Posting Praise

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Online evangelizing is the new powerful word-of-mouth advertising

By Chris Lorence

Community banks have long since relied upon a good reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations to bring in new customers. Long before statement stuffers, billboards, and time and temperature signs, customers talking with others about their banking experiences could boost business more than any other channel. Unfortunately, with margins slim and budgets tight, advertising and marketing in general have moved further down the list of priorities.

The good news, however, is that reputations and word-of-mouth referrals are still the gold standard, provided you know how to maximize your social media presence.

You have no doubt heard over and over again: Don’t use social media to sell or promote products and services. This is still true, despite what you might see on common platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, which are loaded with banner ads and advertorials based on the digital body language of the Web surfer. While these ads can be quite effective, community banks can do something much simpler and with no budget expense: They can proactively ask customers for a referral using their favorite social media channel.

Yes, that’s right, let your customers know they’re welcome to write a review or share their experience on social media.

People of all ages, especially millennials, do significant research online before even considering doing business with a company. Rating sites and mobile apps such as Yelp, Credit Karma and Google Reviews are favorites for everyday consumers and small businesses to post their experiences online about the businesses they patronize.

3 Things To Do Today

  1. Google your community bank’s name. What are the reviews like, if any? Did you respond to anything negative? Did you thank the reviewers who were positive?
  2. Google a competitor’s name. What are the reviews? How is it handling the feedback?
  3. Who are your best customers? Find out if they are willing to be your evangelists by writing a review.

Today, the Internet is the megaphone for recommendations, and such online reviews play an important role in forming a critical first impression. While no business wants negative reviews, having no reviews at all may send a message that is just as powerful. If customers aren’t raving about you or recommending you, your community bank may seem digitally disconnected or come across unintentionally as “meh,” so average that nobody bothers to post a review.

Compliance staff may read this article and cringe at the thought of actually inspiring an online review by a customer, but evangelizing a positive experience is powerful. Community banks that cultivate and extend their own positive brand experience online are in much better control of their image than those that leave it up to happenstance. Keep in mind, it is also much harder to recover from even a single negative review if it’s the only one posted. The best course of action is to be aware and proactive and to embrace your online evangelists.

Community banks have great reputations. Why not let yours be the first one people see?


Chris Lorence (chris.lorence@icba.org) is ICBA’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer.