Social media is a fact of modern life. Through social media we can now enact every interaction online, from making friends and sharing birthday wishes to connecting with our professional networks. Both socially and professionally, our communication is migrating online.
In this globally connected environment, traditional ideas about customer engagement are being turned on their head. For example, it turns out that what people feel and say about a brand is more important than how the brand portrays itself. This insight has led to a shift in marketing and customer service strategy, away from traditional corporate identity building and towards real, human relationships which deepen customer engagements and turn consumers into brand advocates who spread positive sentiment across both online and offline social networks.
Australia’s four major banks (NAB, CBA, Westpac and ANZ) have spent the last few years developing their social media strategies, with some spectacular results. NAB in particular have managed to become an integral part of the online landscape, and in the last year their total online following has grown over 350%. NAB is an instructive example, as their unified approach to social media engagement, built around a dedicated social media command centre, is a model of how to both build relationships and deliver value to the company.
These two goals must both be balanced and kept in mind in order to develop a sustainable social media strategy. As Commonwealth Bank’s CIO Michael Harte recently told The Australian Financial Review, the end goal is to have ‘no friction’ between the bank and its customers. In Harte’s view ‘Banks lost intimacy and our goal (at CBA) is to bring it back through experience.’
By reducing friction, financial services companies can both deepen the intimacy of customer relations, and also capitalise on the opportunities for consumer advocacy, turning customer service into a resource rather than a burden.