Analysis – The social networks’ siren call
Thomas Pageault at 2016-01-25 in Décryptage
The role of community manager
A Community Manager or CM is in charge of managing and federating Internet communities on behalf of a company, a brand, a celebrity or an institution. Deeply linked to the Web 2.0 and the development of social networks, this profession is constantly evolving.
The core activities lie in the engagement and exchange with the web users (managing and moderating); however, the community manager may handle various activities based on the context.
Although the predicted potential of social networks still remains to be confirmed, the banks cannot ignore the phenomenon and thus are learning to navigate it and to avoid its pitfalls. Analysis of these high-riding media, but whose volatility requires mastery of their rules.
At the « Banque et Digital » (Banking and Digital) conference in March 2014, a digital manager from one of the three major French banking networks had stated: « We are present on social networks for reasons similar to those of mountain-climbers: because they are there ». Overcoming their initial wariness, the banks have indeed taken possession of the social networks and are now multiplying their initiatives. They focus on sharing their latest news, coming closer to the customer or even developing their employer brand. Their purpose is also to manage and defend their reputation in a context where the banks’ image was seriously damaged by the crisis.
Besides, this new approach requires that the banks apply the internet rules and conventions while keeping their own identity in mind. Or how to develop a more « affinity-based » relationship while upholding one’s (e) reputation? Finally, communication on these media is not restricted to a few official spokespeople or other community managers. Each user may communicate individually.
Overview of social networks’ usage
As stated earlier, banks are now present on the major social networks: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube. They manage customised accounts based on the target audience and publish adapted contents. Beyond sheer public relations, they communicate on their sporting partnerships or their civic engagements, publish educational content, recruit and obviously provide a new customer relationship channel.
Based on a study published by Dimelo1, banks are thus the second sector in Social CRM after the telecoms.
In particular, they use Twitter to interact with their customers (see comparative ranking opposite) and some innovative initiatives are emerging, such as SAVine, from the Banque Postale, a set of short videos aimed to reply to specific questions from customers.
In addition, they do not hesitate to involve popular Youtubers2 (Cyprien for CIC, Hugo Tout Seul for Société Générale, etc.) to reach a young audience.
Analysis of the requirements and constraints of social networks
This prolific activity on social networks nevertheless requires to assess the constraints and requirements. In fact, the image of the banks has drastically deteriorated after the crisis, and their presence on social networks is an opportunity to rebuild it, provided these new communication channels are well mastered.
Aware of the risks of denigration, the banks adapt the published contents to the medium. They avoid having multiple Facebook accounts in the company’s name and opt for a community-based approach which can federate interests. Société Générale, for example, communicates more on the world of Rugby through its Facebook page, than about its financial services and products. Similarly, BNP Paribas focuses on highlighting its long-standing partnership with the cinema and on livening up the community with contests.
Twitter is a more open and more adapted medium, which, due to its features, is rather intended for communication with customers, experts and journalists. In return, information exchange immediacy implies quick response; communication cannot be restricted to the traditional office hours of bank branches.
Being present on social networks, the banks have to cater to the following requirements: selectivity in the contents published and responsiveness in replying. To this end, they shall implement community management, and they should not delegate this task to the first available trainee but in fact, define a strategy specific to each of these media, understand their intrinsic rules and implement appropriate governance and organisation.
The necessity for professionalising the use of these media was, for example, reasserted after the misadventure experienced by Caisse d’Epargne when they illustrated their slogan « Parce que les accidents n’arrivent pas qu’aux autres » (« Because accidents don’t just happen to others »), on their Facebook page, with a picture of a squirrel hanging by the testicles3. Any individual would expect to find her/his bank in these new communication spaces but the closeness thus being built shall not make the banks forget the image conveyed by the postings.
From this point of view, the banks have thus provided their community managers with a certain number of tools. They have, for example, implemented decision trees to guide them on how to respond to a negative opinion, a caustic comment or even a troll 4. In fact, due to the permanent and viral nature of Internet, deleting an unpleasant message is not necessarily an appropriate response.
They have also defined golden rules, applying to the personal or professional use of social networks, the line between the two being thin. These rules detail the principles of confidentiality, accountability and compliance with the internal policies of these institutions.
Additionally, these tools can take the shape of online reputation watch units (CERT). In fact, negative contents published by web users can harm the image of the banks and compete with the official postings.
Finally, beyond the sheer management of their official accounts, the banks, aware of the impact on their image of tweets and other messages posted by their employees, are now striving to grow their awareness of the risks inherent to the use of social networks.
This awareness implies reminding them of the rules governing communication on these media (such as mentioning when a post is the expression of a personal opinion and not an official position of the company). The banks also make sure to alert their employees on the risks which they are exposed to in their personal capacity. A host of communications are thus sent, alerting about identity theft, cyberbullying or burglary.
The banks have taken possession of the social networks’ space and have learnt to master its rules. This learning phase being completed, which will be the future innovations likely to redesign customer relationships? Will the use of these media for banking services finally take off as predicted by so many experts? The profitability of social media marketing however remains to be consolidated in the long run.
Finance & Risk Management
 A youtuber is a web user who posts videos on the sharing site YouTube as her/his main activity, for which she/he is compensated, especially through online advertising revenues. The best known youtubers have millions of subscribers to their video postings and collect millions of views
 For further information, go to: http://www.20minutes.fr/insolite/1238605-20131018-20131018-caisse-epargne-fait-bad-buzz-photo-ecureuil-pendu-testicules (FR)
 A troll aims to generate arguments. It can be a message (for example on a forum), a confrontational debate due to the topic itself or to the person who initiated it.