While I can appreciate the enthusiasm that usually comes with the conversation, I can’t help but cringe when I hear community bank and credit union marketers tell us that they’re working on developing a Facebook page or Twitter account.
Sure, we’ve seen examples of how these kinds of initiatives have helped some institutions connect with members of their communities. But too often, there’s no strategy driving the decision to use these two platforms; the marketers responsible for managing these social media tools do not fully understand how to leverage them as effective marketing tools; and while these efforts are viewed as free or cheap, they often consume more resources than expected – ultimately diminishing the effectiveness of other marketing efforts.
Today, Ad Age published the article: The TGIF ‘Revolution’ is Nothing Without a Marketing Strategy. Front and center is the main takeaway from the article, one that all marketers considering a Facebook page, Twitter account, or other social media initiative should consider: Social Media isn’t enough to save a weak brand.
While I can easily see some executives and marketers dismissing this statement immediately because they wouldn’t consider their brand to be weak, I think this is a strong statement for those willing to take an honest look at the strength of their brand. Going one step further – given what we’ve seen from financial institutions using Facebook and Twitter, I’d also make the argument that social media efforts like these can do more damage than good to an institution’s brand.
Things to consider before starting a Facebook page or a Twitter account:
- Are your social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, or otherwise) part of an overall marketing strategy? If not, it’s time to revisit your strategy, or let this be an indication that these efforts may not necessarily be a priority at this time.
- What are your objectives? This question should be asked first about your broad marketing objectives and second about your social media objectives.
- Who is your audience? While national statistics and data may tell us that Facebook and Twitter have millions of users, how many will you reach in your communities? Do your customers/members and/or prospects use these services? Do they care if you use them?
- Who will manage your social media efforts? Yes, Facebook and Twitter are free services, but they require significant and ongoing time investment to be effective.
- Are your resources better allocated elsewhere? As the title of this post suggest, you do not need to be on Facebook, and you don’t need a Twitter account…consider your opportunities, your customers/members, your markets, your goals, your team – these two platforms may make sense, they may not.
There seems to be this view that all community banks and credit unions should be on Facebook and Twitter. It reminds me of a post I wrote in response to the article “You Should be on YouTube” that was published in ABA Bank Marketing Magazine last year. As you can tell from reading this post, my view hasn’t changed.
One additional point from Al Ries, author of the Ad Age article, that’s worth repeating here:
If your brands don’t stand for anything, you have to sell your products on ‘price.’ And it’s very difficult to make money by selling your products cheaper than the competition.”
At the end of the day, effective marketing requires that you know your market, understand your opportunities, and position your institution to take advantage of those opportunities – the tough part is determining the best way to do that.