Kevin Lynch, the senior vice president of ecommerce at 1st Mariner Bank in Baltimore, answers 5 questions about the bank's social media presence.
What role does social media play at your bank?
We're in multiple areas: Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and LinkedIn. We use it more for branding than for marketing. It's a way to share information with customers, content related to financial services. We also send holiday messages to people.
Is there anything that you avoid?
We stay away from the marketing aspect because of regulatory concerns [regarding online ad content] ... last week we sat down with two regulators from the FDIC for a cursory exam prior to our larger exam ... they liked that we were not doing any type of advertising on social media. And imagine trying to disclose information about a rate offer in 140 characters [Twitter's character limit]. It's not going to happen.
How can social media add value?
It's not a separate channel; we look at it as a way to get information out to customers who come to us with product questions, or integrate customer service issues with the branch or contact center. It's another way for people to interact with us if they choose to.
What are some of the major misconceptions about social media?
One is that everybody has to be in all of the different outlets. That's untrue, and the people who are saying that are those who make money selling banks on their own expertise. Social media is no different than any other interaction. You have to do it if it's right for your organization or right for your customer base. If you study the impact of a site and it can add value to your relationships, then you say 'yes.' If not, then say 'no.' People talk about the ROI of social media. I think that's a crock. It doesn't exist.
Then how do you measure success?
Feedback is a key indicator of whether a social media stream is adding value. If you see people retweeting something, for example, it's a sign that it's reaching people. Or if we get people to follow us on Facebook, or if we show up in news feeds.
But you have to remember that you're talking to one person at 1st Mariner Bank. I think that answer will vary across different organizations with size. We're a pretty small regional bank and are locally geared.
If you go out and do a search of [a large bank], you will find there are a lot of different conversations going on in social media, and some aren't very good. So a large bank's perspective will be very different.