Confessions Of A Social Media Skeptic

[Editor’s Note: This letter to the editor was submitted by a marketing coordinator at a bank. He previously worked as a marketing specialist at a credit union, his first job after graduating from college. At the age of 25, the author is as Gen-Y as they come, but his feelings towards social media in financial services don’t reflect the widely accepted Gen-Y stereotype. The author agreed to have their letter published here under condition of anonymity.]

I like to think of myself as a 25 year old who doesn’t pretend to know everything, and I understand I have a whole lot more to learn, but I am surprised by how much completely irrational stuff financial marketers buy into these days.

I went to a conference last year and had to sit through these ridiculous speakers telling everyone they needed a Facebook page or else all of their customers were going to leave, and so on. None of it was about how to make more money for your bank, or how to raise your ROI, or anything like that. Just a bunch of marketing and advertising firms selling themselves as social media experts… and people were eating out of their hands.

My boss at the credit union I worked for had a brilliant marketing mind. He always reminded me that the goal was always to make money, save money and/or increase share-of-wallet while sustaining our brand standards. It wasn’t about Facebook Likes or Twitter followers. Why is this not the focus of more marketing people within the financial industry?

When it comes to social media, I do not understand why so many people are eager to force it on financial institutions. I was in college when Facebook was only for college students. Back then, the only reason people were on Facebook was to communicate with members of the opposite sex — nothing more. And its exclusivity was what made it cool. Now, not only is my grandmother on Facebook, but my two grandmother-in-laws as well. I could deal with my grandparents being on Facebook, but when I got a friend request from my mother-in-law, I deleted my account.

Banking is not inherently “social.” Since the beginning of time, people’s finances have not been something they like to share, and the industry has stressed the importance of making sure information is private, and telling their customers to keep it private. People go to Facebook and Twitter to talk about Lady Gaga’s latest egocentric PR stunt and to see party photos of their drunk friends. They are not logging into Facebook to think about their banking relationship, or to inquire about checking accounts. They are in a different mindset. They go on Facebook to avoid thinking about the reality of their finances. This is where the financial industry so badly misunderstands social media. No one cares about your shredding event next week, or the fact that you stood on the side of the road with girls scouts selling cookies.

And if I have to hear the argument one more time that “people are already talking about you on social media so you might as well join the conversation!” I might lose my mind. No one — and I mean no one — hardly ever talks about our bank. In fact, I have never seen any bank’s social media page that had more than a couple comments on the entire Wall (although the numbers will go up with some of the bigger banks). All you’ve done by creating a Facebook page is give the kind of people who sit on their computers 10 hours a day one more forum where they can bash you and tell everyone how much they hate you for not letting them overdraft their account every week… for free.

I am not saying financial institutions should write off social media completely (yes, the bank I currently work for has a Facebook and we have yet to address many of the issues above), but I need to get some of this off my chest. While the world goes bananas for social media and many banks are too eager to drink the Kool-Aid, I am trying to keep my head focused on facts, and base marketing decisions on data that drive bottom-line results.

Yours truly,

Dave M., Marketing Coordinator
Undisclosed bank with $400 million assets

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