Can banks and social media really mix?

I’ve been reading many articles about social media and the banks recently, and what I see are two diverging trains of thought.

One is that consumers are seeking social interaction, and banks should increase their online engagement to get through to their customers. They can create a community of loyal customers while getting the marketing done at a low cost. Two birds, one stone.

A Fiserv survey found that 11% of online customers are involved in their banks’ online engagement activities, and that there are even more who want to do so. A separate Computer World report found that businesses are not moving fast enough to meet their customers’ desire to use the internet for purchases.

Banks are also being urged to ramp up their social media efforts because customers have lost trust in them. These purportedly safe institutions did stupid things, and paid the price of consumer anger. The solution: more communication, especially online.

The second train of thought is that banks and social media are not a match made in heaven. Advocates of this view are not against banks using social media. Rather, they hope that banks will be more discerning in the ways they use social media, and not swallow the “success” stories fed to them by consultants.

I think the best article about this issue that I’ve found so far is Financial Brand’s Why social media is a waste of time for most banks & credit unions. The article points out certain truths: banks are safe and boring, their motives for social media engagement are highly suspect, they have an internal ‘anti’ social media policy, and do not realize the amount of resources needed to keep the conversations going.

I am with the second camp.

Seriously, all I want from my bank is a safe place to park my money, earn some interest, and perform all of my other banking needs like getting loans, buying investments, and getting a plastic card. I do not want to be inundated with “fun” things like competitions. I’d rather those dollars go towards developing good stalwart financial products, or giving more ‘benefits’ to loyal customers. I do not need them to talk to me more; all the fliers about “free” loans (yea right) and additional “free” cash (do you think I’m stupid) are already bad enough.

So dear banks, what is your next social media move?

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