Ask a Social Media Guru – Part 1

The following is the first part of a two-part interview with Michelle Shangraw, senior vice president and retail banking director at Mercantile Bank in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Q: Tell me a little bit about how Mercantile bank got started on Facebook.

A: We started our Facebook page on March 8, 2009. It is a group effort between our marketing and IT areas. Initially, our intent was to talk about the products and services we offered. However, we learned very quickly that this was not the right platform for selling. Much of what we did in the beginning was trial and error.

Q: What strategies/approaches helped you gain success?

A:Our approach involves highlighting the bank’s and our employees’ community involvement as well as contests to increase social engagement. We recently started a new video campaign called “Make a difference” that features employees doing things in the community that they are passionate about.

We have also held a few community based contests, such as the “Facebook Faceoff” where two local high schools competed to get the most “Likes” to our page. The winning school was then given a cash prize to donate to the charity of their choice.

Q: What is the biggest challenge when it comes to running your page?

A: Keeping the content fresh and getting social interaction is always a challenge, but we feel it is a challenge worth meeting. We view our Facebook page as a portal that gives our friends and followers a glimpse into the personal side of the bank.

Q: Any advice you have for those starting their Facebook presence?

A:Don’t try to sell products on your Facebook page. It is a social platform, and if people feel you are trying to sell them something they will tune out. Use lots of video (keep them short) and photos. Try to talk in a conversational tone.

Ann Chenis ICBA’s communications coordinator.