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Archive for July, 2010

Fast Company recently had a great article called Five Steps for Consumer Brands To Earn Social Currency, and was filled with insights that credit unions and banks seeking word of mouth can apply.

The main premise is this: “buzz” is of limited value–“social currency” is the real goal.  Based on a study by Vivaldi Partners and Lightspeed Research, the article speaks to several key understandings about word of mouth marketing and social media, which in our experience banks and credit unions have yet to master.

Key Takeaways for Banks and Credit Unions Seeking Social Currency

While we strongly recommend you read the article and absorb its points, here are three key takeaway ideas from the articles that relate directly to banks and credit unions:

  1. It’s Not About the Tools: A hammer is just a hammer and has little intrinsic value until it is applied to the art of building houses. Twitter and Facebook are like that hammer: they, among the other myriad tools, are not an end in and of themselves…they are simply channels to achieve the real endgame: advocacy and engagement.  Keep your eye on the real goal.
  2. Buzz is Fleeting; WOM is Lasting: Getting a bump in followers or attention for a short period of time is easily accomplished by simply doing something wacky enough to get noticed. The hard part is creating long-term brand engagement, and buzz is just the first step in that. This is why things like random acts of kindness in banking and guerrilla marketing are great tools, but cannot constitute a bank or credit union’s entire word of mouth marketing strategy.  A quickie campaign can improve awareness for a credit union, but probably won’t increase membership by itself.  (That’s why the PSST!/CBC word of mouth marketing model has multiple layers with different strategic components)
  3. Make Other People Feel Important: In many ways, word of mouth about a credit union or a bank is not even really about the company–it’s about the people doing the talking. People tell others about cool stuff when it makes them feel good and important to do so. In the Fast Company article, Dunkin’ Donuts’ strategy is all about turning other people into online celebrities.
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We love seeing word of mouth marketing catching on with banks and credit unions. Any form of buzz that a financial institution can generate is a step in the right direction not only for that bank or credit union, but for the financial services industry as a whole.

One of the manifestations of WOM in banking so far has centered around the idea of “random acts of kindness.” Financial marketing stars Umpqua Bank have been known for using random acts of kindness successfully (such as with their ice cream truck, which we can vouch from personal experience does successfully bring smiles to faces!), and the idea has caught on with other banks and credit unions as well.

But I have one fear: I’m afraid banks and credit unions are starting to oversimplify things, thinking that WOM = random acts of kindness. The truth is, random acts of kindness are just one of the many forms of word of mouth marketing.

Remember, word of mouth marketing is a huge, broad topic, with dozens of subcategories of types of WOM. (You can learn about some of the other forms in our word of mouth marketing glossary.) According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, word of mouth is about giving people something worth talking about, and making it easier for them to have conversations. Random acts of kindness are a great way to accomplish this, but only one of many ways.

Much like we’ve said about bank and credit union social media, random acts of kindness does not a WOM program make…but it’s a good start.

Credit unions and banks: If you are doing random acts of kindness today, kudos to you! Keep up the good work! But also keep learning about the other types of word of mouth, and build out a thorough, multi-faceted word of mouth marketing strategy!

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