Know Me, Like Me, Trust Me…Community Banking 101 Meets Social Networking

As a community banker, nobody needs to tell you how important customer relationships are to the ongoing success and viability of the bank. If it’s one thing that community bankers know how to do, it’s build relationships with their customers.

Today consumers have a plethora of options when it comes to banking choices, but in many cases it’s the connection that keeps them coming back. It is understood you need to offer competitive rates and fees. Assuming that you’re not at the extreme and you have taken the time to establish a relationship with your customers, there’s a good chance that you’ll continue to earn their business… right?

 So, what happens when your customers start engaging you less “in person” and rely on electronic channels for their banking services? They visit your website, check their accounts in online banking and have their paychecks deposited via ACH direct deposit. Kind of hard to build a relationship with someone you never see, isn’t it?

 Enter social networking. Over 500 million people are on Facebook communicating with one another sharing information and making connections. Sites like LinkedIn are helping professionals expand their networks like never before, and YouTube is the #2 search engine on the Internet for a reason – we like to be entertained and enjoy “rich” media over plain text on a web page.

These socially-enabled services (and others like them) are collectively making it possible for today’s consumer to get to know their banker like never before. This first step in the relationship building process can lead to consumers to get to like not only what you stand for professionally, but also as a “person” through available social tools. Finally, once they know you and like you… the last part in the relationship-building process is when they finally decide to trust you with their business.

 Just like in the “offline” world, there are several factors that go into the “know me, like me, trust me” process when creating a relationship. While there is a new set of tools used in “online” relationship-building, the fundamental elements are the same. Social networking tools give you the ability to empower consumers to get all the way to the “trust me” phase, sometimes without even realizing it’s happening. They can “Google” you and your bank to see what shows up in a search, read your blog to see if you “know what you’re talking about” and maybe even check out online reviews (or ask their friends) about you and your service.

Are you prepared to leverage social tools to help your current (and future) customers get to know you, like you and end up trusting you with their business? While the ability to do this in person will always remain an important skill, being able to lead consumers through this process online will become more important as the online world continues to be the place where we spend more of our time.

Eric Cook

After a 15-year career as a community banker, Eric Cook is an internet business consultant with WSI. Cook  also teaches at the Graduate School of Banking at Madison where he instructs on the topic of social technology on campus and through their online classroom. He will be speaking at the IBA’s 2011 Marketing Conference May 5-6 on ways to leverage social technologies to help build and maintain customer relationships.

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