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Bankers Gone Viral

By: Toni Lapp

I was amused to see a TV commercial recently making a pitch to build Facebook pages for small businesses. The service included an offer to maintain the page and write posts on behalf of the clients.

It’s not surprising that such services are flourishing; many businesses, banks included, have been befuddled by social media.

For community banks with lean staffs, it might be tempting to forego the social media channel altogether, given the risks, ranging from PR missteps to the need to track and document interactions.

But then there are banks such as UMB Bank, Kansas City, which has 6,400 followers on Facebook and counting — nearly twice that of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. UMB could be held as a model for social media engagement.

Kelli Christman, UMB vice president of corporate communications, says the bank began embracing social media about two years ago, pulling back on traditional forms of media relations such as faxing press releases to journalists and instead focusing on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as a blog featuring original content written by UMB associates.

“The goal is to humanize what we’re doing – banking, UMB and the financial industry,” said Christman. “We try to be a resource for our customers. We like to put information out to notify them of our activities in our communities and tell them about the positive stories.”

Which begs the question: what about customer complaints?

“We have guidelines on how we deal with customer issues,” said Christman. “We do respond to them. We only take them offline if they violate our social media guidelines concerning profanity or racism.”

Christman notes that UMB’s corporate communications department works closely with legal and compliance teams on all social media outreach.

Even if banks decide not to develop a social media presence across multiple platforms, there is still an onus to monitor online conversations and activities, per guidance issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council in December 2013.

Greg Mancusi-Ungaro, whose firm BrandProtect specializes in Internet threat monitoring and risk mitigation, recommends that a social medial policy and reputation management team be part of every financial institution. Whether to have an organizational Facebook page is another story.

“Facebook is an interesting tool,” he said. “Having a presence on the social network is probably very useful for a community banks. However, they need to be careful in what they expect to be able to do with Facebook -- and what Facebook can do to them. Before they proceed with this channel, they need to carefully think about how they approach it."

In a white paper titled “Internet Threats and the Rise of Social Media,” published by the Financial Managers Society, author Michael Kiefer, general manager of BrandProtect, advises organizations to assess their internal processes as part of an Enterprise Internet Risk Management approach. He further suggests establishing an “Internet brand protection council,” comprising stakeholders from marketing, public relations, branding, e-business, human resources, corporate legal and security/fraud.



Survey Says

In a survey by Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group, 32 percent of consumers are willing to use social media to complain about their banks. Those who complain favor the following social media channels:

“In today’s world of instant gratification, customer demands will continue to increase and it is the financial institution’s responsibility to anticipate and to plan for that demand,” said Patricia Sahm, C&G’s customer experience and channels practice lead. “Social media serves as the bellwether in customer care, enabling intimate and yet public conversations between customers and their banks.”

Toni Lapp is senior editor of BankNews magazine.

Copyright (c) BankNews Media. June 2014.