It’s often said that bankers are not necessarily ‘social’ by nature. This isn’t a bad thing per se—it just means banking is serious business, while socializing has the opposite connotation.
Seen through that prism, it’s a topsy-turvy world would there. The absolute, undeniable reality is that a lot of business is ‘social’ now, and the rest will get there soon enough.
As the American Banking Association has been emphasizing in numerous outreach initiatives, including webcasts, many banks have already developed and implemented social media strategies, primarily as an extension of their ongoing marketing and communications strategies. However, it remains an open question whether these tactics have been adopted industry-wide.
One potential obstacle seems to be too many professionals see social media mainly as a series of new channels to add to the existing arsenal. This is the best way, they believe, to accomplish what traditional advertising and other market-facing strategies are typically designed to achieve— strengthen the brand, grow the business, etc.
There are some critical differences, however. One may be that many social media engagements often exist independently of the organization’s typical arena. More consequently, the company always isn’t initiating or ending a conversation as much as it’s joining one. Remember, technology-aided word of mouth travels much faster and further than any other form of communication. Average consumer might be willing to look up a particular financial services provider or product on Google, but they’re more inclined to trust a friend on Facebook. This is why it sometimes pays not to join in the conversation, while at other times it’s absolutely imperative.
On a related front, most traditional marketing initiatives are almost exclusively the purview of marketing folks. Sure, all employees go through orientation and know roughly what to say about the company when asked, but that’s about it. The rest of the time, they’re doing their regular jobs. In a ‘social business’ world, meanwhile, they have the opportunity to be advocates virtually all the time. On the flip side, a few poorly-worded Tweets could, if tied back to their employer, cost them their jobs and damage the brand.
There are many technologies and service providers available to expedite these process. But ultimately, it’s up to the banks, accounting firms and other financial services providers themselves to get moving on this. For example, they can implement technologies that facilitate easier communications between companies and employees—surely a scary prospect to many institutions concerned about compliance measures. They can appoint specific professionals at all levels to serve as advocates, each trained to create or locate and join in relevant conversations in numerous channels. Most of all they can, and should, develop a full-fledged social media strategy that’s endorsed supported monetarily and otherwise at the highest levels. Moving forward, that will mean carefully monitoring the effect of these initiatives in ways that are alien to traditional advertising and PR efforts.
Yes, business is social now, and that requires a radical change in thinking. Staying out of this swirling vortex of consumer buzz may be one option, at least for now. But in the long term, being anti-social will potentially have severe consequences.