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Book Review: Maybe social media is a virtual world, but the relationships are real

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  • Written by  Tammy Belt
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  • Comments:   DISQUS_COMMENTS
The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, by Tamar Weinberg, 368 pp., O’Reilly Media, July 2009. The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, by Tamar Weinberg, 368 pp., O’Reilly Media, July 2009.

It is amazing to witness the changes that have taken place in banking since I began in 1990. My first job in the bank was as a teller and I used handwritten, paper “in” and “out” tickets and a calculator to process my work and balance my teller drawer. I also used microfiche to look up accounts. There were only a few computers that were centrally located and used to input new account information. New accounts and loans were prepared on a typewriter.

The technology that is available today can be overwhelming. Today’s applications are often outdated tomorrow. The task for bankers is to keep up. Add to this task the task of keeping up with rapidly changing regulations and never-ending customer and employee issues and things can get a little frantic.

Tamar Weinberg’s The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web introduces the reader to the many avenues available to them on social internet sites. Social media is increasing in use and is not going away. If you want to reach new customers you have to have a presence where they are. People are already talking about your bank on social media sites. You may as well login and join the conversation.

Word of mouth marketing has always been the best advertising available. Social media is the newest form of word of mouth. Why listen to a television or radio ad telling you what to buy when you can login and ask your friends what they recommend and get an honest, non-biased answer in a manner of minutes? 

A 2008 study by Nuance Communications shows that nearly 75% of people purchase products and services based on peer recommendations. This should be a wake-up call!  Stay on your toes and give every customer exceptional service. Social media allows every customer to be a potential critic.

Recently our bank was approached by a new vendor who wanted our endorsement to provide a service to our customers. A quick Google search revealed some derogatory reviews from previous customers and colored our opinion of the vendor. By the time the vendor was ready to make a presentation to us, it didn’t really matter what they said. I was more prone to believe what real customers had reported.

Many companies are not ready for social media because they do not want to give up control of the conversation. They are afraid they may not hear what they want to hear. But, frankly, ignoring it does not make it go away. Are you checking to see what people are saying about you?  Weinberg’s book cites several websites that you can visit to search for customer reviews of your business. Among those I learned about in the book: www.getsatisfaction.com, www.yelp.com, www.merchantcircle.com, and www.consumerist.com.

There are also sites that will perform conversation monitoring. They monitor multiple sites for mention of your business’s name and send daily reports to you about what is being posted. Using the instructions in this book, I was able to set up a Google Alert (at www.google.com/alerts and am now receiving a daily email with news stories and posts.  Another monitoring site Weinberg mentions is www.radian6.com.

When I thought of social media, Facebook and Twitter came to mind. What I found out in reading The New Community Rules is that there are hundreds of sites that I was not aware of.

Social media marketing will take you as far as your imagination can go. The possibilities are endless. It could easily be a full time job. You may also outsource this task to a third-party vendor. However, make sure the person who monitors and responds to postings is very familiar with the culture of the bank and knows how to respond, in order to maintain the image you want to portray. Some banks have created a position, “Community Manager,” to follow online content and respond. The idea is to communicate with your customers and join their conversations. This is a great way to build relationships with them.

You may also use various social informational network sites to establish your bank as an authority on any given topic by answering user questions. The book also includes policies regarding employee use and expected behaviors and social etiquette.

To get the best results, you should participate in multiple mediums, the book indicates. Social media can be a jumping point to a real-life relationship that can benefit your company. Make sure you let people know where to find you offline. After you launch your initial social media campaign, you have to continue regular interactions to keep interest in your site. Weinberg’s advice on this point: Learn by watching how others participate; remember that success takes time; and keep your content fresh and current so people will have a reason to interact with your bank’s web presence over and over again.

Weinberg points out that it can be difficult to measure ROI in social media activity. However, you can estimate your ROI by monitoring these factors:

1.  Reach—How far is your message traveling? 

2. Frequency and traffic—How many people are visiting your site? 

3. Influence—How deep are conversations related to your business? 

4. Conversions and transactions—Are people clicking through the rest of your site or doing what you ask them to? 

5. Sustainability—How long do people stick with you?  

This book provides a good overall view of what’s available for you and your bank to use to launch a social media marketing campaign. It is much like existing in an alternate universe.

However, the bottom line is that even though you are operating in a virtual world, the relationships are real.

The next generation of customers will be looking for you in their electronic world.

Will you be there?
       
Interested in social media? Now that you’ve finished reading Tammy’s review, see our blog, “Social Media: Banks’ New Frontier.”   

If you'd like to review books for our online book column, or have recently read a book that you found helpful that we haven't already reviewed, please e-mail scocheo@sbpub.com

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