This week I've met with some very interesting people and the subject of social media has been high on the agenda. Yesterday, I met with Tom Cannon, who is leading the charge on the Internet Banking initiative that is part of HSBC's "OneH" project -- essentially their customer dashboard, single-view of the customer baseline technology. Earlier in the week with Sam Oakley from WolfStar, John Beck the Technology Editor for the Financial Times/The Banker magazine in London, and my good pal Christophe Langlois from Visible Banking, amongst others. At these sessions we invariably repeated a discussion I've had 30 times in the last few months with innovators in the banking space the world over. The question simply being "when will the banking senior executives get social media?"
Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare -- when will it end?
Facebook this week announced their 500 millionth active user. That number is pretty significant. Firstly, any corporation that can claim its customer base would make it the third largest country in the world (behind only China and India) has a case for celebration. Secondly, it doesn't look as if its growth will slow any time soon. Lastly, their growth is not restricted by physical distribution or inventory constraints, their marketplace is anywhere you are.
Twitter is not far behind, with 190 million users as of June 2010, and 65 million tweets a day. Foursquare, the Geolocation Social Networking service is up there too - adding 100,000 new users every week at the moment.
When will it end? It won't -- that's like asking when the internet and mobile phones will end. Which brings me to the realization that dealing with innovation in banking is a lot like dealing with grief.
So here are the 5 stages of Innovation Grief for Banks and Bankers (It probably works for most companies actually).
Stage 1 - Total ignorance
Stage 2 - It's just a fad
"Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms ... Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems ... Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works ... Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure." - Clifford Stohl, Newsweek, 27 February, 1995
Ok so now it's on our radar, but it's just a fad -- all the fuss will blow over soon.
Stage 3 - I still don't get it, where's the money?
How can you tell you are this stage? You have a Facebook page for the bank, but no one actively managing your social media listening post.
Stage 4 - The Sonic Boom
This is the stage we are hitting for most banks today...
If you work in a bank how can you tell if you are at this stage -- your bank has just hired a Head of Social Media.
Stage 5 - The Mad Scramble
This is when the knee-jerk hiring spree starts with hit and miss initiatives occurring throughout the bank.
How do you know when you are at this stage? The CEO of the bank is talking about Social Media in press conferences and how the bank is committed to better reaching customers through this medium.
Getting out in front
We talk about multi-channel a lot these days, but clearly social media is showing us that new channels and ways of interacting can grow very fast. Who's to say what will come after social media? Something will. The key is that channel complexity continues to grow, and no single channel should be singled out as more important. For customers branch is no more important than Internet, mobile than social media, call center than ATM. These are tools to engage, and increasingly banks need to be more pervasive - everywhere the customer is.
So break the back of organization structure silos around channels. Think customer -- think total channel engagement, and get moving on Social Media fast: BOOM!