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How to break trust with social media

I'm going to post a bunch of stuff about our recent meeting discussing how banks could use social networks and social media soon, but then saw that Karl Flinders, a guest of the Club, beat me to it.  Writing for Computer Weekly, Karl posted a nice little note entitled:
"The truth about banks, Facebook and Twitter".

Obviously listening attentively to our panel, he captured a few golden quotes and nuggets such as:

  • "If you want to adopt social media you need to listen to what people are saying."
  • "Businesses can facilitate customer services through social media but it is not the answer to everything."
  • "Banks will have to get used to the idea that there will be some customers who will want to use the web."
  • "In financial services we are still in the educational phase."
  • "There will be a bonus for banks that experiment early with social media."
  • "Banks can't experiment because of heavy regulations."
  • "Social media is a good way of engaging with employees as well as customers."
  • "I am not certain [banks] are in a position to use social media credibly."
  • "A lot of it is total bollocks."

I particularly liked the last one (no names mentioned) as this is the view of many, but it is a false view as demonstrated by the Iranain elections, G20 protests and more, and their use of Twitter to share news and knowledge globally.

Without Twitter, these people would be unable to share their message and have anyone even remotely aware of what was happening on the streets, as it can be vetted by news agencies (both Iranian and British).

That is why I am interested in Twitter and social media, as it gives me raw information to make up my own mind about the truth as well as a new channel of communication.

For those who read the blog regularly, it is also why I recommend that banks focus upon Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Flikr and other tools of this nature, as they offer a low cost with broad reach communication channel.

A channel that can reach 200 million people or more at no cost. 

These channels are there to create trust and have a conversation. 

That's why they are social.

They are not there for a hard sell of products and advertising.

Otherwise, they would be called commercial.

That's why there is so much confusion about how to use these social channels to create commerce.

The answer is: talk and listen, engage and dialogue, converse and socialise … then, if the folks you are conversing with want to, they will click through to your commercial sites because they trust you won't stitch them up.

But don't try to achieve the latter first – the commercial sale that is, not the stitch-up!

You only get to the sale by getting people to participate in your community, your social network, your circle of trust.

And whatever you do, don't break the trust of the social network.

This is why, in the first of its' type that I've seen on Twitter, one of our UK retailers completely screwed up this week.  Here's what they did:

"Habitat sorry for Iran Tweeting"
(BBC, 24th June 2009)

"Furniture store Habitat has apologised for causing offence after accusations it exploited unrest in Iran to drive online Twitter users to its products.
Keywords – called hashtags – such as 'Iran' and 'Mousavi' were added to its messages so people searching for those subjects would see the firm's adverts.
Users of the networking site reacted angrily and the posts were removed."

Stupid tweets.

Watch out for some Habitat store closures in the not too distant future.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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