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Asian and Australian banks are more and more eager to engage with their markets on social media channels like facebook or twitter with the likes of CIMB in Malaysia, Standard Chartered in Singapore or Commonwealth Bank in Australia.
But the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is not the only area of the world where financial institutions try their best to embrace social media. Earlier this year, Credit Agricole launched TooKam.com, the first 'social bank' / virtual branch fully engaged on facebook, twitter, blogging and 3D internet.
By experience, social media engagement in financial services is driven by four possible reasons: 1. PR crisis, 2. competition, 3. internally via an influential and knowledgeable advisor or stakeholder, 4. internally via a member of the Senior Management.
Let's have a look at an innovative bank based in Russia, Promsvyazbank aka 'PSBank'. I've asked my friend Daniel Gusev - Head of Innovation to talk us through their social media journey and their focus on facebook and twitter.
Please note that it is Daniel's second contribution on Visible Banking, I invite you to read his first guest post 'Overview of Social Media and Banking in Russia & CIS'.
PSBank's ambitious venture to create a truly social bank is a long story – but the first chapters of it are already breathtaking – so we are happy to note several milestones we had achieved this far:
Social media marketing in Russia, as we see it – is a young – and voracious industry, first taken by Senior FS Executives (I invite you to check our list of Senior Execs on twitter) as nonsense drivel, then turned into a front-seat mirror, bringing lavish budgets and self-prononuced gurus that guided the expenses.
That befuddled and confused many enterprises that scorned at the previously free ride on viral waves of marketing – including PSBank, that only felt social media as an complementary mechanism to push its releases on products and APRs.
Dealing with the Usual Challenges in Financial Services
When the bank approached the social media realm was with many things, major of them being:
* Focus: most institutions just dont know what to expect from any social networking platform, its virility and voracity makes them a frightening endeavors for banks (that are unsocial by default). Hence, majority stumble or do not get the results they might have expected when looking at best brands communication, as they start with different words.
* Expectations: the expectations-delivery mismatch starts from focus misalignment – companies expect instant appraisal of their first steps and should they fail to make them in a confident manner – the fatal retort is not retribution, but ignorance and oblivion. Demands for quick growth might not be met and the social team may be left with no resouces for a «redo». Pages must captivate customers and entice them to stay, pleading on their relevency and proving of their logic in being present in the social media realm. That in turn requires different approach than that employed at companies primary communication channels.
* Costs: taking social media as something that should be quickly conquered, or taken aback by first errors, companies try to win back by spending lavish sums on promotion, SEO, direct ads, or hiring dedicated team to work with the new channel. It only leads to inflated expectations and makes the impact of company's social visibility less impactful.
* Results (measurement systems): what execs look at firsthand is number of likes (subscribers), the problem is that the number may sustain a big churn rate and be compensated by constant direct ad marketing, or that those who've «liked» your page – are not engaging with you on the platform – and are only driven by occasional prize draws that everyone are so willing to do today.
In short, there is more than a simple presense on a platform like Facebook or Twitter, or else. It is the reverse innovation, where interactions formed through all these next-gen communication platforms, would impact the core communications of prime channels. There is no reason for a bank to make a shiny island on Facebook, once it cannot drive the same feelings towards other channels.
Understanding all that, PSBank took most necessary precautions by:
* Describing firsthand what it is hoping to achive from social media: and that is not to bring the bank to social channels, but to make it all social: infuse social media channels into all channels and recreate customers interaction by applying the rules of these new platforms. Since cusomers are accustomed to instant response from the outer Web, there is no way the bank will manage a two-dimension stance (that most do). That required close cooperation with products, customer service and marketing – that agreed on a basic framewok – to hand out full control over social media to a single «change agent», that is mandated to coordinate and control speed, quality and approach on social media channels.
* The bank hired the best person it could possibly uncover – a true change agent in social media, that has the gut feeling to create numerous ways of engaging with users on social platforms. No way a banker can handle the phylosophy of social tools – so PSBank took onboard Alexey Giyazov who is part-timing as an advisor of several startups – that being crucial to managing relationships with an independent network of talented people.
I invite you to check my blog post '5 Ways Banks Use to Build their Social Media Team'.
* The Bank initially defined several platforms where that would be crucial to be present (Facebook and Twitter) – and those that would only distract attention: it also defined metrics and feelings it would need to convey – in order to lower the churn and «oblivision slide» rates (more on channels later in this post).
* The Bank also synched the social media strategy with a product roadmap. That is deemed very important by the bank, seeing how the simplicity of social media channels should convey a similar feeling towards products (the Bank sees that as prime suspect for customers not being interested in banks products as they are interested in consumer goods).
The bank sees Facebook (4,8 monthly active users as of end of summer) as its prime social media platform, despite the fact that social networking platforms like Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki are more numerious (both boasting of dozens of millions profiles). Since becoming prominent in Russia in 2010 – the platform is an elitist gathering of Russias most active and well-off customers.
The Bank launched its official page back in August 2011 – from where it quicly rocketed to one of the most prominent enterprise pages in Russia with close to 5k likes (this also taking note of a single person tasked to bring it online – and only 3 500 USD budget for design, initial marketing and prize draws).
The Bank's approach is to make this platform a default platform for bank's customers – and deliver first-class customer service and share news related to money saving.
The Bank is also taking the same approach to Twitter – that is used by it to alert customers on upcoming products, respond to customer queries and other questions.
The Bank is also planning to launch several geolocation-based services in 1Q of 2012 that would greatly appeal both to the Bank's customers as well as other consumers too.
The Bank's mid-term strategy is to take all the elements (share, like, social reputation) people now take for granted and take them on our offline channels (sucha as placing a reputation score to individial branches when a customer is there) – and to even mark individual employees – so that there would be a possibility to render the Bank as a truly social institution.
More Info on PSBank
* TOP 10 bank in Russia
* >1 million retail customers
* ~1500 ATM
* 260 branches
* New dedicated team hired to relaunch retail business in early 2011
We at Visible Banking would be delighted to help you and your team better UNDERSTAND and LEVERAGE social media in a strategic yet pragmatic way. So please don't hesitate to call me, send me an email or DM me (@Visible_Banking) to book a meeting and talk about twitter, facebook, crowdsourcing, customer reviews, social media & social commerce in banking, financial services and insurance.
Related articles on Visible-Banking.com
* All my posts related to Twitter
* All my posts related to Facebook
* Visible Banking Directory: Social Media in Financial Services
* Visible Banking Social Media Watch Series (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs)