Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - February 3 , 2010

Social Media Revisited


If you have even a passing interest in marketing matters, in the strategies businesses of all kinds, including banks, apply to gain the attention of potential prospects and customers, you are probably hearing, and reading, about so-called "social media" or "social networking sites." You are sure to have come across Facebook and Twitter, the most popular examples of these tools. You have probably read an article somewhere, or perhaps even heard a speaker or workshop leader, suggesting that if your institution isn't using these tools to reach new audiences, you may have already missed the boat.

Now, if your question is, "Should we be using social networking as part of our marketing strategy?", I agree that that's a good question to ask. But do not confuse that with a very different question -- one that I actually hear more banks and businesses asking -- "Why aren't we using these social media, like other businesses?"

Certainly, Facebook, Twitter, and similar tools have proven useful in individual cases. Some businesses have taken advantage of them to achieve excellent results.

But the truth is, the body of data, the amount of information we have to evaluate these tools, is pretty small. The real reason that you are hearing so much about social networking is not its proven value across many businesses, but rather, more simply, because they are the latest thing. There is a lot of "buzz" around these tools, and they get a lot of attention from writers and speakers whose job it is to highlight the latest thing, and whose technological leanings make them want to find these tools useful.

In one way, social media are easy to use. Anyone can quickly master the simple steps required to post information or send out announcements.

But in another way, these tools are very challenging. What few people talk about is that these tools are only effective when they deliver a lot of content, very frequently updated. That means that the kind of person you need to implement an effective Facebook or Twitter strategy is not a "techie" but a writer, someone who can write concisely, powerfully, and above all, often. Can you generate a minimum of several new messages a week, compact content that carries a lot of impact, that easily grabs the attention of your prospects and customers?

When you start with the "why aren't we using this" question, you are really just following the competition. I have written before about the problems that come with that approach. If you just match your rivals, instead of determining what uniquely suits your special strengths, challenges, and target markets, you can end up letting the weakest player in your market set your pricing. If you just copy the policies and strategies of other institutions, you can never beat their performance, and you will often not even match what they are able to do.

So why let them drive your marketing strategy, as well, especially when it is easy to underestimate the effort it will require? Stick with the first question, "Should WE be using social networking?", a question that focuses on YOUR needs and resources. Take the time to figure out what will really be required before jumping in.

The "social media boat" definitely has not sailed yet. It will be a useful tool in some hands, and an enormous distraction in others. You have to work out whether social networking is a fit for you on your own terms.

This is a decision to be made by your management, after some careful deliberation, and not by technological enthusiasts, marketing faddists, or your competition.