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Client Notebook

Sniffing for Social Media at SIFMA

Posted for July 9th, 2010

Imagine yourself in a large ballroom at the Hilton Hotel in mid-town New York, surrounded by towering exhibition booths from hundreds of financial technology providers. 

This is the typical scene at the annual SIFMA Financial Services Technology Expo, a World’s Fair of financial technology that takes place in New York each June.  Given that these firms compete for the top IT dollars from financial companies around the world, you would expect to see a vision of the future, including previously unimagined and innovative uses of Social Media.

But, instead, you might have felt like Marty McFly, sent back to the 20th Century by the eccentric Dr. Emmet Brown in a souped-up DeLorean, as depicted in the Hollywood movie, Back to the Future.  You arrive in the past and try to tell everyone what the future will be like, but no one believes you.  In this article, we share with you a few observations from our Back to the Future experience at this erstwhile event.    


Six of Ten Financial Technology Doctors say No to Social Media

Top O the Chrysler by Sanborn Consulting

To be fair, as usual, there were new product announcements from various companies, and the upcoming regulatory changes hung like a dark cloud over the entire event, so perhaps Social Media marketing was not at the top of the priority list for many companies.

The World Cup was a topic of conversation. Kudos to those firms who made use of large screen TVs to help everyone follow the action that week.  Perhaps that was the right thing to do  in order in order to keep up with the latest cultural buzz, but why not make a similar effort in Social Media, even if just for a few days?

Our man walked the floor and stopped to ask a few basic questions of representatives at a sample set of booths.  This was not a scientific sample set, but additional observations lead us to believe that the results are pretty consistent with a broader selection of firms.

Approximately 65% of the financial technology firms that we talked to had no official use of any form of Social Media.  About one-third of those did indicate that they are thinking about it and or would like to.  The remaining firms were relatively adamant about their lack of interest. Some appeared to have bought into the mythology that the primary purpose for Social Media is for pre-teens to write about Justin Beiber on each other’s Facebook wall or debate other topics of equal weight (no offense to Justin).  When asked, most of these firms did acknowledge that most of the decision-makers at their clients are on LinkedIn, but assume that the primary use is for finding the next job.  Moreover, some of these folks reckoned that the check-in rate is one month or less, "what's the point of putting our marketing spiel there?"

Time will tell if marketing budgets reap a better return from exhibition booths than from Social Media.  But it was refreshing to see some firms willing to take a footstep or total immersion into Social Media.


Little Footsteps and Full Immersion

Have to Get Wet to Get Stick - By Sanborn Consulting

While some of the firms at SIFMA won't even put a toe in the Social Media water, there were some who willing to get their feet wet by hosting and updating blogs.  Some of you might argue that blogs are another example of living in the past because this is a relatively old method that lacks the immediacy of other tools. On the other hand, there seems to be a nostalgic longing for blogs because of their long-term proven ability to deliver in-depth commentary and analysis. In addition, bloggers can use Twitter, LinkedIn and/or other methods to draw in new readers. This is one of the methods we use at Sanborn Consulting.

For those who believe that Twitter is one of the key tools for B2B Social Media, they can take solace in the fact that there is at least one financial technology firm with an official handle and a determination to make it work: @SolaceSystems.  Solace is a provider of hardware-based middleware and content routing solutions.  The company posted a number of Tweets during the SIFMA event and use it as an additional distribution channel for latest company and product news.  I don’t know any details about their strategy, but it seems like a good low-cost way to add an additional marketing path and demonstrate that they are involved with the latest technology trends.

Another notable example was a company that uses the new Chatter service from SalesForce.  In their case, Chatter is used for coordination with existing clients as opposed to a sales and marketing effort.  Sales Force promotes this new service as a real-time collaboration cloud that includes individual profiles, document sharing, status updates and integration with mobile devices, Twitter, and Facebook.   One person who uses Chatter said they use i t has been an effective as a way to keep clients and colleagues updated on current projects.


Media Social Media

The most obvious examples of use of Social Media among the traditional participants at SIFMA are the companies who distribute news, such as Incisive Media, the owners of www.waterstechnology.com  and other brands.  At least one branch of the company is actively involved in Social Media – Interactive Marketing. This division manages the website called www.searchenginewatch.com and sponsors an annual event devoted to the topic of search engine optimization.  You can follow them on Twitter @sewatch.  Sanborn Consulting has added them to a list of marketing firms that we follow.

Another example is Reuters, who used to be a regular participantat SIFMA, but choose not to this year, giving up their prime floor location to another firm. Reuters provides news and information to the financial markets and other clients and offer a broad selection of Twitter handles that focus on different news categories.  Sanborn Consulting follows @Reuters, which is identified as Reuters Top News, and finds it to be an effective way to receive notification of the latest breaking news. 


Olly Olly Oxen Free!

Perhaps there is more use of Social Media in the Financial Technology world than what we have observed at SIFMA, but if so, it’s in a very stealth-like mode. 

Did you ever play the kid's game hide and seek? Do you remember the rule under which the seeker can call in all the hiders? When the seeker shouts "Olly Olly Oxen Free all of the hiders are free to come in to base without penalty. Maybe there are a lot of firms planning to make use of Social Media tools, but have not yet come out of hiding, and are waiting to hear "Olly Olly Oxen Free" announcement.

One recent development outside of SIFMA is the launch of LetsTalkFX, a social media site exclusively for the FX market.  It includes regular bloggers, allows you to link to other members and provides other social media features.  This launch may be indicative of a future wave.  Some of the older companies are going to adapt to using Social Media tools, but it may be the newer ones that forge the way ahead leading us Back to the Future in financial technology.

Send me your thoughts, tell me what I have missed, and keep following us for more observations. 

Ted Sanborn, Sanborn Consulting

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