Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly valuable places for brands and consumers to connect on a variety of topics. While many may think they’re just places to find restaurant specials and clothing sales, at LearnVest social media channels are used to empower women to take control of their personal finances.
This leading finance website and service, listed by Forbes as one of the Top 100 Websites for Women, gives consumers information, tools and financial expertise for a richer future. We dove in with Alden Wicker, Assistant Editor and voice behind their social profiles, to learn more about how this brand manages their online community as well as they do personal finances.
In your own words, how would you describe what LearnVest does and how social media helps with your business objectives?
LearnVest is a leading personal finance site that brings financial advice to the masses. As a startup that’s breaking the rules of money management, we’ve always come from a different place than other, more conservative financial service companies. We want to be accessible and friendly, like a good friend who you talk to over dinner who happens to be a CFP®. Our social media presence helps us achieve that tone and show how good finances can be worked into your everyday life and conversations.
Every profile does something different. Twitter helps us monitor the conversation around us, money and our competitors, plus promote our content. Facebook lets us have deeper conversations with our users. Pinterest helps us drive traffic back to our articles. Instagram humanizes us by behind showing behind-the-scenes action. And LinkedIn helps us showcase our professionally-focused content.
Can you give us insight into how many people help monitor and respond online for Learnvest and the tools that you use to do so?
I do all the strategizing, tweeting, and posting, but I also get a lot of help from Becky, our service representative, who responds to queries about our products; our tech team, who builds our tools and sharing widgets; and Annie, our CEO and founder’s right-hand woman, who keeps me apprised of what Alexa is doing and Instagrams her appearances when I can’t be there.
Money is usually a private topic for many people. How do you encourage an environment online where people are willing to share their stories, good and bad?
You’re certainly right about that! We have a unique challenge because, let’s face it, beauty and entertainment brands will always have an easier time getting people to jump into the conversation. But we’ve been very deliberate about fostering a community of respect and even enthusiasm surrounding financial goals.
We’re never snarky, because we don’t believe that has a place in personal finance. We ask a lot of questions that aren’t too private, like “How are you doing on your budget?” or “What’s your biggest financial goal right now?” And we avoid any specific figures (though when it comes to student loan debt, our readers aren’t shy about coming clean). We’ve found there are always plenty of people willing to share their challenges with us. And when they share their triumphs, we always cheer them on.
People reach out to you with questions regarding their personal finances. How do you handle these individual inquiries in a sensitive manner? Can you share any stories about successfully helping someone online?
I’m very fortunate that I am also on the editorial team with a deep knowledge of our content. So often, I can quickly answer if it’s a simple question. If it’s more detailed, I’ll direct them to an article we have on the topic. And if we haven’t covered it, I’ll send the question to my editorial team so we do cover it, and then loop back around with the user and let them know it’s there.
For example, we had a user post on our wall with the simple statement, “So I’m looking for advice on moving in with my boyfriend.” I responded a half-hour later, sending her three articles, and she thanked me for our help.
Because many questions are about our Money Center, I’ll notify Becky, our service representative, and she’ll work with the user to either answer his or her question or take note and tell the user she’s passing his or her comment on to the tech team. They always walk away happy.
What advice would you have for other brands trying to encourage more conversation online? Are there certain types of content that you have found to get more engagement?
I would say simpler is better. We have very smart customers, but when you’re scrolling through a feed full of content, you’re mostly likely to respond to easy and fast questions and directives. “Like this if …” or “Fill in the blank: my financial goal is ______” or “Are you over or under your budget?” It doesn’t help to be vague, especially when it comes to money.
Social media is a moving target for brands. What can readers expect from LearnVest in the future?
We keep our eyes open for new ways to reach our customers, but we’re careful not to jump on every social network bandwagon — I would rather not take a profile down, so I’ll wait for a social network to reach critical mass before setting up a profile. I want to do a good job on what we have. I can say we’re working on getting LinkedIn buttons up on our site, because we think the community there dovetails nicely with the professional content we provide.
Thanks, Alden! Clearly, LearnVest is a great example of a brand that is continually thinking through how to make the most impact on select social profiles. How is your brand working to create a community? Are there any industry hurdles you have to be sensitive in approaching like the financial sector does?