Dear Financial Services Brands: Do you Know Your Customer?

Identifying the financial services audience through social media conversations

“One who is rich does not make a display of his money or his possessions. Only a vulgarian talks ceaselessly about how much this or that cost him,” dictates the Fundamentals of Good Behavior in the book of etiquette written by Emily Post in 1922.

This attitude towards talking about personal finance and money matters still prevails in public life, so much so that 70 percent of Americans said they think it’s rude or inappropriate to discuss personal money matters in a social setting and almost 68% of people would rather talk about their weight than about money. And this shrouded awkwardness around discussing money  cost Americans an average of $1,100 in 2017.

But as technology transforms the way we transact and manage money, it’s made the discussion less delicate and more democratic. Consumers who will readily recommend a car or rave about a food processor are less forthcoming when it comes to talking about investments or savings. But thanks to thanks to the growth of social media platforms, forums and review sites, that is changing.

The financial services industry in America is valued at approximately 10% of the GDP. For an industry that big, being in the dark about their customers and their changing preferences can prove costly. But who is the audience? What personal finance topics are they interested in and what are their priorities?

In this post we identify the audience that’s talking about personal finance topics online and the conversation they are having by looking at:

  • Core audience demographics
  • Conversation topics
  • Consumer priorities

Penny for your thoughts?

Money is less about finances and more about emotions — particularly, fear, shame and anger. This explains the discomfort around discussing finances even with loved ones.

But the consumer attitude towards talking about personal finance is changing. As everyone from old to young, male and female, rich and poor interact with the financial services industry and its latest innovations, consumers realize that online platforms are the best resource to stay updated. As evident in the graph below, the discussion around financial topics has been surging for the past few years, albeit with some inconsistency. In 2016, the conversation peaked to 930k posts, thanks to conversation about the US Senate passing a bill to rescind the fiduciary rule, and student loans becoming a hot topic in election discussion.

Knowing that the conversation is building up is a great insight for finserv brands but can we know more about the specifics of the discussion? Like what money topics people are most interested in? When discussing personal finance, the online audience talks about savings, loans, debt and credit score.

The discussion volumes around these topics have been fairly consistent except for a few spikes. The loan conversation saw an uptick in 2011 when the Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates near zero. The savings discussion, which forms the bulk of financial services conversation, has remained steadfast.

Look who’s talking

Now that we know which personal finance topics consumers are most interested in, can we know more about who is having the conversation and what they care about?

For example, what does the age breakdown of the finserv audience look like and what about the gender divide?

When we asked these questions, we found the data more compelling: The audience that discusses money the most is, unsurprisingly, men over 35. Interestingly, consumers in the age group of 18-24, perhaps because they are new to the workforce, discuss finserv topics more than those between 25 and 34.

Demographics might be significant but are by no means a singular factor in identifying and knowing more about the target audience. When we compared the finserv audience to the overall audience on Twitter, we identified disproportionately common affinities for the group, including credit unions, retirement, hedge funds and the stock market.

Conclusion

The financial services industry cannot afford to be the abstruse and impenetrable business that it once used to be. For an industry that is worth over a trillion dollars, it’s critical for banks, credit card companies and insurance companies today to know the customers they’re serving. Luckily for them, their target audiences are moving their conversation online and talking about personal finance topics that interest and intrigue them. While banks, credit card companies and insurance companies are clamoring for consumer goodwill by simplifying processes and making technology user friendly, consumers are readily offering feedback online. Are brands listening?

More more consumer insights on the financial services industry, click here.

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