- ?Bank executive recommends mixing traditional, new advertising, outreach channels.
- ?Analyst advises policies, strategies, internal education and designated players.
- ?Sentiment monitoring, available from a variety of sources, should be done at a minimum.
LAS VEGAS -- Fifth Third Bank's cool new ad campaign had gone viral, generating hundreds of thousands of views across the country by people amused by the antics of Kyle the clueless college kid.
It seemed like everyone had seen it, except for employees of the Cincinnati bank itself. Like many other employers, Fifth Third blocks YouTube, the social media channel where the series of six "dontbethatguykyle" videos were posted.
That sort of conundrum typifies the shaking out and shaking of heads that go with button-down organizations like banks and credit unions trying to adapt to the new realities of social media. It was also the topic of a session on the opening day of the BAI Retail Delivery show in Las Vegas last week.
Larry McClanahan, Fifth Third's vice president and director of alternative channels, was the presenter, along with Nicole Sturgill, delivery channels research director for the TowerGroup research and advisory firm in Needham, Mass.
"It was a great way to reach out in a nontraditional way and more relevant to the market we wanted to reach," McClanahan said of the "Kyle" campaign. "We enhanced our brand awareness with a twist of humor and we used a channel that provides a vehicle for user engagement long after the paid campaign was over."
He said the approach of combining social media with traditional marketing and advertising outlets serves to "maximize our synergy between paid and organic vehicles."
But not all viral is good, Sturgill pointed out. She described the case of a Facebook campaign organized by consumers in Britain angered by HBSC's decision to eliminate no-interest overdrafts.
"Because of the public pressure, within six months they had to bring it back and they refunded what interest people had paid on those accounts in the meantime," Sturgill said.
According to Sturgill, that example illustrates both the power of channels like Facebook and the need to have internal policies and strategies to deal with them.
"If nothing else you have to have a defensive strategy," she said. "You have to know what people are saying about you, because sometimes it's not nice."
Tools exist-from big players like Google as well as small analytics specialists-to let companies engage in "sentiment monitoring," but how to deal with negative sentiment is not always obvious.
For instance, don't automatically take down negative comments on a bank or credit union's Facebook page unless they're profane or too personal, Sturgill said, "because that's kind of Big Brother and people notice and will respond to that."
Instead, take the opportunity to respond, and make sure that "whoever does the responding has the authority or at least the access to the people and processes to fix things or get the answer from someone who can," she said.
Sturgill and McClanahan noted that while Facebook is by far the 500-million-user gorilla of the social media revolution, and YouTube is particularly popular among the college set, there are a number of other sites worth watching.
For example, there's Foursquare, a GPS locator site for people who want to broadcast and monitor places they visit in the physical world. Sturgill said the site is fast-growing and potentially ripe for advertising. And the social aspects of personal financial management sites like Mint attract millions of users, especially for their peer group benchmarking.
Financial institutions can also use Facebook to generate goodwill by demonstrating civic outreach, for instance by posting pictures of staff involvement in community events. And there are a myriad of applications that connect to those sites, integrating with Facebook, Twitter and business-oriented LinkedIn, along with Flickr, MySpace and many others.
They can also be used to engage and inform in other ways, but that comes with a caveat, Sturgill said. "Your Facebook page cannot be an Internet version of your contact center."
Access should be restricted to staff trained in public relations or customer service, and care must be taken to ensure that identifying information such as account numbers aren't shared by public tweet or post.
"You really need guidelines for both corporate and employee use, a method of documenting results good and bad, education and training for employees, a full knowledge of regulatory guidelines, and the technology to record and moderate the content," Sturgill said. "And the results."