Posted December 22, 2011 9:06 am by with 3 comments

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This is part 3 of a series of posts from Chris Lorence, the CMO of the Independent Community Bankers of America. Chris is working to get a very traditional group to “buy in” to social media and we are letting you in on the process he is going through. His first post introduced us to the battle he faced just getting his members’ attention. His second post, was about helping his members simply see the social media light. Today, we see how Chris helps the uninitiated see what can be done to take the pain out of social media criticism.

This series is part of our ongoing effort here at Marketing Pilgrim to show the real world of social media rather than just the industry hype and drivel. Let us know what you think and give us an idea of what you might like to see in the future.

Depending on which study you read, anywhere between 33 and 70 percent of us lie about our finances in some way, shape or form. Whether we lie about whether we can really afford something or we embellish our salaries to friends and family, ultimately money makes for interesting conversation. “ I haven’t treated myself in a while” or “It’s on sale, I may never have this opportunity again” are the kind of thought bubbles you could draw over many shoppers heads as they contemplate spending dough. Whether we actually have the money to spend is a completely different question. Don’t get me wrong; people who have money and pretend they don’t are also considered not telling the truth.

So what you might ask does this have anything to do with community banking and social media? Social media and its impact on the way we do business is not a fad, it’s evolution. All businesses, including banking are now experiencing the power of the customer having control over their experience reporting. The old saying that one unhappy customer tells 10 others is amplified to be one unhappy customer tells thousands and even millions, instantly. Just imagine what an unhappy customer who isn’t telling the entire truth to themselves could do to a banks reputation using social media when something doesn’t go their way. Imagine this scenario, one that is very real:

Someone posts on Yelp a very unflattering and scathing report regarding a certain bank in town that denied a loan request for $5000. The individual reports they had been a customer of the bank for over 20 years, owns their home, has worked at the same job for the last 10 years and has a credit score of 725. The unhappy customer recommends all those who are even considering doing business with this bank to stay away because they are tight fisted, not customer service oriented and don’t serve their best customers needs.

If you are unfamiliar with how a bank works, this write up could definitely cause you to think a little more about where you might go for your next loan request.

Unfortunately, as a bank you can’t say anything to defend yourself because it breaches the customers privacy. The bank can’t respond with the other details that would help round out the story and make it more factual. Something like: all the information stated in your Yelp post is indeed correct however you failed to mention that you owe $50,000 in credit cards, many are near their credit limit and your debt to income ratio is 77%. We are very concerned about your financial situation and denied your request but also offered you financial counseling in hopes of helping you avoid any further deterioration in your finances.

This type of scenario is a very serious fear in the community banking sector as it is a real example of how social media can damage their reputation. They aren’t too-big-to-fail behemoths with millions of customers. They can’t afford to be impersonal and make loans based on credit scores only. Like most entrepreneurial small businesses, community banks are integral to the success of the local economy, so they actually have a more serious need to do the right thing all the time.

One of the hardest things to convince anyone, especially a community bank, is that while social media outlets gives a complainer a megaphone, it also presents tremendous opportunities to gain positive feedback which can often extinguish the situation. After generations of conditioning that asking for feedback is tacky and expecting that the only time people speak up is to complain, it’s completely understandable why some would assume social media is built to be destructive.

To change that, we advise our members to think differently:

  1. Encourage your customers to evangelize. You’ll find people are very happy to talk about their positive experiences, if you just ask them.
  2. Brag on your customers. You aren’t the only one doing great things in the community so talk about your customer’s good deeds.
  3. Learn how to receive positive feedback. There’s nothing wrong with letting feedback speak for itself. Feel good that your customers like you.
  4. Negative feedback is reality, so don’t seek to delete. People expect to see a bump or two, its normal. A long list of positive without so much as a blemish looks contrived and fake.
  5. Handle your business, offline. Yes, it hurts and yes, it’s tough to admit you can’t satisfy everyone so reaching out to the disgruntled on a one-on-one basis can sometimes start the healing process. A phone call, a handwritten note or even a face-to-face conversation carries a lot of weight. Who knows, they might even go back and write a follow up or remove the post entirely.

About the author

Chris Lorence is Executive Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer for the Independent Community Bankers of America, headquartered in Washington, DC. His duties include oversight and management of the organizations marketing & communications department, which includes political advocacy, social media integration, press relations, and brand management. Chris is also responsible for the organizations flagship award winning national magazine, Independent Banker® and 4 other strategically aligned membership and industry publications. As a member of the senior executive team, Chris works with management and staff to both create and bring to life the organizations strategic vision and initiatives. The ICBA enterprise consists of both a non-profit trade association with nearly 5000 members and five for-profit subsidiaries, one of which is a national bank. Before coming to ICBA, Chris was Chief Operating Officer of a community based financial organization and has over 15 years of senior management experience within the financial community.

  • ‘If you don’t seize the social media leadership opportunity, someone else will’

  • This is a great article on social media. The question of whether it’s fad was answered about 4 years ago in my opinion. We’ve definitely seen one of the biggest evolutions in the past century.

  • Alastair McKenzie

    This example of a Customer Relations road-crash came to me, co-incidently, 5 mins ago via a Facebook wall post.

    Not exactly the same industry, but a good example of how it can spread.