For banks, using social media is a relatively new and challenging concept. The industry is heavily regulated, and yet there is uncertainty how regulation actually affects financial institutions’ social media efforts. The FSA guidelines for example are – to say the least – brief and vague. The suitability of social media as a method of communication has therefore been heavily debated for many years, leading to a growing void between banks and other more social media-friendly corporations. In addition, the majority of banks ban social media platforms from office desktops.
However, banks have now started to realise that they have to embrace social media to catch up with other industries – despite unclear regulation and a perceived loss of control over stories. These are some of the key findings of our recent survey amongst heads of communications and PR managers at global banks. This increasing interest is not only for banks to engage with customers. Employees feel entitled to use and access social media in their professional lives. According to research by internet security company Clearswift 26% of employees would be de-motivated by a stricter policy on social networking introduced by their employers and 14% would try to work around the rules. 3% would even consider leaving (presumably having first tried scouring LinkedIn to find a new job).
This does not have to be the route for banks. There are now a range of successful and compelling examples of how they can benefit from opening up to social media and planning engagement programmes. First Direct’s Little Black Book project is one, Wells Fargo’s use of social media to improve customer service is another. Many more banks will follow their approach, and this will be a matter of time only. And, certainly, of clearer regulation.