Monday, October 31, 2011

Social Media Crisis Training - Mandatory For All Bank Employees?

On October 7, 2011, the Occupy Santa Cruz movement made life much more difficult for banks - large and small.  On the third day of an Occupy event in the small coastal town, an event took place that has likely turned upside down the life of a Bank of America branch manager.  This same event should have the Bank of America training department scrambling to address an important issue: how to handle confrontations with customers and protesters to avoid public relations disasters.

The October 7th incident involved several woman seeking to close a Bank of America account.  The women entered the branch with protest signs and a video camera.  The branch manager upon noticing the women immediately acted by politely asking the women to leave the branch.  The entire exchange was captured on camera and subsequently released on YouTube.  The video has been broadly distributed, resulting in hundreds of thousands of views, causing continued damage to the Bank of America brand as well as likely affected the branch manager.

A few thoughts came to mind as I watched the video.  First was whether Bank of America senior management had provided its branches with guidance regarding how to handle protesters.  In this case, while the protesters were carrying signs and a camera, they appeared quite passive.  This was clearly a set up and the branch manager played directly into their hands when she indicated that they could not be both a customer and a protester and kicked them out.  As a former branch employee, I appreciate the feelings that overcome someone when things go sideways in the branch.  And as such, it is hard for me to be too critical of the employee for reacting as she did.  However, perhaps banks should roll out training that requires employees to first evaluate the scene - especially if cameras have been used.  And while hindsight is 20/20, in this case, having an employee calmly close the account would have been the best option for diffusing the incident.  Perhaps some vignettes would help get the point across.  Because, while the Occupy movement may or may not die out soon, similar approaches are likely to continue in the age of YouTube.

Another thought is having banks establish a clear policy regarding the use of video cameras within the branches.  Many gyms post policies regarding the use of cameras in their facilities.  Banks should determine their own.  And while they need not post the policies, managers should know the policy and be able to calmly describe and provide a copy of the policy to individuals in a manner that will not make for a good smear video.

Times have changed.  Bankers hope only temporarily.  But they have changed.  Every bank employee must recognize that he/she is an ambassador of the organization.  Everything they do may be used positively or negatively in social media.  The more aware employees are of their role as brand ambassadors the better off everyone will be.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Social Media and the American Autumn: The Social Media Effect

On Friday, October 28, 2011, Bank of America officially raised the white flag when it announced that it would exempt certain customers from its previously announced five dollar debit card fee. After severe criticism in the traditional media and especially social media, Bank of America announced that customers with direct deposit or Bank of America credit cards would not be assessed the five dollar fee. It is quite a win for consumers and a major setback for Bank of America's retail strategy team.

Just a month ago all the major banks were talking about recouping revenue through some form of fee on rank-and-file customers. However, in the wake of the severe backlash not only has Bank of America changed its tune but so have Wells Fargo Bank and JP Morgan Chase.

This American Autumn that was initially sparked with the birth of Occupy Wall Street, has taken to social media and has broadened its breadth and scope, resulting in an initial win with the withdrawal of Bank of America's debit card fee strategy.

Such an attempt 10 years ago would not have resulted in such an outcome. However, with social media's immediate and widespread impact, banks must now consider The Social Media Effect when devising corporate strategies. This is something that Bank of America failed to do. And it was evident on their own Facebook page, where complaints went unanswered by Bank of America.

As a long time banker I have always included "reputation risk" as one of the risks evaluated from time-to-time. However, as most bankers will tell you, this was always one of the lesser risks. As bankers we focused most of our energies on credit risk, interest rate risk, market risk and compliance risk. Now we must elevate reputation risk to the top tier thanks to social media.

The smaller the bank the less likely the bank is to register on the radar. Regardless, a community bank's reputation can be easily and quickly tarnished if "conversations" are not monitored and if banks fail to consider the Social Media Effect within the context of reputation risk.

So my advice to bankers in light of Bank of America's recent debacle is:

1) Utilize a form of social media monitoring. Whether it is something as simple as Google Alerts or SocialMention. And ensure that individuals within the organization are tasked with responding to comments in order to attempt to prevent a snowball effect that may create significant harm.

2) When developing strategies, do not fail to consider The Social Media Effect. A poorly thought out strategy can lead to severely adverse outcomes resulting in a loss of reputation and customers.

3) Include The Social Media Effect within the organizations crisis response plan.

While I do not believe that the "mob effect" will dominate all of the conversations within the banking industry, or any industry, for that matter.  I do believe that we have reached the point where The Social Media Effect must be taken seriously.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Regulatory Concerns and Loss of Control Slow Banks' Adoption Of Social Media

An October 23, 2011 Holmes Report blog posting identified the two major fears that banks have relative to social media implementation: regulatory implications and loss of control.

According to The Holmes Report, 73 percent of banks believe that they are behind but catching up in their social media activity. But the sector realizes that social media will not disappear: 16 percent have a social media strategy in place, 28 percent are in the early stages of implementation, and 41 percent are in the process of creating a social media strategy. This compares with 3 percent who have decided against a social media strategy and 13 percent who haven’t started thinking about it.

The Holmes Report cites brand awareness as the most popular reason for social media usage. According tot the report, banks find Twitter as the most useful social media platform followed by LinkedIn.

Addressing the regulatory implications is simple (easy for me to say).  Any social media implementation should be preceded by a careful analysis.  I recommend David Kreiman's recent presentation (Social Media at Community Banks) at the ABA National Convention as a starting point.

Next, I would recommend a review of Creating an Ironclad Social Media Policy.  This document provides the policy guidance necessary to satisfy examiners, auditors and executive management.

Finally, I would highly recommend that a copy of the Human Resources Guide to Social Media Risks be given to each member of senior and executive management.  This book will provide a very good assessment of the risks that exist as a result of social media use.

These three guides should provide the tools necessary to put any organization's fears into perspective.  At the end of the process the conclusion should be, whether or not social media is for our organization, it is not going anywhere anytime soon and at a minimum, the organization better be listening to what other are saying in order to adequately manage reputation risk.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Social Media at ABA 2011

I got back from the 2011 American Bankers Association National Convention about 10 hours ago and I'm now starting to begin the process of digesting the many messages knocking around in my head.  Before I go into the social media messages I'm currently digesting, let me say this - the ABA scored a perfect 10 on locale for this year's event.  The weather along the San Antonio River Walk could not have been better.  It was tragic to have to be indoors during the event.

So, this year's annual convention would not be complete without at least one segment on social media use.  In fact, we had two.  One segment was a vendor-produced breakfast presentation and the second was one that featured the ABA's Denyette DePierro, Glenview State Bank's David M. Kreiman and yours truly.  In addition, at least one other presentation brought up the issue of social and its importance to the banking industry - particularly the community bank segment.

The slide below, from Cornerstone Advisors, pretty much tells gives the gist of the messages: it's the number of users, stupid!

The message being delivered across the board was that social media is too popular among all demographic groups to be ignored.  Banks, at a minimum, should attempt a low-risk approach to social media.  Banks were advised to wet their toes by launching a simple yet well thought out campaign to live the social media experience and make an educated assessment.

While disagreement may result regarding the appropriate uses of social media (e.g., sales tool? marketing tool?  community outreach tool?), everyone agreed on its usefulness.

Perhaps the most useful bit of advice was provided at a presentation by Beyond the Arc.  According to Beyond the Arc's Steve Ramirez, a bank should have some idea what it wants to accomplish with social media before embarking on the task.  Is it increased deposits, increased brand awareness/goodwill, increased loan production, etc.  Without an end in mind it will be impossible to determine the utility of social media.

Regardless of the exact expectation, banks should consider utilizing social media since social media use among consumers has become ubiquitous as has consumers' expectation that banks and other businesses also utilize social media.

Tell you what I would like to see next year from the studies on social media usage and ROI for small community banks under $500MM.  We get lots of stats on the big guys.  BofA, Chase, American Express, etc.  They have budgets to implement the cool (and pricey) campaigns and measurement systems.  But I'm more interested in First Bank of Main Street, One Percent Bank and their peers.

All in, the message at ABA 2011 was what I expected.  "If you're not on social media, get it on it!"  And I believe that's the right message.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SAP Has Something to Say About Banking and Social

According to SAP blogger Michael Mischker, "strengthening customer loyalty and overall customer experience has become increasingly critical for banks because of the problems they’ve faced in recent years. A positive experience with branch offices and call centers is still essential. But social media gives banks and other financial service firms another arrow in their marketing quivers. Used strategically, it provides a powerful two-way dialogue with customers that can significantly enhance brand and revenue."

Here are some of Michael's tips:

1) Start a Dialogue:  There are many obstacles to integrating social media into a bank’s distribution channels — not the least of which is a change in financial institutions’ corporate culture which has historically emphasized monologue over dialogue. Many banks are also concerned about opening the door to negative commentary.  Standard marketing strategies will no longer win customer interest and trust. Increasingly, consumers will look to their social groups for banking recommendations and use social media to share their thoughts on particular institutions.

2) Competitive Advantage: An active social media presence can create a “sticky,” real-time relationship with potential and existing customers. Using today’s technology, the best-run banks can monitor the sentiment of and actively engage with customers, prospects, and key opinion leaders. At a time when the amount of data and information created by social networks is expanding exponentially, it’s more important than ever for banks to have robust support for listening and responding to social network commentary.

3) The Right Tools for the Job: Banks can easily leverage current technology to imbue the customer experience with a social touch. Banks can create the consistent experience across traditional and social media channels needed to strengthen their customer relationships.

Successful customer relationship strategies driven by social media rely on:

1) Responsiveness (listening carefully and replying quickly)
2) Relevance (keeping responses personal and meaningful)
3) Convenience (interacting with customers at their preferred time and channel)

Technology can put this all in place. But banks must, first, be willing to embrace the new opportunities for collaborative, two-way interactions with customers that social media outlets provide.

Core Processor Gets Into Social - Five Tips to Banks

Fiserv, Inc., one of the major core processors in the banking industry, shared Five Steps to Social Media Marketing at the 2011 BAI Retail Delivery Conference on how financial institutions can add social media to their marketing mix.

Five Steps to Social Media Marketing

1) Strategy Development: Developing a social media marketing strategy includes assessing customers' current social activities, determining goals and objectives, planning for how relationships with customers will change and deciding which social technologies to use.

2) Listening and Monitoring the Conversation: To get started, financial institutions should simply listen to what consumers are saying about their brand, their competitors and the industry. This can be done by using a listening tool, such as or Google alerts. Listening will reveal where customers and prospects are participating online, which may guide the decision on what sites to start with and where to focus initial efforts.

3) Laying the Internal Groundwork: Be sure to establish and share social media guidelines, which can be done in the form of a policy book, education video, fact sheet or other form of internal communication. Also be sure to establish a brand voice, whether it is professional, casual, upbeat or reserved, and create a response matrix outlining how to respond in a variety of situations. Develop a content calendar outlining future content.

4) Integrating Marketing: Promote the financial institution's social presence in other marketing materials. Adding social icons and links to websites, emails, brochures and other materials lets consumers know the bank or credit union is active in social media and makes it easy for them to connect.

5) Metrics and Reporting: The metrics measured will depend on the goals and objectives initially identified. However, when starting out, financial institutions can measure social media impact by looking at how far messages are traveling, the gain in visitors to their website, the number of engaged discussions and the number of users who return to financial institution social media sites.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Social Media Password Policies - More Than An Ounce Of Prevention

In early September, the Bank of Melbourne had its Twitter account hijacked by someone that used it to send phishing messages to its followers, many of whom were customers. The tweets sent from the Bank of Melbourne Twitter account contained malicious links.

The likely cause for the account compromise was a weak password used by a staffer with access to Twitter.

This event should serve as a lesson to banks with a social media presence. Just as banks maintain effective password policies to access internal systems, similar policies should be required for external systems.  Employees should be made aware of the damage that can result from lax/poor controls over passwords.  The lack of effective controls can result in reputational harm, regulatory criticism and legal action.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social Media is Social Business

Boxley Llewellyn and Chitra Dorai from IBM came up with these four ways that social media is transforming the banking industry.  They provided their analysis in a

1) Social business is critical for forging new connections, as well as elevating the brand.
Banks that can use it wisely can generate immediate, impactful results on increasingly social customers, many of whom use social media as an underlying "operating system" for their work and social lives.

2) Social business is a pivotal outlet for building communities.
Selling banking products and services can be understandably complex. However, building communities around products and services opens up a new way for consumers to inquire, engage and share material. Focusing on customer service and adopting the personalities of the people they serve, banks can bring new meaning to customer centricity.

3) Social business can be an invaluable tool for product research and education.
Whether you're crowd-sourcing to find out what customers think of your services, or using social media to encourage customers to develop new products, the social network provides a channel to solicit ideas and input. In fact, social customers expect to be able to input ideas, rate experiences and debate ideas. Banks are redesigning their websites to include new features to gather ideas and feedback. They deliver videos on product information via YouTube and ask customers to rate the site and suggest new products.

4) Social business can provide deeper insights into bank customers.
All of the information that is generated on social media sites is valuable data that can be analyzed and mined. New patterns can be uncovered and valuable insight gleaned -- from gauging what customers like and dislike, to understanding what products they respond to and assessing areas of improvement for customer service. Banks are just starting to use more advanced analytics to tap into this data and develop more customized services and offerings for customers to ultimately drive more business. They can deliver more tailored marketing and sales campaigns to generate more targeted results.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rodney Dangerfield - The Father of Social Media Sentiment Analysis

When I was an undergrad at UCLA I had a horrible habit of staying up all night with friends, drinking Schaefer beer and eating Domino's while watching movies such as Caddyshack.  I gotta admit those were some of the best times. Cheap beer, good food and great friends. Of course, never did I think that anything other than bad hangovers would result from the experience.

I guess that's why I'm just a blogger and not a multi-gazillionaire.  You see, if I were paying better attention I would have noticed the wisdom in the words of the late Rodney Dangerfield.

That clip above wasn't the wisdom I was talking about. That was just funny.

Somewhere in the movie Rodney says "they're all buying, then sell, sell, sell!" It seems that the folks at, Inc. were also avid fans of Caddyshack. How else would they have come up with the idea of tracking company sentiment on social media as a means of determining which stock to buy and which to sell.

According to a Barchart press release, "researchers from Indiana University and the University of Manchester recently published findings that social media can have up to an 86.7% accuracy rate at predicting the market."  The Barchart product analyzes thousands of social media messages every second, compiling data that can be used for research, system development and real-time stock, futures and forex signal creation. The software instantly evaluates and generates trading signals based on the sentiment of investors using social media tools.

This product and the research behind it may be useful to banks relative to decisions and transaction that involve stock price such as merger and acquisition transactions.

Another example of the usefulness of social media.  But does it look good on you?

California Bankers Association Goes Hands On

NOTICE:  This post is a little off-track as it does not relate entirely to social media but relates generally to technology.  The next post will return us to our regularly scheduled programming.

If you're a banker chances are you've attended a conference or seminar hosted by a state banking association. As a long-time banker I've been to so many of these events that they have all started to look and sound the same. So when I received an email for the California Bankers Association Technology and Community Banking Conference I was pleasantly surprised.

According to the marketing materials, "this session will be unlike our prior seminars, in that to help get you more comfortable with these new technologies you will have a chance to try all of them out! Our goal is to allow you at least as much 'hands on' time to use the products as to just hear about them."

What a great idea!

As new technologies evolve and as more and more options fill the technology landscape, having these types of hands-on opportunities provides real value to conference goers.  One job of staff attending conferences is to report back to executive management about trends in the industry and the tools that benefit the organization.  Too many times all we have are Powerpoint presentations containing screen shots.

As an experienced conference speaker I understand the risks of letting the technology loose on the conference room floor.  If there was ever a call for gremlins, this is it.  But that is exactly why I commend the California Bankers Association for taking a risk and requiring their presenters and vendors to let the attendees "test drive" their wares.  At the end of the day, the money and time will be much better spent if  bankers get a chance to play around with the technology and decide for themselves whether the product is the real deal or just good marketing.

Kudos to the California Bankers Association for taking the risk and providing a meaningful experience to the attendees.  This should go a long way in engaging attendees and should earn the California Bankers Association some positive buzz.