Creating an Effective Social Media Strategy

January 20, 2011 at 1:07 PM
CPG recently published a list of New Year's resolutions for retail bankers. Coming up with a comprehensive social media strategy did not make it among the final ten items – not because it is not an important consideration for 2011, but because we are of two minds as to its benefits for financial services institutions. While a recent Fiserv whitepaper champions the advantages of developing a robust social media delivery channel, other articles taking a more critical and cautious approach have also appeared. 
At a bare minimum, we believe that it is wise for most institutions to have a small presence in most popular social media forums, in part to make sure that individuals are not sending out misinformation under your institution’s name. Banks should also take the time to listen to what customers are saying in forums, such as Twitter, in order to address in a timely fashion any complaints that may be voiced in those forums. Before transitioning from defense to offense, however, retail bankers should ask themselves some key questions:
1.    How integral is social media to my bank’s overall brand positioning and value proposition?If you have positioned your institution as the place to go for, say, young tech-savvy urban professionals, then you should probably take advantage of all that social media has to offer. If your institution is positioned as community-focused, then you may wish to have a Facebook page detailing participation in community events, but you may not need to dip more than a toe into other forms of social media. As with all other forms of media, your activities in social media should reinforce your bank’s brand. If an activity does not accomplish this goal, then you should think twice about whether it is truly necessary for your institution to engage in it.
2.    What is social media going to help you accomplish? Do you want to use social media to improve service? To help drive traffic to the branches and/or website? To improve brand awareness? All three? Set a goal, figure out the metrics that can quantify that goal, and track your progress towards this endpoint.
3.    How will social media complement other customer touchpoints? It is important that customers have a fluid and coordinated experience at any point where they may interact with your bank. How will your Facebook page or Twitter account or blog work along with other touchpoints to improve the experience for the customer (or at least, not make it confusing)?
4.    Who will be responsible for the channel? Social media lies somewhere in between marketing and service delivery. Depending on what goals you have set for your social media efforts, you may need personnel from several different groups to coordinate and/or share responsibility. This person (or persons) will also need to have sufficient time to devote to doing this job properly – and believe us, it takes far more time to maintain one's presence in social media than one may initially realize.
In the end, remember that you do not need to have a large presence in social media just because the bank across the street does – at least, not just yet. Periodically reassess the potential role of social media at your institution to ensure that this fact hasn’t changed. In the meantime, remember that one of the most beneficial aspects of social media is that it is flexible enough to support what is best for your institution now and to change to support what is best for your institution in the future.
(CPG previously wrote about social media in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue of the Wire. Many of the tips outlined in that article are still relevant today.)

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