Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
On Twitter, for example, I personally follow over 300 people and am followed by about the same number. Some of these people are friends/business associates, but the majority of them I've never met face to face. So last night, as I attended the Blue Sky Factory holiday party, my two worlds briefly came together. I got a chance to talk with Mario Armstrong, a tech entrepreneur in Baltimore and a guy I've heard on NPR and other local stations over the years. He often focuses on new technologies and manages to make some very complex subjects easy to understand. While I've enjoyed following him on Twitter, it was really nice to actually talk with him in person. And,we already had some connection.
So, what's the point? I guess it's that social media tools like Twitter really can help facilitate all kinds of conversations and relationships, both online and offline. Pretty neat when it all comes together that way.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Bank of America, for example, uses Twitter to monitor complaints and respond to customers. They have six people who are dedicated to staffing the Twitter account @BofA_Help and monitoring conversations on Twitter. A smaller, regional bank in Wisconsin, North Shore Bank, uses Facebook as a way to connect with customers, provide photos and videos, and conduct contests.
Since we began, we've used these tools in much the same way with very encouraging results. Given our size, we don't have anywhere near the same number of resources working on our Twitter accounts (@1stMarinerBank and @FMBCustServ), much less full time. The beauty of social media, and the applications available to monitor activity, is that you don't need to have a lot of resources. It provides a more level playing field where size and scale are no longer issues. In fact, I would contend that we can actually respond more quickly and in a more personal way than our larger competitors. And in this industry, like many others, the only way to differentiate ourselves is through a positive customer experience.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
It was pretty impressive to see a Governor use a combination of visual online media while fielding questions from the audience via a hash tag(#BSFTV) on Twitter. In this fairly tech savvy area, this is great way to connect with that constituency. With the technology incubator spaces in the state, including the Emerging Technology Centers in Baltimore, the technology area has been growing even as other industries struggle.
Kudos to Governor O'Malley for using social media to reach out to the citizens of Maryland. It's a pretty good indication that social media is reaching a critical mass and going mainstream.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
In a little more than two days, there were no less than twelve local and national posts from various blogs and on Twitter. We even had a local reporter contacting us through Twitter to confirm the news and get a comment. So why such a strong reaction to what, in the past, was a non-event?
Besides the current economic environment, where the slightest corporate change is considered bad news, the web and the social media tools have changed the rules of the game. This is just one example of the ways that basic business activities are interpreted and reported. The days of corporations controlling the message is over. Now, individuals have as powerful a means of communicating across a broad audience as the traditional advertising and media outlets did in the past. Now, we have to adjust to this new reality and learn how to manage our side of the conversation. Not an easy task, is it?
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This lead some followers to go to their blog and discover that, lo and behold, their site was displaying Google ads. Certainly an unusual approach for most banks. But the real uproar was the fact that there were ads for other banks, including Bank of America, Susquehanna Bank and TD Bank, to name a few. As he noted, our @1stMarinerBank twitter account was part of the conversation as well.
To his credit, Jesse Torres, the CEO and resident blogger, quickly posted a response to the "hubbub", explaining his rationale for the Google ads and acknowledging the need to more closely restrict the types of ads to display. I don't necessarily agree with the concept of ads on a blog. However, he certainly impressed me with his transparency and honesty. Now, isn't that what social media is really all about?
Monday, November 23, 2009
I have to admit that we don't calculate the ROI for our organization. But I think that is okay for us. We see it as a necessary part of our overall strategy to interact with customers and prospects and build our brand. However, there are certainly others who do. To highlight some of these, I invite you to take a look at the following video from Socialnomics, a social media blog. In a very entertaining way, it provides examples from various industries that might help you determine your companies own ROI. Included in the video is a reference to Gary Vaynerchuck, a recent speaker at the GBTC Tech Nite here in Baltimore. I hope you enjoy it.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The commoon thread I see from the presenters reinforces my previous post from the Harvard Business School newsletter. The emphasis throughout is using social media as a part of an enterprise strategy for your brand. Whether it be in customer service, human resources activities, or public relations efforts, it has to be part of a plan.
We are currently working with our mortgage business partners on re-building one of our mortgage web properties. This site has languished in obscurity for some time. While it would be tempting to jump right into a social media effort, it isn't the right time now. We have a lot of work to do before we are ready to take that on.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Which can lead to the question that confounds many a corporate marketing leader. How do you play in this new world of social networks? According to Professor Piskorski, " To be successful, you need to shift your thinking from social media to social strategy". Simply looking at the social networks as another marketing channel, to generate leads and click through's for your website, is inconsistent with the spirit and use of these networks. He suggests that products and services need to be changed to incorporate social networking components, i.e. make them "more social".
Certainly an interesting perspective and worth exploring. In the financial services arena, I find it a bit challenging to see a way to make our services more social. We see the current value in sharing information about the company and employees on our Facebook page (with lots of pictures, of course). We use Twitter to have conversations with others that are more immediate, whether it be promoting an event, participating in community activities, or addressing a customer service issue. I think we are evolving into a social strategy through experience.
So what about you? How do you see social media, as just another sales channel or as an overall part of a social strategy?
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I take it as a good sign that a traditional research firm like Celent is advocating participation in social media for financial institutions. We've embraced it and would encourage others too as well. Unfortunately, since I can't see the content, it is impossible for me to say how they suggest banks get involved. If someone has access to the report and can share that with me, I'd love to hear from you.
Friday, November 6, 2009
In his discussion, he declares that the Internet is broken relative to the original intent of the early Internet developers. He feels that the Internet is "filled with junk" and "promotes [a] false sense of conviviality but generates isolationism". He goes on to outline his proposal for fixing it.
I certainly understand his concern. With the overwhelming growth of Internet usage over the last 25 years, there were bound to be abuses. However, I would contend that the Internet can promote real connectivity between people, especially in the B2C arena. If managed properly, true transparency is possible. We are in the service business. In order to service our customers, we have to connect with them. This medium allows us to connect like no other. He may consider the Internet broken, but I think we are just starting to figure out how we can really use it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Which is what makes a recent study sponsored by AARP so interesting. It is entitled "Personal Finances: The Final Frontier for Social Media". It is available on AARP's LifeTuner website, which they describe as "an online personal finance community site born out of a growing recognition that young adults need to take a much more active role than previous generations in planning and preparing for their own financial security."
If you are in the financial services industry, it is well worth your time to read. It says a lot about how this demographic, the 18-34 year olds, feel about personal finances. Their two top priorities are managing day to day expenses and putting money into savings. However, they are more likely to turn to their parents or friends for advice than to use their expanded social networks.
I think the implications are pretty clear. We can't just assume that by entering the social media channels we will gain their trust. They aren't necessarily looking for financial advice through this avenue. We should, however, provide tools to help them more effectively manage their finances. That could (and should) make us more relevant in their lives.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
While we are mentioned as one of the active financial institutions in the US, he specifically highlights a servicing effort that resulted in a very good experience for one of our customers. Aaron Brazell, the lead editor of Technosailor.com, was the customer and wrote an excellent account of the whole experience entitled "First Mariner Bank: A New Shining Star in Social Media PR" . In his own words, he describes how these online tools and offline efforts can work together to service customers in a more integrated way. It isn't always easy since we build a lot of barriers into our servicing channels. If you want to see just how this can work, you need to read his post.
Friday, October 30, 2009
- had a more positive impression of the brand
- felt a stronger connection to the company
- believed they had a better service experience
These positive impressions were felt by seven out of ten respondents, a pretty strong endorsement. If you aren't already in the social media space, think about the implications for you. How do you think these consumers, when faced with an organization that isn't engaged, feel about that brand? Probably the way the frustrated Florida banking customer felt.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
It highlights the basic challenge we face as bankers. As he notes, we often talk about banking as a relationship between us and our customers. If so, how can you not get involved in social media? The ability to reach out, in real time, is one of the key attributes of these channels. For both parties. And isn't that really what customer service and relationships are all about?
FYI- if you are a bank with a location in Boca Raton, FL and are using social media, you may want to reach out to him. Sounds like a good prospect!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
1) Jump in and try it first.
2) Listen and learn.
3) Be authentic.
Once you are in the space, then determine if and/or how it will best work for your business objectives. I think the "Ready, Shoot, Aim" approach may summarize it nicely.
Monday, October 26, 2009
For a brand, adding photo's of employees and events is a good way to connect with your customers. We've been posting pictures from events over the last two months, including an employee event and a grand opening of a local branch. As you begin to share these picture, be aware of the concerns of others. These can include issues of privacy and security, or creating a negative impression of the bank for both customers and employees. Ensure you have a process in place to ensure the integrity of the photo's being displayed. Addressing these concerns up front can prevent issues later on.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
The traditional media outlets- newspapers, radio, and television are no longer the powers they once were. People are talking about your brand in a very public way-whether they are employees, customers, or just interested observers. Blogs, Tweets, and FaceBook have replaced newspaper articles, advertisements, and news releases. Don't ignore the trend, embrace the opportunity to join in the conversation. You may not always like what you hear, but you'll be glad you did.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
At 1st Mariner, our strategy is to emphasize our involvement in the local community. We have 24 branches located in and around the Baltimore region, so we are very much a part of this community. Our employees contribute many hours to local, non-profit organizations around the region. We are also focusing on the next generation of bank customers, also known as the Gen Y's. If you intend to reach and engage this audience, it is a requirement to be in these channels.
With this in mind, we went through a complete web site redesign in 2008. As part of the new "look and feel", we added a blog to our About Us section of the site. After defining the parameters of acceptable content with both our Legal and Compliance partners (an absolute necessity), we began posting financial articles and community interest stories from employees. It provides a more dynamic space for us to engage our customers directly.
As with any of this media, there are challenges. In order to keep this content fresh and timely, there should be a number of regular "contributors". We have two or three people who consistently write for the blog, but it can be challenging keeping it updated. There is nothing worse than going to a blog and finding the content is months old. Keep this in mind if you choose to start a company blog.
For those of you who are looking for a more thorough and in depth discussion of branding and the use of social media, I would suggest you check out Jeffry Pilcher of The Financial Brand . He has a presentation called Results 2.0 that addresses these very same questions. It is an excellent primer on getting started.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
This is my first post of what, I expect will be, many more. My hope is that I can help some of the hesitant bankers out there give social media a shot. Look for more in the weeks ahead.