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Direct approach to social strategies (part 2)

How do high-profile financial services companies keep on top of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram et al? In part two of this exclusive Q&A, Alison Traboulsi, Direct Line Group’s Head of Social Media, recalls a campaign where everything clicked and offers advice for working with influencers.

Andrew Michael (AM): Is there a weekly pattern to your work, or is the job more ad hoc than that?

Churchill: one of four brands in the DLG portfolio

Alison Traboulsi (AT): No two days or weeks are the same. Your to-do list usually gets de-railed whilst you deal with reactive issues and opportunities, so it’s necessary to be able to manage an ever-changing work load.  Everyone who works in the social media team needs to be adept at juggling multiple priorities, whilst being flexible in their approach to work.

AM: How much and what sort of planning does your job entail?
Planning is a fundamental part of my role. These are just some of the regular planning tasks that I have to prioritise in my role:

  • Annual strategic planning across the four brands (Direct Line, Green Flag, Privilege and Churchill)
  • Quarterly planning, as priorities often shift or need to be reprioritised
  • Integrated campaign planning – working closely with the brand teams to align social with the specific objectives for each creative campaign
  • Resource management between my team, Leeds and Doncaster when dealing with call volume service level agreements (SLAs) and social media SLAs

AM: How do you measure success?
To stand out effectively requires a dedication of adequate social brand and direct response media spend, as well as a robust measurement framework. You need audience-first creative approaches and dedicated social teams who are experts in their field. You can’t just re-purpose creative that is being used for other channels and expect it to have the same impact.

AM: Give an example of an initiative or plan or campaign where everything clicked.
: On Green Flag, we launched a campaign called Mud and Motors, which was a truly integrated campaign across multiple marketing disciplines.

We put on an event where motorists were challenged to complete a muddy obstacle course. Rather than a reward for the fastest finisher, participants were challenged to complete the course using their common sense – with points gained for making the most common-sense decisions – directly linking with Green Flag’s Common Sense to the Rescue approach.

‘Mud and Motors’ campaign ticked Green Flag’s social media boxes

We worked with influencer Chris Hughes, ran an event, a competition, and promoted across YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It was a great demonstration of social media working collaboratively across multiple agencies and internal stakeholders.

AM: Now give an example where things went awry. What did you learn from the latter?
We work with influencers on some of our campaigns and have found that on occasion, where we have multi-stakeholders to go through Brand/PR teams and a PR agency and then the agent, that things can get lost in translation and things may not always go exactly to plan.

For example, when working with influencers, it is critical from a compliance perspective that the influencer puts #AD up front, as per the Advertising Standards Authority Committees of Advertising Practice (ASA Cap) guidance which makes clear that an ad should be labelled upfront before people click/engage: “The main thing to remember is that you need to make it obvious – any label  (or other means) you you use to highlight the ad needs to be upfront (before people click/engage), prominent (so people notice it), appropriate for the channel (what can you see and when?) and suitable for all potential devices (it needs to be clear on mobile too)”.

What we’ve learned is that when we work with influencers directly, it is far easier to manage this relationship and ensure all campaign elements are on track and compliant with the ASA Cap code.

If we can’t work directly with them, we need to have a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted and informed) in place upfront, so that everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities. We also always need to ensure that clear guidance is supplied in contracts and reiterated verbally, so that all stakeholders have the same level of understanding.

AM: Name another financial services company that’s getting social media right and say why.
: We look outside of our category for inspiration and best practice. Companies who are smashing it out of the park on social usually have: clear tone of voice, brand personality, high engagement as their content resonates with their target audience and they bring something new and fresh to the table. We often look at: Wendy’s, Nike, Paddy Power, Innocent smoothies and Pepsi to name just a few.

AM: Has the use of social media already run its course in financial services? Or is its future still rosy?
Social is always on the move. It’s one of the reasons which makes it so exciting to work with. Even working in it, it’s hard to know what it will look like in the next three years, but we know that whilst it will evolve, consumers are still likely to be very actively involved. . ..

Advertisers are only going to move away from social and digital channels when their target audiences are not using them. Perhaps most telling here is Twitter’s growth to-date and Facebook’s recent revenue boost – even after the record fine they paid to [consumer protection agency] the Federal Trade Commission in the US, and the lingering concern after Cambridge Analytica.

Its earnings have exceeded expectations now for two consecutive quarters, a fact which simply would not be the case if users were abandoning the platform in droves. It continues to provide a valuable service in people’s lives, and brands will continue in turn to plug into that access. There will always be some users who decide to unsubscribe due to privacy concerns, just as user attrition will continue for any number of other reasons too.

AM: At Direct Line are you seeing a shift in the different channels you use? Or do Twitter/Facebook still rule the roost?
The channels we choose are based on the target audience and business objectives we are trying to achieve. We have a presence on a range of social channels: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We do not have an endless pot of marketing spend, so we strategically apportion spend based on the target audience, business and campaign objective and where we are going to get the greatest efficiencies.


AM: If money/resource were no object, what whizzbang finserv social media initiative would you undertake?
I would want significant spend to be able to test in a multi-channel approach (Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter etc) over a longer period on all campaigns and BAU across brands. This would allow us to garner greater insight and trends from our brand uplift studies and in-channel metrics, that we could then use to inform future campaigns and build into our testing and measurement frameworks.

(Do you work in finserv PR, marketing or comms? Proud of your achievements in social and other channels? Care to share your experiences via Money & Media? Get in touch!).