Introduction to the Interview
Welcome to the next post in a series celebrating leaders in social media strategy. These professionals are pioneers, laying the groundwork for future social media marketers. I’ve spoken with leaders in media, marketing technology, higher education and now finance! I am happy to introduce Kerry Gallagher, VP, Social Media Manager at Citizens Bank. Throughout her career, Kerry has worked in social media at not-for-profits, agencies, and in the insurance and finance industries. She is an award-winning professional and has some great stories to share:
SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERIENCE GROWS WITH EACH CAREER STEP
Welcome Kerry! Can you please share what brought you to where you are now, a social media leader in finance?
So happy to participate in this interview, Hester! I graduated from college in 2009 and found myself in a tough economic environment. It took some time to figure out where my career path would lead. My first job out of college was in the not-for-profit world at the American Lung Association of New England. The role was in online fundraising and also involved a number of other marketing activities. I built their social presence from scratch. The job was integral for me—I was exposed to and managed different types of marketing for a great organization. In my time there, I found I was most passionate about digital and social. So in the end, I wanted to get more experience with it and I knew I had to move on. It was very hard to leave my manager—she was so supportive but at the same time gave me autonomy to build the role. Fantastic for someone in their first job!
From the American Lung Association, I moved on to an integrated marketing agency called Cronin and Company, where I managed social media. I learned social media toolsets like Radian6 for listening and reporting. The listening work helped my clients understand who their customers were, what people were looking for from them and where people were talking. I learned Hootsuite and Tweetdeck at Cronin too. This job exposed me to many industries and not-for-profits, where I found similarities and differences in their needs.
After working on the agency side, my next career move was to Liberty Mutual—I was looking to move to Boston and the opportunity was a good one. Liberty is a well established brand locally and nationally and there was lots of work to be done there! I found this environment was more structured than the agency and not-for-profit worlds.
At Liberty, I learned about the big corporate experience and about B2B marketing. I also learned what it was like doing social media in a regulated industry. We went through content reviews and made sure our messages were not over-promising. I learned how to navigate relationships with people whose jobs were focused on the company’s need to credible, legal, and safe. My content strategy involved infographics and research, compelling and factual. I partnered across business units and functions in a decentralized social media model. I worked with an agency, which although I had just come from one, was a learning experience to navigate the relationship from the client side. It was a bit tough for me. The strategic planning piece was really important to me and I wanted to hang onto that in my next career move.
From Liberty Mutual, I moved to Citizens Bank where I am now VP, Social Media Manager. Banking is even more regulated than the insurance industry. We have compliance reviews for marketing and social. I am doing more strategy work at Citizens, which I am so happy about! We work with agencies, but our relationship is clearly defined. Our leadership understands the importance of our internal social team to take lead on strategy.
Another aspect that attracted me to Citizens is the Bank’s community involvement. The brand is community-centric, which also plays well on social, mostly because I think people genuinely like to see a company they’re trusting with their business is doing good. It is a regional bank but one of the biggest ones nationally. In the 2.5 years since I have been here we’ve had big growth. My team acts as social media strategists in a center of excellence model. We liaise internally and build comprehensive integrated programs on social. It is great working with colleagues and seeing campaigns through from start to finish.
SOCIAL MEDIA STRUCTURE SUPPORTS DIVERSE ORGANIZATION
Can you please describe your role/your team’s role at Citizens, Kerry?
At Citizens, we have a center of excellence model and the work on social media is decentralized by business function. My team drives strategy for the organization at large—we’re most involved with consumer banking campaigns, and we also work very closely with the teams that promote community involvement and sponsorships. Our programs tend to have more defined goals, timeframes, and budgets, but we also provide consultative support and guidance to help other teams choose the appropriate channels, target audience, content, and more to best support their goals.
Providing consulting and governance across business groups and audiences is a balancing act. It is very important to understand the needs of each group. From a high level, we need to understand the scale and goal of programs they are running and think about what else will be in market at the same time. Customer experience is the number one consideration for us in everything we do, so we don’t want to overwhelm customers by serving them too many messages too frequently. Thus, our targeting strategy is really important. As much as possible, we also try to bring similar campaigns together to dovetail initiatives.
How has social media influenced the customer experience at Citizens? How are you measuring its impact?
My team leads Citizens’ social community management efforts. Each day we talk to our customers and prospects on social. Leading this work was a huge opportunity for me to build a team and help advance our capabilities—our work on social is more personal, more engaging now, and our team is doing really cool things. We connect with customers and prospects in a way that represents the Citizens brand—we’ve even started to recognize names of those who come back and interact with us consistently! My team uses an enterprise social media management platform to tag and track efforts around social marketing and community management, and this helps enormously.
We track SLAs and key drivers of why people are reaching out to us and share this back with our stakeholders. Social Care (customer service) is now part of our social media team, embedded with marketing strategy. If needed, we escalate customer service issues to the call center, but we are trying to resolve issues and questions within social as much as possible. When customers reach out to us on social with issues they are having, there may be a risk to our reputation unless we respond with urgency. Because of this, people expect that we’ll get back to them quickly.
Training is very important for community management. We use a playbook for best practices and procedures that includes tone of voice, tips for empathy, and how to use a personal voice on a branded account. Citizens’ motto is “Simple, Clear, Personal” so this work aligns with our brand perfectly, and everything we do in community management, much like social marketing, ladders back to these key propositions.
PROMOTING SOCIAL MEDIA LITERACY
How do you communicate your work to Citizens executives?
My team has done a lot to educate and communicate the role of social media within the organization. I think executives now understand that social is important, and see the value social brings in terms of awareness. Early on, we focused mostly on impressions. Now engagement metrics are most important to us. Good content is key—we work closely with the content marketing team. We watch key indicators of engagement.
We have an internal monthly newsletter that goes to executives and shares key campaigns and results. It is educational—and covers key topics like strategy, paid and community management. Executives do want to know about how social media impacts conversion. Where in the funnel does social work best? I see that it touches all aspects of the funnel. Our digital marketing partners help us track conversions coming from social. In a best case scenario, campaigns and community management work together to provide a great customer experience.
GREAT CAMPAIGN SUPPORTS COMMUNITY
Could you please share some details of a campaign you are proud of?
For the past two years, Citizens has partnered with the Military Warriors Support Foundation around their Homes for Heroes program, which offers mortgage-free homes to vets. In 2016, our campaign content focused on a video series. We got a great response from our audience on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to almost 7 million views across platforms, we received so many comments and questions about the initiative, people thanking the veteran family we donated a house to. My team responds and shares links to learn more, and helps people understand how they can get involved personally. It is very satisfying to be a partner for the community and work with great not-for-profit organizations. It really resonates with our audience and we’re proud to engage with them and help them learn more about the program.
Thank you, Kerry, for sharing your experience as a leader in social media strategy! Please follow Kerry on Twitter and check out the Citizens social media channels too: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.