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Oh to be Social

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At Optima Group, we think about marketing a lot. We think about strategy, we think about tactics, we think about creative. And given its exponential growth, what kind of marketers would we be if we didn’t think about social media??

Facebook’s growth represents the burgeoning of social media — the site had 1 million users in 2004, 12 million in 2006, and more than 900 million users as of its IPO. Because so many people are integrating social media into their daily lives, we feel that content marketing and customer service experiences delivered via social media can be integral components to a marketing plan. However, social media marketing requires a thoughtful strategy.

Many of the financial organizations that did not embrace social media initially are jumping on the bandwagon. Witness the Goldman Sachs posting on its website on May 1st that it plans to hire a “social media community manager.” The position involves overseeing the firm’s online communities and developing a “positive online presence.” Many other likeminded companies are developing their social strategies and trying to figuring out how to fit social media into their marketing plans.

We conducted an informal survey of the Facebook and Twitter presence of several leading financial services firms, and what we found is a mixed bag. Some have only a “Wiki” definition on Facebook , while others have lively timelines full of trivia and customer conversations. The firms that appear the most comfortable in the social media space are able to use the medium to deepen customer relationships.

While social media is continuing to evolve, we expect that its importance as a marketing tool will continue to grow and that it will be utilized in ever more creative ways. The key for financial services firms is to understand what it is and how to use it. Social media is a great way to talk to people who are interested in your firm. But different types of companies will use it differently, depending on whether they are marketing business to business or business to consumer. Additionally, even within those categories, buyer behavior varies widely. When thinking about what your firm’s social media strategy should be, it’s important to begin by taking a moment and thinking carefully about what you are trying to accomplish, and the target audience you are trying to reach.

So before you tweet, post or put something on the pinboard, remember, it’s a big, quickly-evolving (online) world out there, and your strategy and tactics must be nimble and flexible enough to keep up.

Rhona Heyl