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When Skipton Building Society asked customers how they felt about their retirement plans, it discovered that 39 per cent were not confident about their financial preparations while two in five felt totally underprepared.

In order to help unravel the complexities of retiring, the building society last month launched retiresavvy, an online community with the tagline Discover what you need to demystify retirement.

The website carries financial advice for those approaching retirement, such as planning, funding and understanding pensions, and practical advice for those already retired, such as coping and adapting to a new way of life.

Retiresavvy even has its own manifesto, with a promise that it will contribute to the wider social debate around retirement and provide a voice for retirees and those approaching retirement.

But launching the not-for-profit venture is one thing, the key to retiresavvy’s success will depend on its users. In order to promote the website, earlier this month Skipton became the first fi nancial services provider to turn to social media platform Thunderclap.

Thunderclap is the first crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. It allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of individual social networks. It sends out one message simultaneously from multiple users who sign up to spread the word.

‘Thunderclap provides a ready-made platform through which you can run a social campaign,’ explains Clare Mahood, senior marketing manager at retiresavvy. ‘It is a centralised programme that helps brands to bring people together, to unite in a common cause.

‘By co-ordinating our activity through Thunderclap we were also able to minimise the input required from our audience – once signed up, the support message is automated, to be issued at the same time and same day, therefore the logistics of coordinating the activity is all taken care of.’

Mahood adds: ‘We loved the simplicity of it and the emotive feeling of it, and wanted to explore tapping into this. With retiresavvy, it is all about conversation and the power of people. We wanted to reflect this in a social activity – Thunderclap fit the bill perfectly.’

On Tuesday 5 May at 1pm (a slot chosen because of the high amount of Twitter activity around lunchtime), the message Join the revolution, fight for the retirement you deserve reached 115,000 people across Facebook and Twitter after it was broadcast by social media users, including founders of blogs aimed at the over-50s, Fighting Fifty and Fab After Fifty, and Ros Altmann, who has almost 11,000 followers on Twitter. Altmann has been the Government’s Business Champion for Older Workers since 2014 and was recently appointed Pensions Minister by David Cameron.

‘They [the bloggers] have very strong views on people taking control of their futures and to have them adding their weight was invaluable,’ says Mahood. ‘[They] have high levels of social supporters so their sign up significantly increased our reach. We appreciated the number of extra people this helped us reach, but more so appreciated their support and the fact that they were joining our cause, to help get people talking about retirement and thinking about what they want for their futures.’

The main Thunderclap message also provided a link to retiresavvy’s community forum, which allows people to air their views or listen to others’ about retirement issues and aspirations, and led to a direct increase in web traffic, social media followers and contributing members on the site itself.

‘It’s great from an emotional buy in perspective, as people feel a part of something, alongside others,’ adds Mahood.

Skipton started to recruit for the Thunderclap using its existing networks on LinkedIn to target key influencers with an interest in retirement and the over-50s. It recruited other supporters through its social media channels while the communications team also spread the word to colleagues. Updates, such as the announcement of Altmann’s involvement, were sent using a system within Thunderclap, encouraging supporters to share the link on their own networks.

Using Thunderclap, however, was not a decision taken lightly. ‘Championing a social platform that has predominantly been used in the US brought many questions,’ admits Mahood. ‘In order to answer all our queries it took direct contact with Thunderclap’s chief executive to ensure we were completely satisfied. We needed to ensure that all our internal stakeholders were comfortable with this quite provocative approach.’

Ultimately, such an approach is not one the organisation is eager to shy away from. ‘We’re very keen to be able to engage via new communication channels and platforms,’ says Mahood. ‘We’re 162 years old but that heritage does not prevent us from driving forward new digital opportunities.’