In my last column, I wrote about social networking platforms presenting banks with powerful new ways to connect with consumers of all generations. This week, we look at the benefits of social media and clear up some misconceptions about the practice.
At a time when a number of institutions — both big and small — consider implementing new technology strategies to lower costs for retaining clients, improving operating efficiencies and differentiating brands and customer offerings, surprisingly few banks leverage social media as a communications channel. Considering the U.S. economy struggles to emerge from its bleakest conditions in 80+ years, one would think that most would readily embrace an opportunity to engage with anyone visiting them “digitally.”
In today’s massively connected world, tools and technologies continue to present new ways to share/consume day-to-day information. According to a white paper put out by comScore, an Internet marketing research firm, this has significant impact on the industry. While its generally accepted that online banking continues to grow in importance for the average American, did you know that “in any given quarter, nearly 60% of the total U.S. Internet population visits at least one of the top 20 financial institution sites.”
Those are some big numbers that any bank — community, mid-size or large — should take note of. Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and start using social media to promote your latest credit card offer. A word of caution that banks using social media channels to sell products or hype their services will quickly fall behind those using such tools to boost their customer service quality. Resolving issues quickly; now that’s something people want that you can give them.
This lines up with another point from last week: the fact that you no longer wholly control your message. This idea caught a few by surprise, so I reached out to Susan Jacobsen, the president of LUV2XLPR, for her thoughts. As her work bridges public relations and new media, we talked about ways her clients are navigating a rapidly changing social media landscape. While a daunting task to some, Susan suggested that executives look at social media as a means for “engaging with customers while balancing the legal, compliance and risk liabilities.” She continued that “once they make the decision to engage online, whether through Twitter, commenting on blogs or via LinkedIn, it has to be a commitment to continue the dialog and not disappear if they don’t like what they’re reading. Social networks will not go away and neither should they.”
Sage advice to anyone thinking about using these tools to expand their customer experience in 2011 and beyond.