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The trust trajectory: why social media companies need to be more like big banks

Emily Hean

June 01, 2023

Social media idealism is officially gone. After eye-opening events like the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal and Elon Musk’s acquisition of — and fundamental changes at — Twitter, consumers’ collective trust in social media has crumbled. The early enthusiasm around democratizing access to information, self-expression, and connection seems almost quaint in 2023’s tech-skeptical ecosystem. And that skepticism is showing no signs of waning. However, it’s also bringing about some social media evolutions that are beneficial to brands.


Take all the social media laws and regulations that are starting to develop, for instance. Rather than trusting a platform like Facebook to live up to its mission “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” official parameters and stronger user privacy protections are now being established. Undoubtedly, more defensive strategies will be on the horizon as we move closer to the next evolution of the web and explore the future role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

Where do brands come into this picture? As marketers know, all companies need to be able to navigate social media. They can’t opt out because, even with waning trust in social media, people of all ages use platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for connection, entertainment, information, news, and education. Consequently, brands that want to expand their reach and capture target audiences can’t just default to traditional offline media. They need to connect with leads and customers on a digital level.

This doesn’t mean some companies aren’t tempted (and trying) to move marketing from the social media “giants” to more niche digital channels. The problem is that those channels take high levels of work to maintain — and they don’t produce results fast enough to make a difference. Like it or lump it, social media — with all its problems — is still the sweet spot between “reach” and “effort” for most brands.


This means that even with rising concerns, brands must show up. People expect their presence on social media. Identifying and deploying social media marketing best practices is the key to navigating the current landscape. One place to look for guidance is the banking industry.


How Banking Is Driving Smarter Social Media Marketing Decisions

Entities of all sizes in the financial industry, including fintech startups, are facing more regulations and laws now than ever before. Almost no one alive today remembers the initial optimism about the role of banking in society. On the contrary, most consumers see banks as necessary but still requiring a lot of regulatory structure to protect all stakeholders. It’s this type of regulation and oversight that we hope to see come into play on the web in places such as social media.


The best brands are the ones that embrace that regulation and get out ahead of predatory use. For example, consider what happened after the crisis of 2007-2008. People’s eyes were opened to irresponsible lending practices and inadequate regulation. This naturally led to both increased financial institution scrutiny and regulation. In fact, the recent government support of Silicon Valley Bank highlighted the fragile underpinnings of banks that aren’t led by strong regulatory measures. These crises — the Great Recession and the near-collapse of SVB — are akin to what’s going on with social media as more gaps are being exposed and ultimately closed with help from social media laws and regulations.

The fact remains that brands can’t avoid social media any more than they can avoid banks. Nevertheless, marketers can choose how and when they operate on different platforms. That way, they can lower the risks of using social media for business marketing and get all the benefits.

How to Create a Social Media Strategy for Business in the Modern Era

At RAPP, we work with both financial and non-financial industry clients. Interestingly, some of our financial clients have temporarily suspended advertising on key platforms (or are taking a platform-by-platform approach) based on regulations. During these periods of “stepping away” from status quo social media platforms, they’ve invested in other emerging opportunities. These have included owned digital environments like games and apps. However, they’ve come back to social media once those platforms had brand-appropriate regulations in place, and they created their own customized social media marketing best practices.

As marketers, we’ve helped our clients navigate the social media landscape by making sure the overall lack of trust in social media doesn’t affect their brand image. Brands can take time to invest in brand-owned channels and experiences as they rethink where and how they show up digitally. Instead of expecting each client to default to a one-size-fits-all strategy, we work with businesses to help them proactively reach different audiences on social media in a way that protects their brands. To do this, we evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each social media platform to construct individualized marketing plans. This thoughtful process allows companies to enjoy all the advantages of social media without falling into “trust traps.”

If you’ve been thinking about pulling the plug on social media, know that you have other choices. As long as you keep your audience and brand at the center of all your marketing decisions, you can master your environment. Switch up your media mix. Explore new creative opportunities on appealing social media channels. You don’t have to be everywhere all the time. You can be selective. 


Remember: Social media is just another tool — another channel. Don’t be afraid to change channels. Just be sure that you’re shielding your brand by leaning into the regulations that are starting to pop up and putting your own parameters into place. 

Want more information on steering your brand safely online? Contact the RAPP team today.


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