Saturday, May 9, 2009

Banking is Our Business, and We Think Our Business Needs to Be Wherever People are Talking About Banking

"Banking is our business, and we think our business needs to be wherever people are talking about banking."

The quote above was provided by Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada in an interview with Bank Technology News Magazine. Mr. Aceto, an active tweeter, expresses an opinion held by many "enlightened" bankers. But banker beware: if you build it, they may not come.

Rebecca Sausner says "just because there are millions of people at a concert doesn't mean they want to see a banker take the stage." This is a great point. However, I would counter her by saying that banks should have some form of presence for the ocassion in which a client or potential clients needs to reach out. It is during those opportunities that banks will earn the points that put them over the top in the hearts and minds of consumers.

I am a tremendous fan of social media and the many benefits it brings to the banking environment. However, I recognize the many nuances that need to be considered in developing and implementing a social media plan. I agree that a bank's place within social media is not in-your-face. In fact, that is probably the last thing you want to do. Having said that, there are many ways in which banks may leverage social media while playing a role in the background and staying prepared to pounce on opportunities as they come up.

A good example is Bank of America's social network for small business operators. Bank of America has created a space on its dime that draws customers and non-customers together to share ideas and leverage from each other. As conversations take place, BofA is prepared to jump in to provide answers. Also, BofA is along the way collecting information that will assist in the development or improvement of new products and services. So, going back to Rebecca's analogy, while BofA may have built the stage, they are not on the stage but are instead backstage prepared to deal with any questions that may pop up as well as out in the stands listening to the crowds reactions.

Rebecca also made a point about the current financial viability of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, et al, and whether their inability to create income is worthy of steering clear. My immediate response is "so what!" Applications like Facebook and Twitter are drawing in batches of people by the millions. Banks should do what they can to leverage their brand. However, banks should also be sure that their commitments take into consideration the fact that a specific platform or the social network/media industry as a whole may dramatically change over time. But the fact the Twitter may be here today and gone next year should not keep me away from taking advantage of the asset (e.g., people). I just need to make sure that my return in consistent with the investment made.

I think Rebeccas was spot on when she said, "the larger point is that understanding your customers is key. If your customers are addicted to Facebook, texting, tweeting, or LinkedIn groups, you should at least have first-hand knowledge of how and why. " That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Know your customers, know what makes them tick and you'll be able to appeal to them and develop products and services that they will be unable to live without.

For more information on the nuances of social media, download a free copy of The Community Banker's Guide to Social Network Marketing.

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