Are You Part of the Conversation?

origamibirds_MFYour financial institution may be the heart of its community, but once the conversation goes online, does your bank follow?

The Financial Brand published a piece earlier this week on the 5 LinkedIn Myths Bankers Need to Shake, detailing research from consulting firm St. Meyer & Hubbard and marketing technology firm kadince.com that found that more than half of banks forbid their bankers to craft relationships through LinkedIn.

This is just the latest study that highlights the problematic relationship between banks and social media. A year ago, Bank Director, in its 2013 Bank Board & Executive Survey, found that less than half of banks engage with customers through Facebook or Twitter.

Yes, there are risks in social media engagement, so your bank does need a plan. Your bank might not be on social media, but your customers are. Social media monitoring service mention says that the average company is mentioned 39 times a day and almost 300 times a week. Of these, few talk directly to the company — meaning that they won’t be talking to your bank, but they will be talking ABOUT your bank.

And in a today’s competitive environment, you might want to pay attention to the social media conversations that consumers are having about other banks in your market. According to Forbes, Verizon and AT&T are monitoring complaints about competitors like T-Mobile so they can reach out to these unhappy customers and offer their own services. Media Bistro examines this further, saying:

If you’re not using Twitter to listen to customers, you’re missing out on one of its most significant benefits. Since Twitter is an open network, you have the opportunity to use tools and search to discover what anyone is saying about any topic, in real time.

Verizon is focusing its efforts on those users that are seen as “influencers” – Twitter users that have a lot of followers. Who are the influencers in your community, and where are they? If they’re not on Twitter, they’re likely on LinkedIn, a social network built entirely around business leaders. Don’t you want to be where your customers are? Because it’s likely that your competitors will be.

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LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

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Where Do You Draw the Line on Data?

SharpPencils_MFIs a national conversation brewing about how companies use consumer data?

In case you missed it, on June 17 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results of a January 2012 experiment, in which Facebook Data Scientist Adam Kramer, along with Jamie Guillory of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jeff Hancock, of Cornell University, manipulated Facebook’s news feed to provide some users with content that was emotionally positive or emotionally negative to see if this resulted in a correlating reaction by the user. Kramer, in a Facebook post, clarified the research, saying, “we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product.

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has so far been silent on the matter, but today the Wall Street Journal reported that COO Sheryl Sandberg said:

This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated.”

“And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.

The apology is a bit “I’m sorry if I offended you”, but if my own Facebook feed is any indicator, the social media giant will be OK. At any given moment you can read the results of my friends’ latest BuzzFeed quiz on their spirit animal or where they should go on a time machine. (Guess what? BuzzFeed is using your data too.)

I don’t know if it’s indicative of my generation–I’m firmly in the middle ground between Gen X and Gen Y–but I typically don’t get bent out of shape about how my data is used. Data is a part of my daily life, and I know the old Economics 101 credo–“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Facebook has to benefit from its user base. And data is really, really valuable.

But Facebook wasn’t transparent about how the data was used.

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Wanna Reach the Unbanked?

Last week two very interesting items crossed my eye: this look at content marketing for financial services, and CNN Money’s map of the unbanked.

“Insights from the Content Marketing World”, from Financial Marketing News, suggests going beyond the standard newsletters and seminars (though still vital) to visual methods, like infographics and video.

A great example of video (featured here before) shows PanAmerican Bank’s outreach to the underbanked, including the next generation of bank customers.

Of course, being the social media fan that I am, I L-O-V-E this infographic from Capitec Bank of  South Africa.  They polled their customer base via social media to come up with this infographic:

Make Smart Credit Decisions | Capitec Bank

So how does this tie into that unbanked map? Gaining those customers that are underserved will come in two ways: offering the right product mix, and educating the public about those offerings. Infographics and video – along with more traditional content marketing methods, like newsletters and seminars – are a great way to educate your community, and gain some customers along the way.

More around the web:
A digital wallet for the unbanked
Fewer directors & officers are getting sued, and the pace of bank failures has slowed.
Social media lessons from banking insiders – from KPMG

Half-Baked Marketing = Missed Opportunities

Late last week I came across a contest run by a (not local to me) community bank. “What a fantastic marketing idea!” I thought. “What a way to go beyond free gas!” I thought.

“What a way to take an idea only halfway!” was the reality.

The bank had a great idea – a local photo contest (think cute baby) gets the community involved. The bank even set up a dedicated website to allow online voting and entry. The website was attractive, cleanly designed and appeared to be simple to use.

Here’s where they dropped the ball.

Curious, as I am, regarding how far they took the campaign, I search on Facebook. The bank attempted a Facebook page two years ago, but appeared to abandon it soon after. Twitter? Not there either.

Facebook could have tied in wonderfully with this campaign, and helped this contest go viral. I haven’t named the bank, and don’t know how successful the campaign was, but still: what a missed opportunity.

Marketing isn’t limited now to “just direct mail” and “just email” these days, and just a website alone isn’t going to cut it. Look at where your customers are, and where they want to interact with you. Build social media into your marketing mix. As this contest proves, your online presence doesn’t have to be “all about banking” – and promotional tools like photo contests are tailor-made for Facebook.

In other news:

Is Banking’s Future in the Cloud? My debut piece for BankDirector.com. Great insights from Tom Garcia, CEO of InfoSight, Anil Cheriyan, CIO of SunTrust, and Michael Bryan, CIO of Bank of North Carolina.

The FDIC is encouraging banks to reach the unbanked.

Glad to see my colleague, Al Dominick, back to blogging. Will community banks be for sale when M&A picks up?

Should Banks Go Fishing for Generation Z?

Yahoo!’s new CMO, Kathy Savitt, is a “Gen Z Maniac”.

I didn’t even know that Generation Z existed. Thanks to Business Insider, I now know they’re the generation born from 1992-2010 (which leads to another question – are we back to Gen A next time?). This information got me to thinking: Should banks go fishing for Gen Z?

What do we know about Gen Z? We do know that many of them are starting relationships with banks for the very first time – via a savings account perhaps, or a checking account before they start college. We also know that they live in a wired world – one in which radios are antiquated, news is found via Twitter instead of the local newspaper, and TV viewing doesn’t require a TV. Does your bank have a social media presence? Are you engaging with customers online? And how does your website look – is online banking an option? More importantly – how’s your mobile experience?

One method that works for any generation is catching kids when they’re young – teaching them early to save and have a healthy financial relationship with their bank. PanAmerican Bank found that kids that save are more likely to go to college (click here to see the experience between one of their new Gen Z customers and his banker). By reaching out to kids via financial literacy initiatives, your bank can teach Generation Z (and any other generation) to have a healthy relationship with your bank.

Nibbles from around the web:

—What does your bank need to know about developing a social media strategy & culture?

—Marketplace shares some must-read Wall Street books.

—Uh oh, it’s Basel III.

Oh No, Flo!

Anyone following the news lately can see that Flo’s in trouble.

Well, not Flo really. Love her or hate her, she has come to personify the Progressive brand. But Progressive hurt its own brand image through its response to claims that the insuror went against its own customer in court, backing the defendent to avoid paying the victim’s family.

In short, Progressive took a tough-to-defend position, and when it went viral they tried to robo-tweet their way out. Since then I’ve heard murmurings that maybe the financial industry needs to stay out of social media.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The complaint that first went viral came via Tumblr, and exploded from there. Even if Progressive wasn’t ‘social’, this would have been public already. Progressive’s misstep was to auto-tweet a response to each and every complaint. Misstep may be an understatement – by auto-tweeting a cold, legalese response, the company instead made a mountain out of a molehill.

Don’t look at Progressive’s debacle as a cautionary tale against social media – instead, look at it as a cautionary tale against social media’s misuse. Progressive’s auto-tweets were a serious error. Social media instead could have been used respectfully and responsibly to address the issue – perhaps directing those interested in a video by Progressive CEO Glenn Renwick (not Flo – save her for the ads) talking about the case at hand. A look at Progressive’s newsroom shows not one mention of the incident – this would have been a perfect spot to house a singular, definitive response.

Social media has changed the landscape of news, information, and interaction. It’s here to stay. So get on board – and look to cases like the Progressive Auto-Tweet Debacle of 2012 as a perfect study of how NOT to use the medium.

Of course, some in the financial space are already doing it right:
– A look at a credit union’s Facebook launch (via Financial Brand).
– SVP of Social Media at Citi, Frank Eliason, is #positivelysocial. You’ll find his blog here.