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'BtoB's' NetMarketing panel: Financial services companies turning to social media marketing

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New York—Social media marketing is catching on in the highly regulated financial services industry, according to panelists who spoke Thursday at BtoB's NetMarketing Breakfast here. While financial services companies are closely monitored by compliance departments in the use of social media and usually maintain centralized control over how employees engage socially, they're still finding ways to use social outreach, said Marty Willis, CMO at asset management company OppenheimerFunds. “We continue to think about a "digital-first' philosophy; it's one of the biggest changes we brought to the organization,” said Willis, who joined the company as marketing chief three years ago. Willis said the company uses social media to reach out to the financial advisers who sell its products. “Blogs have been fantastic for us,” Willis said. “We have 51,000 people who are regularly viewing our blogs, which are distributed as short, digestible content.” OppenheimerFunds is active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. To fuel the latter, the company has invested in a professional video studio in-house to record and present its portfolio managers as thought leaders. “People like videos that are short, snappy and entertaining, with an emphasis on graphics that come alive and move,” Willis said. She said tweets and other content are approved on average in two minutes. Kathleen Delaney, senior VP-marketing at risk management and insurance company Aon, said the company has invested heavily in podcasts, with a particular emphasis on the iPhone. The company drives engagement at events via social media and the use of mobile apps. Aon's weekly e-newsletters are sharable on social sites via a prominent forward button. Since many risk managers are comfortable with more traditional forms of communications, Delaney said, “The use of newsletters along with social helps bridge the "technical divide.' ” Seth Brewer, director-social media at insurance company Hartford Financial Services Group, said financial services companies can't avoid social marketing. He said the Hartford found many of the independent insurance agencies that it works with have found success when carriers support products through social media. “But 82% of those agencies say too few carriers provide help to them in this way,” Brewer said. He added that 13% of agencies say social assistance in promoting insurance products has influenced where business is placed. Hartford uses social forums to help marketing and product distribution, gamification to assist sales, social sites to support agency partners and listening platforms to assist engagement with end users. Also participating in Thursday's panel discussion was Katrina Klier, senior director-worldwide digital marketing and engagement at Microsoft Corp.
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