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Part III: How to Leverage Social Platforms to Build a Personal Brand as a Community Banker

Digital Marketing

Part III: How to Leverage Social Platforms to Build a Personal Brand as a Community Banker

Eric Cook by Eric Cook

Chief Digital Strategist

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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:

When I started my career in banking “way back in the day”, my father (a life-long community banker himself) shared some sage advice with me. He said “you want people to think of you as their banker, not just someone that works at the bank.”

Having a personal connection is critical to building relationships, and today, many of these personal connections start online. In this post, I’m wrapping up my three-part series of key things that are challenging for community banks and community bank marketers. So far I’ve shared information about the growing opportunities (and challenges of AI) and the importance of leveraging data. Today, in my third and final article, I’m exploring social media and how community bankers can leverage online connections (and their personal brand) to better serve their communities and build relationships online.

First, Establish Thought Leadership

One of the best things to use social media for as a community bank professional, or any business professional for that matter, is to establish thought leadership. Think about your ideal customer and what’s on their mind, then look for ways to share information that resonates with them. It’s not just banking information, although that can be important, but information that is top of mind to them and making sure they recognize you understand them and their needs. This helps to build rapport with your network and increases the chances that when they do have a banking need, they will think of you. 

Social media is the perfect tool for establishing thought leadership because it's free and a great way to reach many people at once. Still, thought leadership is about more than just blasting information through consistent posting. It takes patience and intentional skills to establish yourself as an expert or thought leader in banking.

Don't Jump In with a Hard Sell

So many people jump into social media and feel they need to begin selling right away. They may feel pressure from management to generate sales, and leveraging the social media space seems like the perfect opportunity to start selling—hard—right out of the gate. I caution against this approach, though, because it isn't practical. It's easy for anyone to unfollow or not engage with unappealing content, and a hard sell on social media is unappealing. People won’t buy from someone they don’t know, like, and trust - and that takes time.

I often liken social media to a chamber mixer or any other in-person social networking event. You wouldn't roll up to the hors d'oeuvres table and start pushing your loan rates or talking about your great new CD rate - yet some banks only allow their staff to repost their promotional material. 

A better approach at these social events is to connect through listening to conversations, talking with others who are there to also network, and learning what’s important to them. Resist the temptation to sell on social media, just as you would at the in-person networking event, and discover what's important to the people in your community by "listening." This means commenting on posts, sharing information, making connections, etc.

Commenting vs. Posting

After discovering what’s important to the people in your community and those you want to influence online, it's a good strategy to engage with them by commenting on their posts instead of jumping in and posting right off the bat. Sure, consistent posting is key and ultimately will be important to generate additional growth and visibility, but if you’re just starting out it’s important to simply be present and commenting on posts to add value and build the conversation. That will get you noticed, and increase your visibility to others, without the pressure of creating your own posts. 

Bank Management & Social Media Concerns

Leveraging social media to grow your community bank demands time and skill development. Some managers may hesitate to invest in social media training for their team out of fear of losing staff to competitors. If someone gains visibility on LinkedIn by establishing thought leadership as an expert in financial services, it can open them up for recruitment from other companies, and that makes bank executives leery.

But instead of avoiding social media out of fear of what “may happen,” I think it’s better for a bank to create an environment where your employees won’t want to leave - even if they get a better offer. By investing in your staff through training, empowering them to succeed, and rewarding them for high performance you create a positive company culture and develop healthy working relationships. 

Importance of Using Social Platforms in Community Banking

Social platforms are excellent tools for community bankers. By leveraging social media, community bankers can maintain valuable connections, build new ones, and drive local engagement through conversations and thoughtful interactions. Social media is a perfect way to address community needs, build trust, and showcase your bank staff's expertise in financial services. Establishing a digital presence is vital, and social media helps bridge the gap between traditional, in-person banking and modern customer interactions.

Need some help with your online brand-building efforts? Contact us today for more information about how WSI can help your community build and deploy a social strategy that will produce results. And, if you’re looking for help with your own personal branding efforts, you might like to check out The LinkedBanker, our mentoring and mastermind community exclusively for banking professionals to learn from each other and build a brand you can be proud of online.

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