Live from #WhatsNextDC: Why Goldman Sachs Went Social

This post is part of our ongoing, occasional series on content marketing for financial services.

Live from #WhatsNextDC: Why Goldman Sachs Went SocialThe 2008 financial crisis coincided with rise of digital marketing and presented a challenging double whammy for major players in the financial services industry, said Lisa Shalett, global head of brand marketing and digital strategy for Goldman Sachs, at What’s Next DC Monday in Washington, D.C.

As a major player at the center of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs has been a hot topic of discussion both online and off since the crisis began, but it took the conservative firm time to add its voice to the digital conversation, Shalett explained. Although people on the marketing side saw the advantages of going online and joining the conversation, lawyers, compliance officers and others involved in regulatory and risk management were more apt to see the risks and disadvantages.

The YouTube Epiphany

At one point, the firm’s marketing team went to YouTube and did a search for “Goldman Sachs” and turned up more than 34,000 videos — not one of which had been posted by the firm. At that point they realized there might be more risk in not establishing and maintaining an online presence.

The marketing team realized that people were talking about Goldman Sachs whether the firm was part of the conversation or not and concluded not talking was not an option, said Shalett, but they still had to get legal and compliance on board with the plan.

Conversational Challenges

Convincing legal and compliance folks to get on board with a plan to take Goldman Sachs’ online presence off the corporate website and onto social channels where people are hanging out and talking was only one of the marketing team’s challenges.

Unlike many financial services companies, Goldman Sachs doesn’t have branches where employees interact with customers in communities on a daily basis. Most of the company’s work happens behind closed doors in an unmarked building, which posed a challenge to putting forth a human face people could relate to, said Shalett.

Also, while there are plenty of people talking about Goldman Sachs online, most of the conversation isn’t taking place between people who are — or likely ever will be — the firm’s customers, said Shalett. Still, what these people say was affects Goldman Sachs’ brand in the public eye.

Listening and Contributing

Eventually, everyone at Goldman Sachs realized that for better or for worse it is interesting to people and that it should get involved to do what it can to turn that interest in a positive direction and take advantage of it, said Shalett. “We’ve learned that we have to invest in telling our story online and protecting the Goldman Sachs brand.”

Now Goldman Sachs is on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube and is focused on creating and sharing interesting, relevant content that adds positive stories about the firm that may not make it into the mainstream media to the online conversation, said Shalett.

Videos on Goldman Sachs Channel on YouTube include profiles of the firm’s employees, stories of large successful projects its helped make possible and clips that accompany its annual report.

Continually listening to and monitoring the online conversations taking place about Goldman Sachs has been a huge part of this effort as well, said Shalett, who said the best thing she’s heard so far is this year’s buzz around the firm’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein growing a beard.

When Blankfein’s journey from clean-shaven to stubble to “nuzzle-able” became a hot topic of conversation Shalett says she considered it a win for the marketing department and the firm.

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