Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Pan American Bank and the Cruelty of Social Media

Okay, I have to admit that I might have contributed to the frenzy that surrounded this announcement. Yesterday morning, a press release came across my screen announcing the roll out of Pan American Bank's social media strategy including a blog, Twitter, and Facebook page. I re-tweeted that I found it interesting that they used this traditional, press release model to kick it off when social media should be, well, social and viral.
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

The ROI of Social Media

I had an opportunity to talk to Larry De Palma of TDG-Phenix, a banking and payments consulting company, about our social media efforts. According to Larry, many of the bankers he encounters aren't seeing the value of a social strategy. They seem content to keep building branches and maintaining a "business as usual" approach. Even those who do understand and get it usually lead into the next, more challenging question of, "what's the ROI of social media?"

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

'Leveraging Social Media in Finance'

Delphine Vantomme of InSites Consulting authored a review of the recent SOMESSO conference in Zurich on 'Leveraging Social Media in the Finance Sector'. I urge you to take a look at the post for her perspective on the highlights of the conference.
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

Social Media versus Social Strategy

In a Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter, the studies of Professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski and users of social networks are discussed. The article opens with a quote from the Professor, "Online social networks are most useful when they address real failures in the operation of offline networks". Keeping up with friends, establishing new relationships, and sharing photos are primary uses of these social networks. No real surprises there.
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

Research firm jumps on the Social Media Bandwagon

I recently came across a blog post from Celent, a research and advisory firm for Financial Institutions. Jacob Jegher, a Senior Analyst, recently released a report entitled "Demystifying Social Media and Next-Generation Online Banking". While we are not subscribers to Celent research (we work with a very modest publication budget), the extract seems to hit all the points I've found in our social media efforts.
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

"The Internet is Broken"

I had the pleasure of attending TEDxMidAtlantic yesterday. For those of you not familiar with this effort, TED (Technology,Entertainment, Design) is a " small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading". TEDxMidAtlantic is an independently organized TED event featuring speakers and performers from a wide range of fields. It was a terrific event and I would highly recommend you attend. One particular speaker, Mark Walsh, really caught my attention.
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

Personal Finances and Social Media

As we all know, social media has been the norm for most young adults for much of their lives. This audience seems comfortable sharing deeply personal information across networks in a way previous generations never did. Nothing apears to be out of bounds.

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

Success Story from the Social Media Trenches

I've been following a very knowledgeable expert in Social Media for Financial Services, Christopher Langlois, of Visible Banking. He recently posted a presentation for SOMESSO Zurich 2009, a social media conference. It's a really good, comprehensive overview of the current state of social media in financial services around the world.

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, 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.