In a series of three posts, I've been talking to key figures at first direct about how the bank has integrated social media across its marketing efforts.

Having looked at how first direct made the case for social media in the first post, first direct’s head of brand Natalie Cowen presents five steps for getting started with social media... 

At first direct we're now roughly two years into our social media development strategy. We were one of the first financial brands in the UK to really take social media seriously and I think it's fair to say that, had we known two years ago everything we know now, we would have been able to move a lot quicker.

Ultimately, we'd have started seeing the benefits to the organisation sooner.

Our engagement in social media has changed our business for the better and this post is about some of the challenges we faced, the mistakes we made and, where we found solutions, some of those as well.

1. Get in the right mindset

For us this was about matching our ambitions in the space with our capacity to deliver on these. We soon acknowledged that whilst it was the right thing to do to "think big" our initial steps would have to be quite small and manageable.

Amanda talked in the last post about how to build a case for social media internally and this is a crucial part of getting any organisation into the right place before you take any steps at all.

There needs to be an understanding within the organisation that this is something we want to do and that's partly making a strong case and partly showing people the correlation between some small manageable first steps and a big, exciting vision. 

2. Understand what you want to achieve and set goals and KPIs that make sense

When we started out we wanted to use social media primarily as a tool to help us revitalise the brand and make it feel more human and approachable.

We knew we had customer service that we could safely shout about and we knew that our customers could be great ambassadors for the brand if we could engage them in the right way.

Therefore, what we had was a set of goals and a very clear set of assets. Social media would then be about how we linked up the two and all our measurement objectives were about making the link very clear.

3. Engage people for whom social media represents a risk in details

In every organisation there are people for whom social media represents a risk rather than an opportunity.

To start with, there's an almost complete lack of case law so legal departments are understandably nervous around it. In the financial services sector we operate in a highly regulated environment so there were issues with compliance as well.

However, as we got to grips with these, it became clear that the vast majority of these objections were either conceptual i.e. details of what were actually doing hadn't been considered, or they were objections to very specific details.

Either way, engaging in specific details allowed us to either allay fears or find ways round specific detailed objections.

4. De-mystify social media

For a lot of people social media comes with a lot of preconceptions and it doesn't help that it often gets wrapped up in acronyms and pseudo science.

The truth is, social media is a tool box for communication and for the vast majority of people there is at least one aspect of their day to day professional life that could be made more efficient or effective if it was done using a "social" tool.

Once people see that social media is all about making life easier and better it's much easier to shift some of those pre-conceptions.

5. Be prepared to experiment, and know that not everything will work

No matter how well prepared you are, no matter how well researched and well read you are, it takes time to build up a strategy that will deliver real value to the business.

Use this time to experiment and find the things that work for you, work out what about them worked and build it into the strategy as you go forward.

Graham Charlton

Published 18 August, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (5)



I'm a First Direct customer and find it frustrating that they have not acknowledged the need for development in the Android market.

It's something they appear to side step when questioned, it's been 'on its way' for years.

Very shortsighted in my opinion

about 7 years ago



For us, social media is something we are working on all the time and still trying to master. For sure though, there is an absolute heap of potential with what it can do and also the way in which it can open new doors as you go through time.

about 7 years ago

Adam Cranfield

Adam Cranfield, Chief Marketing Officer at Mynewsdesk

Great idea for a post - more like this please!

Having worked on embedding social media strategies and governance at a couple of large orgs/companies, I would absolutely go along with these five pointers. Very sound advice.

(BTW - I think there's a typo: "Engage people for whom social media represents a risk in details" - shouldn't have the last 's'?)

about 7 years ago


Matt Chandler

Yeah, this is a massive area and can be hardly done justice in a series of 3 small article, and I'm sure this is a hugely cut down version, and besides, First Direct are hardly likely to spill the beans on their exact strategy, but still, it's interesting to read how the banking sector is approaching social media.

almost 7 years ago


Paul Sharp

Another social media article that manages to avoid any facts about business return. Convincing your executive that they should bankrole your social media dreams is one thing, actually achieving better ROI using social media than other marketing channels is quite another.

almost 7 years ago

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