Sunday, November 13, 2011

Social Media's Tortoise and the Hare

We've all heard the Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare.  In the story, the hare, speedy and full of bravado, fails to win the race against the slower tortoise.

The financial services industry is undergoing its own version of the fable with respect to social media.  On the one hand you have firms such as Chase, giving away $1 million dollars through Facebook.  On the other hand you have firms such as Morgan Stanley, reluctantly entering the world of social media by getting every tweet, LinkedIn post and other social media comments pre-approved by "corporate" before making the messages public.

While it is important for every firm to understand the influence of social media, it is just as important for every firm to do it in a manner that is consistent with the culture and governance style of the firm.  Some firms, such as Chase, are very comfortable jumping into social media with both feet.  We'll call them the hare.   This is a function of the culture at Chase.  Some firms, such as Morgan Stanley, are more comfortable taking calculated steps.  This too is a result of the corporate culture.  We'll call them the tortoise.

Unlike the fable, this is a race where there is likely no loser.  What is important here is that organizations move into social media at a pace at which they are comfortable.  As stated on this blog many times; most important is for firms to actively "listen" to social media to determine what is being said so that appropriate responses can be provided.  Beyond listening (which IS mandatory for all), every firm should move at a speed at which they are comfortable.

Some firms will train and trust their employees as brand ambassadors and unleash them to do their thing on social media.  These firms will have no problem sleeping at night.  Other firms will limit employee access to social media and will screen and pre-approve all messaging.  For these firms, this is the only way they can sleep at night.  While social media proponents will push for the former, the reality is that either approach will work.  What is important is that the firms implement something in order to remain visible and competitive.

The Age of the Thick Skinned Banker

Amplicate, a social media analytics company, released a report that suggests that banks need to develop thick skin, really thick skin, in the new world dominated by social media.

The Amplicate study revealed that 83% of opinions about major banks in the US and Europe were negative over the past 12 months.  The study focused on large money center banks and not on the smaller community banks.  While community banks would have likely performed better due to their reputation as being more consumer-friendly, the lesson is the same: bankers need to learn to deal with and manage criticism like never before.

Social media makes it easier than ever for consumers to make their complaints public.  Look at Bank of America's recent social media troubles related to its $5 debit card fee.  The public outcry resulted in a complete about face by Bank of America and created significant damage to the Bank of America brand that will take some time to repair.

Banks' knee jerk reaction may be to avoid social media altogether in an effort to avoid the criticism.  However, as has been repeated many times on this blog, the criticism will occur regardless of a bank's stance on social media.  A better approach is to play offense and implement a social media monitoring system that tracks what is being said about the bank and responds in a transparent and honest manner in a effort to prevent the criticism from snowballing in a manner similar to that experienced by Bank of America.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bottle Service with that Social Media

One of my favorite social media videos remains this one by Socialnomics.  I must admit that I get quite pumped up after watching and listening to this video by Erik Qualman.  Erik put together one of the best business-related videos ever!  This explains why this video has gone viral and has provided such a tremendous boost to Erik's company.

I've attended and participated in more social media events than I can recall.  In so many of these I hear talk about going "viral."  For social media marketers, including those that represent banks, this represents the holy grail.  The reality is that very (very) few initiatives will ever reach "viral" status.

I like to use this video as example of what it takes to get an initiative to go viral.  The visuals of this video along with the beats made for an emotionally-charged video that encouraged not only sharing, but repeated viewing.  The combination of music and visuals created an emotional charge among viewers, almost turning viewers into Viral Zombies.  Viewers have no choice but to share this video (I'm sharing, aren't I!).

I don't mean to discourage organizations from seeking the holy grail of social media sharing.  I just want to make sure that it is understood that social media is about being "social."  And before anything is shared - especially at the "viral" level - it must appeal to the social side of our existence.  In this case, viewers of the video get their blood pumping, head moving, feet tapping.  Watching people watching this video is almost like watching Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan in A Night at the Roxbury.

So before launching the next "big" social media initiative ask yourself how it will make people feel.  If it makes them feel significantly happy, sad, proud, etc., then it has a chance at spreading.  If it doesn't then don't expect much from it because no one will care.

Hello, Mr. Watson, Can You Hear Me?

On November 12, 2011, the Customer Contact Association released an advisory (Social Media Revolution Rewrites Customer Service Rules) that made the following observations:

  • Companies must review which channels they use to monitor customer feedback as there is a mismatch between customers’ preferred channels and the ones companies monitor most frequently.More than 70% of the online population now regularly uses Facebook and Twitter.
  • Forty-six percent of consumers believe that social media can hold brands and companies accountable.
  • Businesses must reinvent their customer service models to respond to a growing breed of ‘connected customers’ who use social media to comment on service.
  • Businesses need new multi-channel strategies to tackle ‘disconnect’ with customers.
  • Forty-four percent of consumers believe companies do not care what they think.

While the data is helpful, I don't think anyone is surprised by the outcome - especially in the post-Occupy Wall Street world.  What is most useful is the conclusion that companies (banks included) are not listening in the right places.  Traditionally banks have used paper surveys, face-to-face interaction and other old school methods to obtain customer feedback.  Today, while these methods still apply, there is more and more feedback being provided through social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.).  As such, it is important that banks "listen" to all applicable channels - not just those they are traditionally programmed to monitor.  At a minimum, banks should make use of Google Alerts and to listen to the feedback/comments being placed out on the Internet.  Of course, larger organizations may opt for more robust (and expensive) solutions such as Radian6 and others.