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Board Issues : Technology

Social Media Series: A little bird told me...

December 13th, 2010 |

Part one of our Social Media & Financial Services Series

Last week, Fiserv released a white paper on the current and future interests consumers have in connecting with financial institutions through social media. At a time where everyone seems to hype the promise of social media, I admit I read through the report with a degree of analytical scrutiny and yes, intellectual skepticism. While I’m not alone in questioning certain elements of the survey (most notably, that 11% are socially connected to their bank), can we all agree that this “social media fad” just ain’t going away?

twitter-birds-icons.jpgCase-in-point, at our last two conferences, I found myself talking about the various uses of social media today with outside directors of mid-size financial institutions, community bank CEOs and service providers that work with some of the largest banks in the country. Some people get it. Others questioned my lack of concern for privacy and opening myself up to something dastardly.  

Sadly, I think some of the confusion around social media is borne from the rise of the so-called gurus and self-proclaimed experts that have sprouted up in every nook and cranny of the country. While there are quite a few talented professionals supporting our industry, so too are the snake oil salesmen preying on the less informed.

Personally, I turn to sites like Twitter as a business intelligence tool (I want to see what people are saying about us or people we work with) and Facebook to stay connected with friends and family (keeping business totally separate). But these are only two social networking sites available; yet they seem to represent all things good and/or bad when it comes to social media.

I'm here to tell you it ain’t so.

While other articles share technical or tactical advice, I've decided to write my next five posts about social media from the perspective of a CEO and the key leadership team at a financial institution. So let’s start with the basics: social networking platforms present a powerful new way to connect with consumers of all generations.  

According to Fiserv, “more Gen Y (ages 21 – 30) and Gen X (ages 31 – 45) consumers utilize these sites; however, a high percentage of the Boomer (ages 46 – 64) and Senior (ages 65 and up) populations also engage in social media. Want some big numbers? Try these on:

  • 94% of Gen Y engage in social media;
  • 90% of Gen X engage in social media;
  • 78% of Boomers engage in social media; and 
  • 65% of Seniors engage in social media.

So according to the technology firm, that shiny new iPad for Grandma might actually be put to good use this winter.

As I said, I don’t blindly accept these numbers. I do, however, think they are relevant to our community. For as technology capabilities continue to expand and evolve -- and an ever increasing number of your customers connect to brands and businesses online -- I have to ask: are you ready?  

This is not a rhetorical question; to-date, social media is a communication channel that many banks have failed to leverage. So why should today’s financial executives and directors care about social media -- and how can they make it work for their institutions? The easy answer? There is gold in them hills: social media blends technology and social interaction; done right, such networking co-creates value for both the bank and it's customer.  

Social media can take many different forms -- not just Facebook and Twitter. The space is ever growing, and incorporates online forums (think the early days of AOL), blogs like this one (or DCSpring21), wikis (hopefully more wikipedia than wikileaks), photo sharing sites like Flicker, video sites like Vimeo and YouTube, and rating or social bookmarking ones like Digg.

social-media-connect.jpgFor financial services companies, social media allows for collaborative projects within an organization (e.g using a twitter-for-the-enterprise tool like Yammer), micro-blogs (e.g. Lincoln Financial’s amazing future self site), and yes, social networking sites (e.g. Facebook).  

But like most things in life, what you and your institution get out of social media coincides with what you put in. Because the big thing you need to come to grips with is the fact that you no longer wholly control your message...at best, you influence it. So as the use of social media tools become even more ingrained in so many consumers’ everyday lives, these are channels you can no longer afford to ignore.

For more on the social media series, please read the following posts:

  • Part 2: Is your bank using social media?
  • Part 3: Authentic - true to one's personality, spirit, character...
  • Part 4: Getting Up and Running
  • Part 5: A Look Ahead
adominick

Al Dominick is the President for Bank Director, an information resource for directors and officers of financial companies. He writes about mobile banking, growth, social networking, key industry events and metrics. You can follow him on Twitter @aldominick, connect via LinkedIn or follow his About That Ratio blog.

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