Two local banks have moved beyond their websites to serve Columbia’s virtual community.
Landmark Bank set up a fan page on Facebook.com last July to foster new avenues of discussion with customers and other area residents, Marketing Director Rhiannon Trask said. Two weeks ago, Boone County National established a fan page for similar reasons, Senior Vice President Mary Wilkerson said.
The social networking endeavors are not intended to serve as additional advertisement for the banks, both marketing directors said.
“We never intended it to be a hard-sell marking tool,” Wilkerson said. “We already have one of those; it’s called our website.”
Trask said research shows that people are not searching for “self-promotion” when spending time on Facebook.
“It’s really more about connecting with our customers, talking with them, trying to provide useful information.”
During the past month, Landmark’s page (www.facebook.com/LandmarkBank) has reminded visitors of Flag Day, suggested they visit a Columbia website to find information about weekend activities and attempted to engage customers by asking readers how they keep their children cool during the hot summer months.
Boone County National Bank’s page (www.facebook.com/BooneBank) has informed fans of the lineup for this year’s Roots ‘N Blues ‘N BBQ Festival, promoted the Douglas Park Juneteenth celebration and recommended an article on how to manage credit score.
Referring Facebook fans to articles and links about financial education is another way to establish a presence in the virtual community, Wilkerson said. “I think education is probably right up there with (community) information.”
Boone County National Bank has also signed up for a channel on YouTube.com and hopes to use this to provide further financial information for customers, Wilkerson said. One idea is to produce short videos informing first-time home buyers of what needs to be done to obtain a home loan. Although the channel is not up and running yet, Wilkerson had a stack of old commercials on her desk that she said the bank will transfer to the channel for entertainment’s sake.
Wilkerson also said Boone County has reserved an address on Twitter, a service she sees as a potential customer-service tool.
Landmark Bank, under Trask’s direction, began engaging customers on Twitter in January. Trask said she will search for certain keywords through Twitter’s advanced search engine and in doing so can stay attuned to what the community is discussing.
On Twitter, Landmark is “doing a lot of listening,” Trask said. “If somebody is having problems with another bank in the area, we just offer our assistance and say, ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’”
Trask also participated in Columbia’s first “tweet-up,” a meeting of local Twitter users at Shakespeare’s Pizza, as part of a nationwide “twest-ival” held for charity. It was nice to put names with faces at the event, she said, adding that Landmark is looking to set up and sponsor the area’s next “tweet-up.”
Engaging customers in a public conversation, however, can have it’s drawbacks, both Wilkerson and Trask acknowledged. One such issue is providing unhappy customers a public forum on which to air their grievances.
Although she had not yet encountered such a situation, Wilkerson said that as a marketer, part of her job is to ask customers what the company is doing right and what it is doing wrong.
“If we don’t hear complaints, we don’t know what to fix,” she said.
Another issue with setting up a social networking profile, Wilkerson said, was adhering to federal banking regulations when announcing a new product or service. Appliance stores can simply announce a new item, but Wilkerson said banks can be hindered by the amount of disclaimers they are required to run alongside new products and services.
Although the model for proper usage of social networking services by banks might still be unformed, Trask said she was excited to be a forerunner of the new technology.
“It’s really neat being on the verge of something cool,” she said. “Granted, we’re probably about three years behind everyone else, but for a bank, we’re up there.”