By Andrew Zimakas
In an era where customers are demanding more transparency from the companies they do business with, it’s safe to say that making the transformation into a social business is table stakes for brands big and small, across all industries – even banks.
As financial institutions continue to rebuild their reputations following the global financial crisis and earn back customers’ trust, social media is a way for banks to demonstrate a commitment to openness and transparency. Furthermore the big data generated from these channels can be used to better understand, and even anticipate, customer needs.
Most executives would agree; a recent IBM CIO Survey of 3,000 global leaders indicated that more than 55 percent of companies identified social networking as having a strategic significance to their company’s growth. Likewise, IBM surveyed over 500 CMOs like myself and found that 87 percent plan to increase their use of social collaboration tools over the next three to five years.
Yet, as important as banks may believe social business tools and practices are to their success, many fail to use these channels in a way that allows them to shape their own positive reputations. For many, being a “social” business is still largely one-sided or reactive – i.e. a way to either push out marketing messages or respond to customer service problems in a public way. However, the organizations that have realized the power of becoming a social business are able to gain greater visibility into the sentiment, activities, performance and behaviors of large numbers of people – such as employees, partners and customers.
Banks can more effectively use social media channels to guide the conversations about their brands by being mindful of these three things:
1. Be the first to the table
When it comes to big or breaking news about your company, use social media to tell your story – and to be the first to do so. Customers are looking to your brand to get the information that they need—in addition to consulting outside sources.
When ING DIRECT (now Tangerine) was acquired by Scotiabank in 2012, we made sure to share the news right away through our social media channels. It demonstrated to our followers our commitment to transparency during a time of change, and gave us the opportunity to address their concerns first hand. We kept with this philosophy in 2013 when we announced our name change to Tangerine, ensuring we were the one to start and shape the conversation.
By being first to the table with news, you can guide the conversation and quickly put an end to speculation or clarify inaccurate information.
2. Know what you want to say
Companies are often more than prepared to provide reactive answers and dispel false rumors or information about their brands, but few actually know where they want to take the conversation instead. Hone in on the key points you want to get across to your customers, and find a way to weave that into your social engagement.
In the case of our renaming to Tangerine, we wanted the public to know our rebrand was not just an exercise in frivolity, but rather a requirement of our acquisition by Scotiabank. More importantly, we wanted them to understand that despite our name change, our core values and brand purpose were staying the same, a point we proactively communicated through social media.
3. Prepare for the worst – thoroughly
In the past, preparing to announce news or changes was relatively simple – you prepared a statement for the media and provided key messages to your executives and front-line staff. If an unforeseen question arose, you typically still had time to craft a thorough and airtight response. But social media no longer gives brands the luxury of time; today’s consumers want answers right away and platforms like Twitter and Facebook demand quick responses.
Before announcing our name change to Tangerine in November 2013, we hosted a crisis simulation to put our key messages into practice and get a sense of how the public would react to the news. The stress-test exercise gave us the opportunity to refine our messaging and brought to light other questions and concerns people might have about our brand change. When it came time for the actual reveal, our team fielded over 800 inquiries in six hours with ease, and knew when to use humour and when to use fact, in order to shift the conversation into more positive territory. Negative sentiment for the first 36 hours post-launch measured at 19 percent – much lower than what we were projecting – a difference we attribute to our thorough preparation.
To be truly successful in the digital era, banks need to embrace social business as more than just another channel for customer service and promotion. While those are an important part of the mix, social media is also a powerful tool to influence the conversations people are having about your brand and operate with greater transparency than ever before.
Andrew Zimakas (@andrewzimakas) is the Chief Marketing Officer at Tangerine. As a passionate brand-builder, Andrew ensures all of Tangerine’s marketing efforts reflect the innovative and progressive spirit of the bank. Andrew sits on the North American Advisory Board of the CMO Council, and the Board of Governors for Junior Achievement of Central Ontario.