How social identities affect our buying behaviors. (H/T to @HarvardBiz)

What's your social identity?

Who remembers:  8 track players?  Rubik’s Cube?  The Macarena?  They were all one-hit wonders in their respective industries and although not a failure individually, they collectively didn’t think long-term about the buyer.

Buyers have multiple identities. Just like the famous story of Sybil (which was actually a pseudonym to protect the real patient and was more-than-fictionalized in books and film), we all possess the ability to be different people at different times.  An example of my 12multiple identities would be:

  • I’m a daughter, spouse, mother and grandmother in my family.
  • I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan – big time.
  • I’m a community volunteer serving on several boards, founder of my own non-profit and financial supporter of many other organizations.

Why is it important to understand this?  Where does this have anything to do with social media and financial service organizations?  How do we run the risk of being a one-hit wonder?

The recent article on “Why Your Customers’ Social Identities Matter” published by the Harvard Business Review begins to shed light on:

Why is important to understand social identities?  I know from being a financial advisor, past experiences with money can either guide a client correctly with finances or cloud their judgment.  Probing questions about how clients handled money as children (for example) is critical; it helped to shape their social identities around money later on.  Were they allowed to spend some of their money? What were the rules around spending their money?  How much were they encouraged to save as kids?  What kind of access did they have to their money?  Did they deposit money themselves at the bank as a child or did their parents do it for them?  How did they actually earn money or was it given to them?  Were they instructed to tithe any of their money?  The list goes on, but you can see where all of these identifiers help shape someone’s social persona around money.  Marketers understand this when building financial campaigns, but I think financial service community leaders need to also understand how this comes into play.

Where does this have anything to do with social media and financial service organizations?  When people exude pride about their financial well-being, they share it socially.  I’ve seen people scrimp and save to buy a house and then respond almost boastfully about their newly purchased home.  They want to share their good news with friends, “Look what we accomplished!”  This also parlays into financial products:  annuities, life insurance, etc. when they’ve done well in their planning – many times the social response is to post to others, “Look at what I’ve done and you should do this too.”  As Harvard Business Review says, “this helps customers tune in better”.  You want to be there when clients are talking about you, your services, the products you represent and social media is a platform where you can do that from the comfort of your office (or mobile device).

How do we run the risk of being a one-hit wonder?  Just as the Harvard Business Review points out:  because customers do not do what they say they’ll do.  Clients don’t always follow the financial advice we provide.  They don’t stop smoking to help lower their life insurance premiums.  They don’t put money into their child’s 529 plans.  We must listen better and make sure we are actually answering the real question of what mattered to them so we don’t run the one-hit wonder risk.  Staying in touch with the client after their planning is complete a is very important part of this process.  Everyone’s lives change and if you’re not there as a part of those changes, you can easily be forgotten about.

I’ve said it before that making a difference is a good thing; but doing that through disruption is a better thing.  Understanding social identities puts you ahead of others when working with clients.

Be bigger, better and more BIONIC today!

Sheryl Brown / @BIONICsocialite


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