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Card companies are more social than banks

I often talk about how our work-life balance has disappeared and that we now have just a tech-life balance.  Social and professional have merged.  What was personal is now shared, and things that would usually be private are now public.

This is clear from the way we seamlessly move between our social and professional lives electronically.  One minute we’re posting work news on twitter, then next a shared joke.   One moment we’re updating our facebook friends with our latest experiences and our linkedin colleagues with a more formal view.  Before going to bed, we probably check our emails for work news and social media for friend’s news before we go to sleep and do the same in the morning.

24 by 7 we are morphing between work media and friends’ media and, as a result, banks and other corporations are starting to invest big time in being relevant in our social spaces.

AMEX is a clear leader in this field, but my digital bank case studies such as mBank, Fidor Bank, ICICI Bank, Deniz Bank and more are also noteworthy.  All of these institutions have one thing in common: they are committed to being socially relevant.

Being socially relevant is a very different way of thinking to being social.  Being social for most banks is designating a marketing team to work the social media space, as it is the role of marketing to deal with the media.  Let the PR guys get a twitter handle, and make our Facebook Page pretty so lots of people Like us.  That’s the view of some senior bank folks anyway, even though it’s wrong.

It is wrong because the customer is now living in that social space, and being relevant to customers in the place where they have their strongest relationships is key.  If customers have their relationships in social media, then that is where the banks that get it see their relationships in the future.

What that menas for many banks is shifting customer service and customer focus from branch, call centre and intenrert ot the social space.  Creating a dedicated customer service team for facebook-based banking seems alien to many, but it is what the leading-edge banks are starting to do.

Strangely enough, the first movers in this space seem to always be the card companies.  Barclaycard moved early into social media with their waterslide campaign;  MasterCard has over 11 million Facebook fans; whilst Visa exceeds 17 million.  The latter card schemes leverage their sports sponsorships of the Champions League and NFL respectively to gain attention.

Meanwhile, the best of the card schemes in social media has to be AMEX imho, or American Express if you prefer.  The reason is that they have a maturity of understanding I haven’t seen anywhere else and it is summarised well by their winning entry in the Shorty Awards this year:

American Express embraces social media to drive commerce and card member value 

American Express is on a journey of digital transformation. As part of that journey, the company is focused on creating new and innovative ways to use technology and social media to deliver value and support to Card Members and merchants, strengthen their connection to the American Express brand, and drive commerce in industry-disrupting ways.

More specifically, this year American Express introduced a new technology allowing its Card Members to shop on Twitter with #hashtags; partnered with the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor, to create a new travel planning experience for Card Members; paid digital homage to its 163 year old history via social media channels; and launched a new Account Services app to service its Card Members on Facebook.  In 2011, American Express introduced a first-of-its-kind Card Sync technology, which allows Card Members to securely connect their cards to their social media accounts. In 2013, American Express evolved this unique technology to allow Card Members to tweet #hashtags to buy products on Twitter.

The new social commerce experience unlocked the purchasing power of the #hashtag by tapping into American Express’ closed-loop business model and added value to both Card Members and merchants on Twitter. At launch in February, American Express Card Members that connected their Card with their Twitter account could tweet special #hashtags to buy specially-priced American Express Gift Cards and in-demand products like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Xbox 360, Sony Action Cam, and more.

In October, American Express launched another industry-first experience in partnership with the world’s largest travel site – TripAdvisor. Card Members in Australia, UK and US can now securely connect their Cards with their TripAdvisor profiles for an enhanced travel planning experience on the site. The partnership connects a Card Member’s reviews with their transactions, creating a global community of American Express Card Members on TripAdvisor that provide valuable travel insights with an added layer of context and relevance. Card Members can also browse ‘Card Member Hotspots’ – the most frequented hotel and dining destinations by American Express Card Members in more than 30 cities around the world – and special offers from merchants within their TripAdvisor experience.

American Express also utilized its social channels this year to create relevant connection points for Card Members and prospects that draw on the rich history of the brand. The #AmexArchive initiative told visually exciting stories of the brand’s heritage and values, leveraging an extensive bank of digitized archive content. The campaign resulted in never-before-seen levels of engagement across U.S. and global social media communities. For example, an #AmexArchive image of the first purple paper American Express Card from 1958 remains the most-Liked post to date on both Google+ and Instagram.

For its 163rd birthday, American Express celebrated with a virtual Twitter party, using the hashtag #163Candles. American Express created and shared personalized images of birthday cake with fans’ and followers’ names to those who wished the brand a “Happy Birthday” or tweeted with the #163Candles hashtag. The campaign resulted in nearly 6M impressions on Twitter and more than 500 mentions of @AmericanExpress in the six hours of the “party.”

Also this year, American Express commemorated the 50th anniversary of the “Member Since” date appearing on its Cards – a statement of pride and nostalgia for Card Members around the world. American Express built a Facebook app that allowed users to share their Member Since year to their social feeds. As part of the app experience, users were also given a historical fact that coincided with their “Member Since” year, tying in the #AmexArchive and connecting each individual Card Member to the brand in a personalized way.

Known for its best-in-class customer service, American Express looked for new ways to nurture member connections on social platforms where its Card Members are already engaging with the brand. American Express’ Facebook Page is a valuable platform for Card Members to connect with the company, discover new offers, and share tips with fellow Card Members. This year, American Express augmented its world-class social media customer support presence to launch the Account Services app on Facebook, enabling direct, fast and helpful support for Card Members from knowledgeable customer service representatives.

As social media becomes an increasingly popular communication tool for Card Members around the globe, American Express will continue to leverage and re-imagine its own technologies and assets to connect with Card Members in new ways on digital platforms to enrich their Card Membership. Building on the success of 2013, American Express is focused on driving social and digital engagement and delivering streamlined experiences to its Card Members and merchants that are intuitive, secure, and add value at the most critical commerce touch-points.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.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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  • Adam

    Hey Chris,
    This is very interesting and i can see banks benefiting from being social for the retail space but I was wondering how banks can be social in the corporate and institutional space? I work in the institutional space of one of the big banks in Australia and we work on STP integration of institutions’ ERP systems to the banks systems for payments and receivables processing. Is their a social space for that segment? What are your thoughts?