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Banking and social media: the conversation they don’t want

Banking and social media: the conversation they don’t want

Banks are completely failing to engage with customers via social media, says Neil Svensen at Rufus Leonard. But before they rush out to engage, they need to think long and hard about strategy.

January 24, 2011 2:46 by

Banking brands have been slow adopters of social media, and it’s not hard to work out why. Not to put too fine a point on it, consumers have the nasty habit of asking awkward questions, which banks have the habit of not wanting to answer. In the new, always-on digital world, transparency is king. And evasiveness and vacillation will get you noticed. Banking brands should sit up, take notice, get connected – and engage on their customers’ terms.

Back in the mists of digital time, First Direct – a UK retail bank with an honourable history of personal service (albeit on the phone and online) was one of the first to dabble in social media when it created a microsite enabling customers to answer questions and post comments. This inevitably led to some uncomfortable moments. When the bank asked the honest and open question “What do you really want from your bank?” the floodgates opened, and First Direct forum moderators were caught short. Honesty is always a good start.

One questioner, for instance, asked why First Direct offered better rates to new customers rather than rewarding loyalty, going so far as to make helpful product suggestions. PR puffery won’t wash in these kinds of circumstances, but the bank’s responses sounded like the waffle of a corporate machine in action. And all posted live, in real time, in the public domain.

Developing and nurturing an effective brand presence in social media channels takes a combination of relevance, light touch… and genuine emotional intelligence. Empathy and honesty rule. Because there’s clearly a balance to be struck between delivering the agreed line on an issue (like the difficult issue of ‘teaser rates’ for new customers), and genuinely engaging with loyal customers as equals.

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  1. Jeffry Pilcher | on January 24, 2011 8:00 pm

    The assumption is that banks and credit unions have been slow to embrace social media, when in reality the financial industry is the third most active in the space:

    For instance, over 700 of the 6,500 credit unions in the US are on Twitter. That’s more than 10%.

  2. Andrew on January 25, 2011 7:00 am

    Closest I’ve seen to social media in the banking industry is when ADCB had their website hacked last night. Rather amusing I must say, although it did make it a tad awkward to pay off my credit card.

  3. Danish Farhan on January 30, 2011 9:33 am

    The UAE has one prominent bank that has embraced Twitter specifically to a seldom seen otherwise engagement level.


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