests first. Like any new relationship, the more you can put the other individual at the focus of what you're talking about, the higher the likelihood they'll be interested in developing that relationship with you.

Myth #4 Sharing Personal Information is Not Appropriate

I'm not suggesting you hop on LinkedIn and start posting pictures of you and your bathing suit poolside on your latest vacation. However, the human element is becoming increasingly important in today's social networking strategy. While there seems to be a little bit more conservatism on LinkedIn as opposed to some of the other platforms, don't let that discourage you from sharing personal information as that humanizes you and makes you more approachable.

Rather than seeing you as a commercial lender, or a branch manager, let them get to know you as a real person. That means sharing a little bit about your hobbies, the nonprofit organizations you support, your family (to the extent you're comfortable sharing personal details of course). That will only help accelerate the relationship-building process and cement those bonds between you.

Myth #5 It Takes Too Much Time

At first, it may seem like it takes forever to get even the simplest post updated or craft the perfect comment on one of your network’s status updates. However, like any new habit, it takes time to get efficient.  You can avoid falling down the timewarp of social media activity by setting specific times and goals for when you’re on the platform. How many people do you want to connect with each week? How many status updates? Comments? DMs? Social media eats up time when you engage without a plan. 

Myth #6 It's Too Expensive

Unless you've decided to jump into LinkedIn and utilize their Sales Navigator subscription, the free version of LinkedIn, along with all of the other social networking platforms, won't cost you a dime. Granted, the adage of time is money holds true, which is why a clear strategy is vitally important.  

You'll discover a plethora of free resources that you can use to share with your desired target market and provide helpful and relevant information that will be appreciated and draw people to you.

Don't get me wrong, there's certainly plenty of opportunities to spend money on things like blog article creation, audio recording, video tools, etc., but before you spend any money, realize the mobile device in your pocket comes with a powerful camera and video recorder that’s a perfect place to start (and something that you already own). You can use free apps on your phone (like Google Docs) to document your thoughts via voice dictation. This process is an easy way of creating content that actually is coming from you as opposed to curating articles and sharing other information from around the web.

Here’s what most bankers don’t realize. The tracking capabilities of digital content compared to offline methods allows you to easily determine the success of your efforts. Data helps you determine what sort of engagement and return you're getting for your time and what kinds of posts get the results you’re looking for.

Community Bankers Should Be On LinkedIn

So there you have it, folks. We’ve covered the top six LinkedIn myths from a community banker’s perspective (and why they are wrong), which hopefully will get you on your way to embrace LinkedIn as a valuable relationship-building tool. If you've heard other myths about LinkedIn, or maybe even have experienced them personally, reach out and let us know.

A Valuable Resource for Banking Professionals

If you'd like some help building your personal brand and understanding ways to leverage digital and social tools as a banking professional, I invite you to join our community of banking professionals over at thelinkedbanker.com. This is the place for bankers like you to collaborate with one another, share ideas, and get expert guidance from my unique experience of being a community banker for 15 years and digital agency owner since 2007. 

I've spoken to thousands of bankers from around the country at conferences and schools over the years, and one of the key points of frustration is the feeling of “doing it alone” - not having a solid peer group to keep you motivated. In The LinkedBanker, you’ll find support and guidance from others just like you. Check it out today!
 

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