Leveraging Social Media in Finance

Social media is the Tsunami that will allow the socialization of banks, is what I consider the key message of the SOMESSO conference on ‘Leveraging Corporate Social Media in the Finance Sector’ in Zürich, 3rd of November.
However, we are not there yet! According to Forbes Global 2000 – 2009, only 5% of the top 100 banks acknowledged having a presence in social media… That all speakers consider this as a missed opportunity goes without saying.
Benedikt Köhler kicked off by stressing that social media is here to stay and will continue to grow explosively in the next few years:  in Germany, 2 out of 3 onliners are on social media, 90% of the youngsters use them, social media grow the strongest in generation 60+ and it is proven a prime time medium. While trust in banks declined drastically, consumers increasingly put their trust in peers – online, by the tool called social media.
To enable participation in this community of peers, the 2.0 corporation should incorporate social media in 5 key dimensions of its organization:  Marketing & Sales, Research & Innovation, Support & Customer relations, Human resources/employer branding and Public Relations.

Examples of banks that implemented social media successfully in their corporate strategy are Mint.com (20.000 followers on Twitter), Missouri Bank (Facebook fanpage) & Wells Fargo (hosts several blogs and an own virtual world where you can learn how to use your money wisely).
Köhler closed with next steps for banks and companies in general:

  1. Chart your company’s social media landscape
  2. Develop a strategical view of your company’s dialogical future
  3. Build strong and sustainable user experiences in social media and give users a chance to live your brand online.

Christophe Langlois argued for a phased introduction of banks into social media: learn, listen, participate, engage, measure and improve. If not ready to participate, it’s time to learn and to start listening NOW! Banks need to increase their official presence on social media and try to be different by putting people first, having the right tone of voice, providing relevant content and make it easy and rewarding for ‘members’ to participate. BUT, for now, “It’s better to be boring, than to do nothing”. Start now…, leverage later, is the credo! Langlois illustrated the principle with different success stories of banks supporting their customers on Twitter.
Networking is not new, it has been happening for decades! The social web only makes it more powerful: more efficient, more transparent and less controlled. According to Johannes Haus, banks need to pro-actively engage with the outside, be authentic, have no fear of criticism and have trust in employees to carry responsibility.
Lee Bryant suggested the incorporation of social media into a ‘social business design’, allowing improved workforce collaboration, customer participation and partnerships & service innovation. Real time social networks as info filter and influencer will constitute the future of corporate and retail banking. For corporate banking this means personalized info services, conversational relationships, expertise and knowledge sharing and avoiding commoditization. Applications for retail banking are brand communities, peer-to-peer help; self-service, user-generated information, better tools and tracker feeds, lower acquisition and transaction costs. Bryant concluded that information asymmetries are falling away and banks will be competing in the open soon. Intimate, social service is the best protection against this evolution of price sensitivity and commoditization.
According to Anne McCrossan, social media provides banks with a platform to leverage intangible assets like brand culture. Whereas banks are today most importantly communicating about products and services, social media will allow expressing corporate mission, culture and  personality in a cost efficient way. Social media will lead banks to a customer centric business model, whereby being both credible and compelling on the social web is key.
Although very inspiring, I regret the conference did not tackle innovative research methods using social media – social media netnography (online observational research), online safari, co-creation in online communities, etc. – to illustrate new business opportunities in the financial sector. Let’s make it my personal mission to put them on next years’ agenda.
To be continued…
For the slide share presentations, see http://somesso.com/

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