Facebook’s recent announcement about their partnership with Uber, resulting in the availability of transportation within their Messenger app, is an incredible development that points to a definite trend for the year ahead. While the announcement has obvious implications for the payments industry, it also speaks to important shifts in content marketing’s significance to social media success in 2016.

Let me explain. Imagine that you are scrolling through your Facebook news feed, chatting with friends in Messenger and you decide you want to meet them for dinner. You tap the “More” menu from within your Messenger conversation and hit the transportation button. You are immediately connected to Uber, without ever having to leave your conversation or the “instant article” in your news feed. Awesome, right?!

All of us as consumers are doing more of our online searches, sharing information, engaging with our friends and getting our news directly from within a social media platform – like Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn – and doing it more via mobile devices. In fact, we are increasingly using the social media platform as our search engine. We no longer have to “leave” a platform to do what we need to do. The platform’s functionality is making it easier to stay; the platform’s content is making it more likely that we actually will.

This has important implications for banks and credit unions looking to engage more meaningfully with customers. You don’t have to look very far to find countless examples of banks and credit unions whose social media content seems random, pointless and without noticeable engagement. As the amount of content available to consumers through social media increases, so will expectations for quality and variety in content. In fact, even algorithm updates are favoring quality content over traditional SEO tactics like keyword stuffing.

The Content Marketing Institute recently reported that while many are engaged in content marketing, only 30% say their organizations are effective at it. I’d be willing to say the percentage is far less in financial services. It is time for financial institutions to devote the time and resources necessary to align their social media channels with a solid, customer-focused content marketing strategy.

Social media continues to be great for listening to your customer – to understand what they care about – but content is needed to drive social media engagement. Here are a few basics as you prepare for your year ahead:

Know Your Audience

In a previous post I talked about some of the variables you need to study in order to know your market (e.g. demographics, psychographics, etc.). Use that data to help determine your target market segments and the social media platforms most appropriate to those audiences. What kinds of information do they need and want? What problems do they need to solve, and through what channels do they want their content delivered? Armed with those answers you can identify personas and create a content strategy that defines your desired segment, establishes your goals and guides your messaging.

Develop A Content Calendar

Once you have your content strategy, then you must decide what specific content you will develop, how you will distribute it and who is responsible for getting it done. One week your content might be about personal finance; the next, small business credit. Not every piece of content needs to apply to your entire market. But it does need to speak to a relevant segment of that market. Whatever you create, you need a system to keep track of it all, especially if you are both producing and curating content for multiple channels.

Tap A Team For Tips And Topics

With a clear target and timeframe in mind, you can hone in on the likely topical categories of greatest interest to your target audience. Come up with your ideas, and then pull together a team of your colleagues and brainstorm about how they could contribute to the content that will serve your target customer’s needs.

Make Content That Is Easily Shared

People like sharing content with friends, especially visually rich video and simple info-graphics. The more imagery used, the more likely it is to get shared. And remember, less is more. Better to post one great post each week than one hastily prepared daily post – especially if it tells a compelling story.

There is a lot to be learned from looking at the mega banks – for the concepts deployed are often scalable. As an example, JP Morgan Chase has done an excellent job of incorporating relevant and helpful content on its web site and social media channels, often told through the stories of retail and business customers. Their content includes simple articles with the 3-4 things the reader may want to know – simple, bit sized pieces of helpful content.  They have included dozens of personal stories, like this video of Miami coffee shop owners that spotlights their relationship with the bank.

Video Credit: Panther Coffee – Leading With A Purpose by Chase

More importantly, their content includes timely financial tips and tools to help the small business owners or typical retail consumer. One of my personal favorites is titled: Traveling Home for the Holidays: A Financial Survival Guide.

If you click through the Facebook link, it takes you to an article that has 3-4 key tips to help the reader. It is timely, relevant (dealing with over spending, family and travel) and connects with the real-life frustrations often felt during the holiday season. It provides real value and is easily shared. And next year, during the holidays, the content may be viewed entirely within the Facebook platform. Of course JP Morgan Chase hasn’t done everything right. Who could forget the 2013 #AskJPM social media debacle that is now referred to as the “Snarkpocalypse” because of the customer rants it attracted? Social media and content marketing mastery takes time, resources and focused effort – but the benefits are measurable (but that’s another article).

Content strategist Jay Baer is often quoted as saying “Content is fire. Social media is gasoline.” With that in mind, let me offer one final word of advice to make certain you don’t get burned: no matter what rapidly evolving social media platform you choose, do not create content that even remotely sounds like a sales pitch. Consumers, no matter what segment they fit, will tune you out. Deliver value through the content you share and 2016 will be the year you tap into social media’s true potential.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!