After Facebook bought Instagram and Pinterest became one of the biggest drivers of referral traffic, there has been an enormous amount of discussion around image sharing recently. Image content has been pitched as the future of social networking. It provides an extremely effective way to engage with a brand’s audience and make that brand’s online assets more sharable.
But what if you don’t sell a tangible product that you can share pictures of? What if the most exciting product you sell is a high interest savings account or a pension?
All this hype around image sharing has got me thinking about how financial service providers (and other organisations that don’t have an extensive image supply) can make use of image sharing activities and platforms.
We have seen great examples of less visual companies utilising image sharing platforms. The Wall Street Journal has its own Pinterest account and through sharing a simple graphic from the website about “The 25 documents you need before you die” they achieved nearly 1500 shares on Pinterest and loads more traffic. The Wall Street Journal even has its own Instagram album on Pinterest!
Should the finance industry share images and use image sharing platforms?
The finance industry is a very competitive industry both offline and online, which is why we see a lot of finance webspam. In an industry with very strict compliance and regulatory issues it is easy to understand the strict sign-off procedures, and the slow adoption of new media. This is an industry which prefers the tried and tested techniques.
But with the new Google algorithm updates penalising low quality content and putting more of an emphasis on social shares and high value content, will the finance industry be forced to shake up their online activity?
Content strategies are moving away from low value article distribution and towards producing sharable content that reflects consumer lifestyles. Social platforms like image sharing sites offer finance brands the opportunity to express their company identity and engage with their audience. Brands can be seen to be sharing content that their target audience want to see rather than what they want to tell them or sell to them.
These new social sharing sites provide new platforms which are relatively untouched by competitors. This provides an opportunity for forward thinking companies to set up profiles early and build up their network of followers and authority. However it’s not necessary for every company to set up profiles on image sharing platforms. Brands can benefit from increased traffic and social signals just by encouraging people to share their images.
The general stereotype of finance content is that it is dull. But that doesn’t mean that a financial services brand has to be dull. It’s more about sharing the personality and values of the brand itself than information of the products and service it sells.
Whilst I’m not suggesting that every finance company jumps onto Pinterest and starts pinning images of OAPs collecting their pension, there are various ways that these companies can get involved in image sharing activities across various platforms.
The most obvious way to create some interesting graphics is by utilising the huge data resource these companies have to produce infographics. We’ve already discussed the SEO benefits of creating infographics, but they also provide an opportunity to share deep knowledge of an industry in a visually appealing way. These image assets can be shared over a variety of platforms like image sharing sites, social networking sites, and can be used for other online strategies like blogger outreach. If they are shared on Pinterest then they should always be linked to a page that explains the information in more detail and includes a call-to-action. Sharing buttons should also be added next to any interesting infographics/videographics or charts on site to encourage people to share these assets.
An increase in image sharing could also lead these companies to invest more heavily in experiential marketing, holding events for various target demographics. The Virgin Money Facebook page is a good example of a finance brand sharing images from a wide variety of events that the brand has been involved in. For companies who don’t sell tangible products we could see a lot more sponsorship of events to produce the exciting image assets they require.
But images don’t all have to be promotional either. Image sets could be used to provide advice to customers, check out the huge number of Pinterest boards with a money saving theme. Boards could be themed with different financial advice topics or how-to-guides with some pictures again linking back to the main website or a blog post where the audience can find out more information on this topic. Image boards of current individuals or businesses who have benefited from financial services and which link through to a case study or story on the website could bring this type of content to life.
Image sharing is definitely an important part of a consumer’s online interactions with a brand and there is no reason for financial brands or others without tangible products to be left behind. These types of companies should see image sharing as an opportunity to get creative and showcase their brand identity and values. Whether it is a greater focus on creating sharable image assets, or simply facilitating image sharing by adding social media buttons to interesting graphics, there are many opportunities for this activity. Ultimately it’s about making the band shareable, not the pension.
As content strategies and social media networking evolve, the finance industry like any other needs to move with the times and get with the picture.