This is a response to Jeffry Pilcher's wonderfully written article, "Why Social Media Is a Waste of Time for Most Banks & Credit Unions." Before you go any further, hop over there and read it right now.
If you're not up for reading it, Pilcher laid out 11 reasons - each listed below - why financial institutions can consider social media a waste of time.
Before I'd even seen it across my feeds, I learned about this article from a couple of emails linking over and asking, "OMG is he right?! Should we stay away?!"
Well, no. But also, maybe. Probably. But not exactly. Depends on if you want to survive.
Each of these bullets are problems with a solution, although not an easy one. I'll try to tackle these one by one.
1. You're boring.
Not only boring, you're socially awkward. Because you talk about yourself or things that only interest you.
Right now, your "streams of mundane facts, marketing information and links to articles via social media channels" make you the awkward guy at the party that everyone runs "to get another drink" to escape.
Stop being socially awkward. Stop talking about yourself. No one cares. Platitude or not: Be interesting by being interested. Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. Every one of you should read "Why Personal Finance Experts Continue Writing Worthless Advice" by Ramit Sethi.
This line will sting:
Why do credit unions continue to talk about how they’re different than banks? Nobody cares. Talk to me about ME, my problems, and how you can solve them for me.
Watch Derek Sivers' SXSW talk on "The Tao of the Conference" and apply it to your organization:
2. Banking is boring.
Banking is boring, money is not. Just like grocery shopping is boring, but eating is not. To quote Ramit's above article again: "Nobody wants to be financially literate…they want to be rich."
This is why Ramit's blog almost always has comments in the double digits (from non-financial-professionals!), and isn't unfamiliar with the triple digits. It's why Ask MetaFilter has (right-this-second) 1483 posts tagged with "money".
People want, and need, to talk about money. It's terrifying, painful, hopeful and exciting all at once. For better and worse, it's a lot of our daily ebb and flow.
Cars are sexy, roads are not. Banking is infrastructure, what you enable is interesting.
3. People don’t have time for you
Jeffry's Reality Check says it well:
You should be finding ways to help people spend less time interacting with your organization, not more. Freeing up people’s time is a benefit to them.
But, on the flipside, we - as a society - have more time for this kind of thing than we've ever had before. It just needs to be relevant to what makes us tick.
In recent history TV has been our biggest timesuck, but it's giving way. Clay Shirky talks about this in Cognitive Surplus:
"Americans watch roughly two hundred billion hours of TV every year...But now, for the first time in the history of television, some cohorts of young people are watching TV less than their elders.
...Even when they watch video online, seemingly pure analog to TV, they have opportunities to comment on the material, to share it with their friends, to label, rate, or rank it, and of course, to discuss it with other viewers around the world."
People dont lack time, they're just slapped with more temptations to distribute that time. People use time differently. Especially young people. A lot of their time is spent interacting with other people in meaningful ways...helping to distill and make sense of the glut of content, ideas, and opportunities that are out there.
Again: Money is interesting. And: Money is confusing. It's complicated and painful. We need to create opportunities for our members to share, unpack, and make sense of this fundamentally interesting and fundamentally confusing topic.
4. Internet users are over-subscribed
Filter so your audience doesn't have to. You can do that in two ways:
1) Be specific and contextually relevant. Bundle products and communications around life events. For example, Verity Mom is relevant to moms in Seattle. That's really specific, relevant to Seattle moms, and completely irrelevant to everyone else.
5. Flawed motives
Pilcher is right on:
Why?The majority of financial institutions embarking on social media initiatives aren’t really sure why. Maybe they heard some social media guru talk about how important it is at the last tradeshow. Maybe they’re giving into peer pressure from the fear of being left behind. Maybe they’re bored and they just want to do something cool.
6. Meaningless measurements
Sorry: "Likes" are not an indication of brand awareness or perception. It just means someone clicked something. What you do with the likes is another story.
Measure the interactions that add value. Beyond that, who cares? All measurements should tie directly (not loosely) to your strategic goals.
7. Risk aversion 8. Control freaking 9. Failure to communicate internally
This might be our biggest barrier: A rapidly changing marketplace has dictated new strategies, but we lack the organizational structures to support those strategies.
This isn't new.
The 1920s historian Alfred Chandler studied large business conglomerates Du Pont, General Motors, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and Sears Roebuck and found that - after the industrial revolution changed everything - each dominated their industry by completely changing the way they do business and introducing the multi-division form to their corporate structure. This revolutionary new structure arose by necessity because of new strategic demands.
I promise you there was kick back. People left or made threats, positive the new structure would be the end of each company. Those that stuck to the old model fell by the wayside, unable to manage the new rapid pace of industry. Structure follows strategy.
Are you willing to fix what is structurally broken in your organization? It's a big job.
10. It ain't easy. 11. It ain't free.
See above. Social media isn't Junior Varsity marketing. If you're like most credit unions, it will require the kind of cross-discipline collaboration, structural change, and social wherewithal that will stretch your organization beyond its limits. And this on top of all of our other economic issues!
The Complete-And-Utter-Access Revolution (made up term), like the Industrial Revolution that Chandler studied, represents a fundamental change in how organizations do business and interact. It has and will continue to change everything.
Social media is not caulk for your gaping holes. The truth is you can't do social media because of your gaping holes. But make no mistake, this is a revolution. So fix your holes first, and then plan for what's next.
Pilcher's article addresses social media as a cosmetic…which makes sense because it's been treated as a cosmetic for as long as its been recognized. But that is a broken model. Social media is one piece of a fundamental change in how humans do culture and how businesses do commerce. So, to Pilcher's point, if social media is a cosmetic it will fail.
How do we succeed? Respect and react to the underlying changes that have caused this tip-of-the-iceburg to become such a conversation piece. It's more than paint and glue.