Citi on financial services’ biggest potential social media mistake

“Where are financial services companies most likely to go wrong in their use of social media?” This is the question I asked of the panelists on “Social Media in the Workplace” at NICSA’s General Membership Meeting in Boston on October 6.

Surprising answer from Citi’s Butcher

I liked the answer given by Paul Butcher, director of global corporate social media for Citi.  He said companies could make a mistake by not listening enough to customers. Social media is not just an outbound channel, he added.

Earlier in the panel he’d mentioned that Citi listens to customer comments. It handles comments by first categorizing them, and then responding accordingly. For example, comments that are blatant violations of the firm’s terms of service are taken down. The work flow for other comments depends on their nature.

In one example, the firm’s call center in Jacksonville, Fla., monitors customer comments, engages with customers in the channel where they find the comment, and then move it into a regular, private channel, if appropriate.

In my opinion, too many financial companies treat their social media activities as one-way communications. I understand that compliance fears prompt much of their inactivity. Still, it’s frustrating for the folks who follow them. Financial companies that don’t respond to their followers risk alienating them.

Concerns of Marsh/FINPRO and Ropes & Gray

Prior to Butcher’s comment, Anthony “Sandy” Codding of Marsh/FINPRO commented on risks from an insurer’s viewpoint. Regulatory compliance and defamation are the two greatest risks, he said.

Rajib Chanda of Ropes & Gray added to Codding’s comment by pointing to the risks of financial services companies using mobile apps. As more people store information on mobile devices, you start to work about identity theft, he said.

I’m sure we’re going to hear more about all of these issues in financial services.

This post was updated on October 7, 2011.