The first session I attented was entitled Online Communities as a Marketing Tool.
It was about FirstChoice and its social networking platform, 2wentysworld.co.uk.
At the end of the session, I had a good chat with Paul Clark, Product Manager at FirstChoice, and Jack Fairhall, CEO of Kwiqq.com, who I plan to interview soon.
I always welcome initiatives in the social networking space, and I would like to see more banks follow Fortis steps with their Network for European Entrepreneurs, Join2Grow (Catherine will be sharing her experience in Web 2.0 and User Generated Content tomorrow afternoon)
A few advice and remarks
* Before launching a new social network, make sure it is the right thing to do for your bank.
What do you want to achieve? Would a blog be more relevant? Are the people you are targeting already using other social networks such as Facebook or MySpace? If so, why would they spend time on another platform?
* No need to reinvent the wheel, if possible leverage an existing platform.
People are used to comprehensive and intuitite interfaces with the likes of Facebook or MySpace. It could be risky to offer them a far inferior service. Try to identify companies which provide a white label offer based on their robust platform.
* With the help of your web agency, identify and prioritize the list of key features you want to offer.
Distringuish the nice to have from the must have. For instance, it is critical to provide an advanced member search feature.
* Launching a new platform is not difficult, the real challenges are first to grow your member base and then to engage your members.
You want your members to use your platform as often as possible, post some User Generater Content, and recommend the service to their contacts. Think about useful content and value added service, think about ways to reward your most active members, your brand ambassadors…