Today the blog known as My Future Bank, run by representatives of Australia’s National Australia Bank’s online self-service offering, UBank, was shut down. A search for the site which was previously at www.myfuturebank.org now returns a 404 error.
The decision ends a week of serious criticism and commentary by Australia’s social media connoscenti, spearheaded by Cheryl Gledhill from Molt:n who took the Bank of the Future to task for masquerading as supportive customers on their own blog. She later outted someone - who rejected her critique - as having an IP address that came from within the NAB itself. [Edit: this post has since been removed from Molt:n]
The story was picked up and became a Twitter Storm, Laurel Papworth ran it on her Silkcharm blog on Tuesday this week.
This cautionary tale should not prevent large corporates from engaging in the social media space, however, it is important to understand the rules of engagement. It is also critical to educate staff who are engaging in social media on the conventions of the new dialogue to create a productive two way conversation.
UBank could certainly recover from this exercise to engage positively with the online community in Australia. It will do so by understanding how to add value to time-poor and increasingly financially-confused Australians.
For those interested, here is the list of Social Media Online Engagement Rules we practice at Network on behalf of our clients.
1. Be authentic and personal
2. Be honest and transparent
3. Conversations, not campaigns : This is the battlecry of social media engagement. Read the Cluetrain Manifesto if you haven’t already. And keep reading.
4. Avoid advertising-driven messaging : This is not a cost effective way to foist key selling propositions onto potential customers!!
5. Add value to the community : To paraphrase JFK, “ask not what the community can do for you, but what you can do for the community”.
6. Understand and respect the community’s rules of engagement : Each community is different. Lurk before you leap in. Rules can change, keep checking.
7. Make no assumptions : Ask your social media expert or a moderator for guidance.
8. Review your concept of control : Marketers who were previously shielded from much brand criticism, except through arms length market research, need to get used to hearing the sometimes harsh truth of opinion in real time.
Using it to refine marketing strategies, products/services and communications is the intelligent way to handle this information. Jumping in and trying to shut it down will always backfire.
[Edit/Update: NAB’s official statement to itnews.com.au states “any unidentified comments on blogs are unauthorised”]
Like building a brand, building trust and reputation online is not an easy and straightforward endeavour. But the pursuit - executed well - is worth it. Future grass roots support and those, increasingly important, word of mouth recommendations will depend on it.
Would you add any other rules of engagement to this list? And how many chances do you believe large corporates will be given in terms of social media engagement, before their reputation is damaged irreparably?