Banks, Social Media, And Seinfeld

William Azaroff recently blogged about Vancity’s new Wilki. According to William:

I am pleased to announce the new wiki Vancity has launched. It is for the Microfinance community in Canada, and lives at microfinance.ca. Why did we launch a wiki? Well, in short, we are a longtime Microfinance practitioner wanting to expand knowledge amongst those who are involved with Microfinance in Canada. [W]e are deeply involved with the Microfinance model in Canada, and wanted to create a place where we could take the open source concept a little further. So we created and are hosting a wiki where anyone can add information as a practitioner, researcher or follower of Microfinance in Canada, with the aim of growing and evolving a central knowledge repository about the subject.”

To know Vancity is to know a financial institution that is deeply committed to improving its community and to what it purports to stand for. As a result, I can’t think of another financial institution that is more…..authentic…..in its use of social media to support its goals.

Which makes me wonder about all the other financial institutions’ jumping on the social marketing bandwagon.

In an effort to connect with customers and prospects — especially younger ones, like Gen Yers — many banks and credit unions are starting blogs, putting up Facebook pages, running user-generated content campaigns, and launching other social media-related efforts. Will they succeed? Or better yet:

Will social media make them cool (or at least cooler), or do they have to be cool (like Vancity) before they launch social media efforts?

I suspect that many firms think it’s the former — that jumping into the social media and social marketing pool will make them — ipso facto — more attractive to the younger crowd. I also suspect that they’ll be proven wrong (at least to a certain extent). The lack of authenticity of their efforts will be so apparent to their intended audience.

Large, established banks getting into the social media games conjures up the image of Elaine Benes (from Seinfeld) dancing. I guess you’d call it dancing, but it’s certainly not good dancing.

And so it is with some financial institutions’ forays into social media. It seems so forced and unnatural. The critical question, though is this: Will it become more natural through trial and error over time, or should they stop what they’re doing and first establish a stronger commitment to serving younger consumers?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I suspect that the right answer is neither — that what they need to do is not let their social meda efforts be the only thing they do in order to reach and serve a new audience.

p.s. Congrats to Vancity and to Currency Marketing (who helped develop the Wiki) on the launch of the Wiki. Great work.

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