Social media in banking – time to experiment?


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I have just finished reading an article (no names, no pack drill) claiming that banks need to get serious about social media. This includes determining their strategy, creating tough guidelines, training staff, developing and implementing escalation processes, determining customer expectations, creating consistency etc. etc. etc.

If only it were so easy. The social approach to business is at its earliest stages, and almost pre-natal when it comes to banks (with a few star exceptions). For two main reasons (regulatory complexity and problems with trust), the social approach to business is particularly difficult to implement in financial services. Regulators stamp heavily on information which is provided without a long list of disclaimers. Most customers hate reading the small print, and they’re not really sure whether they even want to engage with banks more than they absolutely have to.

In such circumstances, putting a group of marketing planners together in a (metaphorically these days) smoke-filled room and asking them to “determine” social strategy is daft. It’s almost a guarantee of failure. The very essence of a social approach is that it much be (at least partly) customer driven.

So how about taking this idea to its logical conclusion. Why not ask customers what sort of bank they’d like you to be? Why not encourage them to discuss you? Why not ask them to suggest your social strategy? Why not ask them about their ideas on how you could test what works, for them and you.

You might even consider asking your best customers, perhaps comparing their views with what your difficult customers say.

Surely, the one thing we have learnt about the social approach is that it must be truly social, at a meta-level too. You can’t plan social as if it were a hammer to hit customers over the head with. That’s 1980s marketing thinking. Do you remember Segment, Concentrate, Add Value, Develop (or SCAD as it was known), the mantra of a generation of marketing planning academics (and the myriad consultants who followed in their steps)? It meant, ‘let’s put customers into boxes, make sure they don’t escape, and pour whatever mixture of fertiliser and liquid on them that will keep them “ours” and no-one else’s, and grow them into our ideal fat customer, paying us lots of money!’.

Those days are gone, and it’s time for marketers to realise that social business is an “us” business, not a “me” business. Start by sitting down with some customers (physically or virtually), asking how they use social sites, and where they think you might fit – or not? Then start the experiments to see if you can do what they want.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Merlin Stone
Professor Merlin Stone is Research Director at The Customer Framework. He is a leading expert in customer management, including customer recruitment, retention and development. His work focuses on improving customer experience, satisfaction, loyalty and trust, and also customer research, data analysis, systems decisions and supplier management needed to support improved management of customers. He is well known for conference speaking and thought leadership research.


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