Social Media Series: Getting Up and Running

In my last few columns, I’ve written about incorporating social media into your institution’s way of doing business. Today’s post offers advice for how you, individually, might benefit from what’s being created and shared online.

What a year we have in front of us. A number of social media technologies and platforms are maturing simultaneously, creating a wonderful shift in online social and consumer activity. Just as a number of banks turned to social media last year as a way to become more transparent to their customers, getting online allows you to build an element of trust with your customers, employees and shareholders. For example, consider the investments made by Green Bay’s Nicolet National Bank. With posts like “All I Really Need to Know About Economics I Learned From my Grandparents” and authors including their CEO and COO, this represents a nice example of social media being put to great use.


So if you’re still new to the trend, here are three recommendations to get you up and running:

  • Think about writing a blog like the guys at Nicolet do. Regardless of industry, more and more CEOs are using their own blogs to communicate with shareholders, employees, customers and the general community. Two that I follow that might inspire you are KellBlog and Ben’s Blog.  And yes, I practice what I preach, with my own site, DCSpring21, posting my own ideas since March of 2008.
  • Get a Twitter account. Even if you don’t want to tweet, following the conversations of your favorite information resources (@bankdirector, hint hint) provides for easy crowd sourcing and keeps you up-to-date with the most breaking news.
  • Update your LinkedIn profile and manage what people see about you. Step one: upload a current picture. Step two: start connecting with former colleagues and your current business partners. Step three: see that line of text under your name? It’s the first thing people see in your profile. It’s your brand, use it wisely!

Let me also suggest two behavioral changes for 2011:

  • Start commenting on blogs. Sure, it might feel intimidating to be the first to add a comment (the equivalent of being the first to raise your hand in class), but sharing your ideas and experiences contributes to the overall experience when reading stories like this one.
  • Encourage picture sharing by your employees… and start contributing to the fun. Over the weekend, I read 6 Predictions for Social Networks in 2011. What stood out? The observation that mobile photography is just beginning to blossom — and what that means to all of us smartphone wielding multi-taskers.

I hope this advice helps.  If you’re coming to our 17th annual Acquire or Be Acquired conference in Scottsdale, Arizona later this month, be sure to bring your iPad to our Tuesday morning session on using social media. Our VP of Digital Strategy will be leading one of a number of great discussions that will take place at our growth-focused conference out in the desert.

Social Media Series: A little bird told me…

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