Social Communities for Banks… Are They Missing the Point?

I finally got around to picking up my print edition of the April 9th, BtoB magazine to see what’s going on out there. I read one article and then stopped, to dig around a bit on the topic. The article discussed a study showing that financial services companies use of social media is amateurish at best.

I know that banks and financial institutions are subject to regulations that many other businesses cannot comprehend, and there are risks upon risks over customer information, account numbers, credit card numbers and such being leaked. I firmly believe, however, that social media for banks does not need to center around account specific information.

Money is the root of… well… lots of things. And especially in today’s world, we think very carefully about where we put our money and how we manage it. My relationship with my local bank is incredibly personal to me because of my own financial journey – which has not always been a joyful one. My bank has always treated me like a person, even during some difficult times. I only wish they had a social presence, because I would most certainly evangelize them as a great community bank worthy of my praises.

It seems to me that banks and financial institutions may have it all wrong where social is concerned. Why not work on growing a community of customers, and growing that community through your customers sharing valuable news and content, and the good vibes they get from being your customer? Why not build an online social community where your customers feel more like a person who is valued than a dollar amount or a profile of a person who uses “x” number of services, and can therefore be upsold the next great banking product. Why not build a community that inspires your customers to be more financially responsible and yet enjoy all that life has to offer at the same time?

My husband and I have talked at great length about banking and relationships with multiple banks. We’ve discussed the issue of “how many banks is too many to have your money spread out between,” and we have made a choice on the banks we want to utilize based on how they have treated us, what they offer, and the convenience factor.

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If my two primary financial institutions were on Facebook, I would want to be right there with them – in fact, I’d be that first person to like the page! If there was banking news, I would want it from them first, as I trust them as a reliable source. I would want to know things like the featured lollypop flavor this week for the kids that come in with their parents, or what charitable project is being featured right now, or who the employee of the month is, so when I walk in there I can harass them (with love of course). I have relationships with the banking reps at my local branch, and that is important to me. As a brand supporter, I would love to carry that through to my large social network.

There are also times when banks do things that customers don’t like. Having an established social community allows for transparent feedback on the things that are upsetting the customer base. There are few U.S. banks that currently have social communities. One that I did come across does have quite a network on Facebook, and is currently under attack by a large number of customers. I truly believe this bank has the opportunity to turn this all around. They are taking the time to respond to each and every negative comment that has been posted on their Facebook page and humbly communicating with their customer base in a one-to-one dialogue that is also publicly visible. I commend them for not deleting all the negative comments and taking the feedback very seriously. As a result, I feel strongly that once this primary issue is resolved, they will have strengthened relationships with many customers along the way because of their approach to the feedback.

Social communities can be used not only to build loyal customers, but to share industry news, local news, and gather feedback to be used in future product development and offerings, as well as sharing current banking product promotions. My ideal social bank might actually inspire me to save (with them) if they are sharing the right content and planting the right seeds with me. If I am planning a major purchase, and my bank is communicating with me regularly through social networks (where I spend a fair amount of time), then when it comes time to secure that auto loan, or go for that second mortgage, whom might I consider first? You guessed it… I have a gazillion ideas about how these communities might work, and how partnership opportunities would arise with other businesses for cross promotion and relationship building. A win-win for many involved – including, and especially, the customer!

So to me, it’s not about what stocks to invest in, or getting info about my credit card balance through Facebook. It’s about having a relationship with the very organization that is taking care of my money for me. That’s one relationship that is incredibly important. If you care about me, then I will want all those I care about to turn to you also, so they too can feel the peace of mind that I feel.

Banks can use social to listen to the conversation for competitive intel, for sure, but why not take the time to build communities, since that is what they advertise in the first place? There’s a bank in Mumbai that does social incredibly well. They provide fun content to spark interest and a conversation about saving money, spending money and everything in between. That is, in my humble opinion, how a bank could build relationships with its customers through social media.\

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