Eric Hathaway May 30, 2019

Customer experience, fraud and strong social media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media channels play a tremendous role in the everyday lives of many businesses--including banks and other financial institutions. These platforms make it easy to announce company news, provide immediate customer service and remain informed about the competition and industry news.

Consumers now also turn to social channels as one of the primary ways to interact with their banks. In 2018, several institutions launched initiatives to drive customers through their social channels.

Citibank, for example, piloted a program that allowed customers in Singapore to check certain banking information through Facebook Messenger and has plans to expand that channel throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Finn.ai, a relatively new fintech firm, took a similar approach when it launched a new personal banking chatbot through Facebook Messenger to support the Bank of Montreal.

It should come as no surprise, then, that 76 percent of banks “agree or strongly agree that social media is important” to the business. The real surprise? The potential risk inherent in social channels.

The doubled-edged sword

While social media is a great way to engage customers and communicate company news, it can also unwittingly expose your organization to new vectors of risk. And if you aren’t looking at social channels through the lens of risk management, you need to start.

In an article penned last year for Corporate Compliance Insights, author Jim DeLoach outlines a number of issues that can pop up when companies wade into social media. Two issues rank as top of mind for banks and financial institutions: protecting IP and sensitive data, and regulatory compliance.

Protecting IP and sensitive data is core for banks. While many information security professionals are resigned to the compromise of most customer data in one way or another, all agree that they want to prevent further exposure—especially on their watch. Social channels have opened a number of doors for employees, contractors and others to potentially compromise this kind of data. That could reflect malicious intent via a disgruntled employee or something accidental such as a human error.

From a compliance perspective, one major concern is that regulatory reform travels at a glacial pace compared to social channel development. As this article from Kasasa astutely observes:

“FFEIC [Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council] social media guidance hasn’t been updated since 2013. Think of all the things that weren’t available on Facebook when that guidance was authored.”

Companies face compliance scenarios simply unaccounted for in the current iteration of law. And without closely examining their social strategies—and the people and processes dedicated to social support—they risk falling out of compliance.

Strategic defenses and owning social media

While putting the company out on social channels may invite risk, not using those channels is risky as well. Customers expect to see company on social media and your competitors have already arrived. If your company is absent, an angry customer can wreak havoc with their social missives. That is why smart companies maintain a proactive presence even as they account for any potential customer-facing risks.

Financial institutions can mitigate those risks in a number of ways. These can include limiting consumer interaction through social messenger apps to lower risk activities, such as providing account balances. Companies can also use social channels as a first line of communication to acknowledge a customer service need, or to provide broad product and service information.

For more substantive transactions, banks should require customers to switch to their secure online or mobile applications. With the inherent security that these platforms offer, banks are much less likely to unwittingly expose themselves to factors that could result in a breach of data or compliance violations.

To help mitigate the risk of compliance-related issues, organizations can designate specific individuals or departments to own social media outreach and management. They can also implement software that allows the company to create, manage and document the process surrounding content development, approval and posting.

These platforms are growing in popularity, and the State of Social Media in Banking report notes that “55 percent of … banks were using software or technology from a third-party vendor to help them monitor or manage social media content or compliance.”

Social media: Safety in success

As a pervasive element in modern society, social media won’t go anywhere. Consumers have adopted social channels and for better or worse, companies must meet them there.

By acknowledging the risks and the rewards of social media, you can position your company for success. Long term, you will need to adopt a methodical, strategic approach that emphasizes clear boundaries, process and dedicated ownership. Without a strong framework to support your specific social engagement strategy, you open a door to risk that’s better left shut.

At the end of the day, your company is already present on social media. Consumers talk about you and your business. The biggest questions are: Will you join the conversation? And can you effectively mitigate the risk? With the right plan, you can successfully do both—and in the process, tell a compelling story worthy of a social media shout out.

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Eric Hathaway is vice president of marketing for Zoot Enterprises.

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