You are hereby thanked for taking the time to reach out to me regarding the social media policy at The First National Bank (FNB). As a business-media analyst, I assure that your concerns about the pros and cons of social media to promote your business, locally and internationally, are genuine. My response here is to make sure that your social media policy has been evaluated, analyzed and possibly meliorated.
I had gone through your organization's history for which I thank you for the article you sent me by Mazinter, Kleyn, Goldman and Lindsey-Renton (2015) entitled 'Banking on Social Media'. The article provided strong insight about the past and present of FNAB's business activities.
The FNAB, as I understand, is one of the 'Big Four' Banks in South Africa, which take an 80% monopoly on the South African banking sector. With direct competition in an ever-changing environment, FNAB has tried to expand into neighboring regions and countries. Your main competitors-Standard, Nedbank and Absa have also adapted and expanded impressively. This has strengthened competition among the four banks which has resulted in a rivalry to lure more clients.
The 2004 introduction of CEO Michael Jordaan led to revolutionary changes to try and standout FNAB from its peers. He was instrumental in trying to connect to his employees and the people of South Africa. He was an actively keen user of social media sites such as Twitter. His down-to-earth nature and openly engaging in the public forum showed the bank had a 'human-touch', and was not just built on foundations of profits and KPIs.
Mr Jordaan's belief in the power of Social Media led to the banks first plunge into the online world in 2004. Since you joined in 2011 as Head of Marketing/Media, you have further pushed this initiative with your strong online campaign to try and capture the public attention.
Your belief that “social media offered the FNAB brand the ability to build ongoing relationships with customers and potential customers that were not bound by the inherent restrictions of most other communication methods and channels” (Mazinter, 2015, page 5) has obviously reaped rewards for the organization in terms of growth.
Mazinter (2015) mentions FNAB has utilized many successful social media techniques in marketing, sales and technical support:
. Creating an online game to form a 'fun' interaction with clients
. Reaching out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to increase the company’s digital footprint for advertising online
. 24 hour feedback and support channels
. Online advertisements and the creation of an online mascot 'RB Jacobs' as a persona that customers can relate to
Social Media Positives:
I understand that there has been careful evaluation of each media strategy described previously. Your team has realized that each platform is different and have adjusted each strategy accordingly. You have done the appropriate market research to be aware of what acceptable and non-acceptable in the digital world. There is nothing more cringing than watching an advertisement that tries hard to be 'cool and hip', but falls short of the mark.
By choosing to have a presence online, you have separated the FNAB from other banks by giving your customers a 'voice', whilst trying to show a trustworthy and approachable face to the business. This is particularly useful in reaching out to the younger market, who tend to be more modern and 'tech-savvy'. The ever-growing sales in smart phones and the increased portability of online gadgets will ensure the online reach will continue to grow.
The benefit of social media is that you have cost-effectively reached “50,000 and 100,000 active page engagements per month and with a single post was able to reach up to 1.4 million users” (Mazinter, 2015, page 8) That is a very large number of people considering how much cheaper it is compared to other forms of media advertising.
Studies support the use of social media as a marketing/advertising tactic. Noray (2015) demonstrated that social media enhances relationships with customers, with added benefits of added reach to customers on a local scale and a global scale. Customers to your bank always have options to email, call, get online based on what needs they have.
You have also done the FNAB proud in terms of cost savings. Your digital team can operate from just about anywhere in a reduced space that is not confined by office spaces. This means great savings on real estate and a more efficient team of workers.
Social Media Detriments:
Siu (2017) in his article states that the over-dependence on the social media stage can ruin your business if your 'social personality' is not likable or relevant. In the modern era, attention spans are short and first impressions even more important, which means that internet presence has to be impactful for the correct reasons. One only needs to witness the foot-in-mouth twitter moments of US President Donald Trump to see how one can embarrass him/herself on the 'internet-stage'.
Over-reliance on social media as your business' main force can also have serious ramifications in your real-world business. Purely focusing on what happens on the internet can lead businesses forgetting face-to-face customer skills that can be detrimental if not done appropriately. This comes more into focus as internet opinions and ratings can be read by all, with even the slightest complaint that finds the light-of-day having ability to turn away customers. This means that no part of your business is safe from criticism, with internet content being impossible to censor, delete and contain.
Stern (2010) in his online report about how social media has impacted customer service has described the current online scenario as one where there has been a dramatic amount of 'information overload' available to customers regarding businesses, products and staff members. Any information that is shared online stays on there forever, so negative feedback about any aspect can continue to damage reputations in the future long after the issue may have been resolved. This also leads to another issue involving employees of a business recklessly using social media to relay information that could be seen as dangerous to a company's image.
In conclusion, the growing juggernaut that is social media seems unlikely to be halted. Much like globalization has taken away geographic borders in business, the internet has further obliterated the line between online and face-to-face interactions in dealing with banking customers.
There should be concerted efforts to harness internet power like we described above, and there should be awareness regarding some of its consequences. Good awareness and education about both the positive and negatives of social media should always be considered when undertaking a new online marketing campaign. Originality and relevance, as always, needs be present in whatever you do online. Your team and the RNAB appears to have grasped this concept well and should continue to have success in your future social media campaigns.
Chief Media Analyst
4th October 2017
Jones, N; Borgman, R; Ulusoy, E (2015) "Impact of social media on small businesses", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 22: Issue 4, Pages 611 - 632