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Direct approach to social strategies (part 1)

How do high-profile financial services companies keep on top of ‘social’ in all its many guises? In this two-part Q&A Alison Traboulsi, Head of Social Media at Direct Line Group, spoke exclusively to me about the challenges, issues and opportunities of working in this sphere.

Andrew Michael (AM): You manage the social media team at Direct Line Group which sounds extremely cool and a bit dull in equal measure. Is that fair comment or not?! What does your role cover and which channels do you work across?

Alison Traboulsi (AT): My role is all about connecting with people, especially as insurance is something our customers rely on to deliver when something unexpected has happened in life. I work on some of the biggest household names and most exciting brands in financial services and I am given plenty of autonomy to try new things and push the boundaries of creativity. My remit covers Direct Line, Green Flag, Privilege and Churchill.

Traboulsi: “Things can escalate quickly on social media”.

I love the variety, the fast pace of work and the diverse range of stakeholders that I manage daily. I’m responsible for the social strategies across our portfolio of brands, copywriting, content creation, social listening using Brand Watch, influencer relationships, paid social across Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, as well as the measurement behind these channels, so there is never a dull moment.

AM: What are the challenges for those working on social strategies against a backdrop of financial services? Doesn’t being a regulated business in the insurance space put the mockers on some of the things you’d like to do?

When it comes to social, everyone thinks they are a social media expert just because they’re on social media. They believe the notion of it taking five minutes to write a tweet and assume that is what we do all day! Understanding the thought and the strategy behind every post online takes time, especially when operating in a “low interest” category.

Brands must walk a fine line on social media: they must remain compliant while discussing complex financial topics, answering customer questions, fielding complaints, telling their brand’s story and the stories of their products and services.

We work closely with our Financial Promotions team and the platform owners from early planning stages to ensure that regulation isn’t an issue for us. Any good marketer would always aim to be compliant with sector and industry regulations such as the Cap Code [the UK code of non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing], Financial Conduct Authority rules etc.

AM: How big is your team? To whom are you responsible?

AT: My team is part of the Marketing Division and as a cross-functional team, we report into the Head of Brand PR and Social Media.  I head up a team of four social media managers who are responsible for the content and planning process for Direct Line Group’s consumer-facing brands. We drive forward the social strategies for Direct Line, Churchill, Green Flag and Privilege and bring them to life across our social media platforms.

The team is structured in a way that means one person operates at brand portfolio level and the other team members each manage a brand. This allows for clear roles and responsibility/accountability for the individuals and stakeholders in the business.

AM: How does your team overlap with other parts of the business? How do you nip problems in the bud, for example, stopping a media enquiry molehill turning into a mountain-sized full-blown crisis?

AT: We work at portfolio level across our four brands, so we work with four category teams and liaise heavily in a collaborative way with the four brand teams. In addition to these relationships, with have strong relationships with our PR team and our social customer care teams who are based in Leeds and Doncaster to mitigate risk and crisis issues happening within our social communities. Things can escalate quickly on social media and we need to be on hand to advise and react.

Risk, internal affairs, procurement, legal, internal comms, marketing effectiveness are other teams to name a few that we work with. The very nature of social media blends and bleeds across many business areas. It is not a department that should operate in a silo and needs to be fully integrated into any business to be truly successful. The objective of our work is to drive performance metrics, protect our brand reputation and increase our brand awareness amongst our target audiences.

AM: How would your main tasks over the course of a working week look as a list of bullet-points?

AT: As follows:

  • 1-2-1 and team meetings, editorial meetings between my team and the Social Customer Care teams in Leeds and Doncaster as well as wider Social and PR meetings.
  • Project / campaign meetings with different stakeholders across the business.
  • Weekly business updates and planning calls with Facebook and Twitter.
  • Campaign and strategic planning and resource management.
  • Supporting the team with any issues / questions/development areas.
  • Escalations – advising the customer care teams when they need guidance on how to respond to a specific issue/customer/influencer.

In part two of this interview, Alison reveals the lessons she’s learned from working with influencers and what she believes the future holds for social strategies.

(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!).