By Ryan Brown
On Jan. 20, the Obama administration followed through on its promise to launch an interactive Web site where the public can find information and offer feedback on administrative actions. Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, states in his blog that the site will “serve as a place for the president and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.”
The ability to connect is something that all companies search for; it is the necessary first step to forging and maintaining a healthy relationship with the public. Community banks in particular need to reach out through interactive media channels to better communicate with their customers, especially given today’s volatile economy. What is more, interactive media can go beyond connecting and actually influence consumer behavior, a powerful tool for those who learn how to use it properly.
It is clear that every aspect of interactive media has a strong future. The Wall Street Journal reported that online video ad spending is expected to grow by 45 percent this year to $850 million, according to research firm eMarketer. Interactive media can come in many other shapes and sizes. For instance, University Credit Union has a Facebook page filled with postings from friends saying “I need free books,” to win $250 towards school books for the second semester.
While all of these tool like Facebook, blogs and online videos are great, just having interactive content and a social media presence does not mean that a community bank will be effective in meeting its goals. It takes a strategic plan, excecutive commitment and desire to educate and empower the customers. Interactive media opens up direct communication between all levels of decision makers, but the real payoffs start by influencing customer behavior. Fifth Third Bank is one of many institutions offering interactive online videos to guide customers through services such as online banking and bill payment. According to a Market Insight study, 64 percent of viewers take some sort of action after seeing an online video. The same study revealed that 44 percent of those viewers explore the Web site further, and that 33 percent search for additional information about the product or service. These services can be developed to promote any community bank offering, such as retirement planning or loan product selection.
Both for its impressive call-to-action rates and the high levels of interest it garners, interactive media is permeating the financial industry and creating a strong new communication medium. The convenience and simplicity of interactive media elicits high consumer response and heightened consumer loyalty because there is the sense of intimacy between the consumer and bank. Interactive media in turn creates a broader sense of corporate social responsibility taken on by the bank since it allows the financial institution to more quickly and accurately respond to customer demand, concern and gratitude.
Also, instructional content delivered through an interactive channel helps improve adoption rates of new products and services, and introduces existing products and services to new audiences. Using new media to educate the general public about using online banking, searching for retirement options or selecting the best loan product encourages them to invest more time and thought in their financial decision making, therefore improving a bank’s portfolio. The bank’s Web traffic can increase as well as its visibility to prospective customers.
The age of interactive is here – and it is not limited to just teens and twenty-somethings. Enhancements in technology have equipped a majority of high net worth individuals and business professionals with wireless handheld devices that make interactive Web-based communication available anywhere, anytime. Community banks need to leverage this avenue to keep customers well informed and enable them to comfortably respond in an open forum to establish an interest in new ideas. Staying in-the-know of customers’ perceptions of business performance, service offerings and levels of convenience helps a community bank build strong consumer rapport and also continue to enhance its consumer experience. The time to move is now; community banks that engage and empower their customers through this tough time will come out on top with a leading market share and reputation.
Ryan Brown is president and CEO of MindBlazer, an education-based marketing and technology company that provides enhanced digital media channels to aid with sales, education and corporate communications.