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Citibank And Blogging – A Tale of 2 Tales: Citibank Launches a Blog at New.Citi.com But Makes a Faux-Pas at Blog.Fabulis.com

The voice of the customer banking. Citibank And Blogging – A Tale of 2 Tales: Citibank Launches a Blog at New.Citi.com But Makes a Faux-Pas at Blog.Fabulis.com.

I found out about Citi’s new blog launch on Jim Bruene’s excellent NetBanker blog, and I recommend you read Jim’s take.

I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, so I won’t insist on the design of the blog or the number of comments. Yes I agree with Jim, it is a good idea and definitely a step forward for the bank which is trying to be more transparent.

I decided to write this post because I found a few interesting pieces of news while I was assessing the visibility of the blog on Citi’s website and its online coverage.

Search on Google.com – “citi blog”
This is what I found on Google:
Citi-Blog-GoogleSearchResults-20mar2010
The Fabulis Case
The long story short: Citi launched its brand new blog on February 1st. Three weeks later, Jason Goldberg, Founder & CEO of fabulis, published
citibank is so not fabulis on his blog.

Please find below a extract of Jason’s post:

CitiATM
Hi everyone.  Jason Goldberg here, founder and ceo of fabulis.

In a bit of strange and disturbing news, fabulis discovered today that someone(s) at Citibank had decided arbitrarily to block fabulis’ bank account due to what was described to us on the phone as “objectionable content” on our blog.  In fact, the account — it turns out — was blocked a few days ago without anyone letting us know about it by phone or email.
(…)

When did Citibank start reviewing blogs to decide who can bank with them?
Calls into Citibank tonight resulted in a temporary lifting of the block while a compliance officer is asked to re-review our website on Thursday. Stay tuned … we’ll update you on this shocker as we learn more. (…)

The story was covered by ZDNet.com the following day, and Reuters.compublished a comprehensive summary of the whole story on March 5th.

Please find below a paragraph from the Reuters article:
Twenty four hours after Goldberg went public, Citi reversed course and Bill Brown, who oversees the bank’s Manhattan branches, issued an email apology to Goldberg, in which he said “statements that were made by any Citi representative related to the content of your website were inappropriate and made in error.”
BoAYouTube
It reminded me of the Bank of America story from last september and the DEBTORS REVOLT BEGINS NOW! video on YouTube which now counts over 500,000 views and over 6,000 ratings.

You will see my point in Ann Minch’s video update DEBTORS UPDATE: BANK OF AMERICA RESPONDS!!!.

Citi-Blog-CorporateSearch
Search on Citi.com – “blog”
I couldn’t find any mention of the blog on Citi’s website which didn’t really come as a surprise.

New.Citi.com
Now, it is time to share my comments on the blog.

Call to Action
The tag line for the New Citi blog is “Citi is Changing and You Can Help”. The bank urges people to ask their questions and share their suggestions… in just 200 characters. You have to be pretty concise! 😉

First of all, I believe it would be interesting to see the list of suggestions and questions, categorized if possible. Moreover, I am curious to find out how the Citi team identify the most interesting ones, how they plan to respond, and how those questions will impact their editorial line on the blog.

Contributors
Most of the articles were posted by “Citi” i.e. whoever is in charge of producing the content for the blog. This is far too impersonal and doesn’t fit the raison d’etre of a blog. To the contrary Citi should take this opportunity to give a voice to its employees and give their audience the opportunity to connect more with the content.

Even though it is great to see a post from the CEO himself, Vikram Pandit,How Citi is changing., the message is too polished and comes flat. It could easily have been written by the CEO office.

I would like to clarify straight away that in all fairness you can’t really expect to see a CEO of such a sizable banking group commit to produce specific articles on regular basis on a blog. On the other hand, I strongly believe that the video format is a perfect fit for busy Senior Executives. Words often fall flat, and It is important to see the passion, the determination, and the leadership.

If you are looking for best practices from Banking Senior Executives, I would point you to Peter Aceto, President & CEO at ING Direct Canada who brilliantly demonstrates his leadership on twitter @CEO_INGDIRECT, and I would invite you to follow Gerd Schenkel, Managing Director of UBank, ontwitter @GerdSchenkel. I have identified 40+ Senior Execs contributing on twitter, blogs, facebook, or YouTube. I invite you to check my list of Senior Executives on twitter.

Comments & Conversations
The American Banking News journalist reports that customers use the blog to complain and that some people were suspicious regaring positive comments which “might have been written by Citibank employees”.

That is old news. Any financial institution, if not any company from any industry, which launched a blog experienced the same skepticism at first. It is their commitment to post on regular basis and respond to comments which helped them change people’s perception.

I know it is early stage and Citi will surely learn and improve, but I am a bit concerned with the low number of responses posted on the blog by the Citi team. Let me use the most commented post as example, How Citi is changing.: 60 commments were left including only 3 responses from Citi. It seems a bit low for a blog which aims to create dialogue and a team which promise they’re listening, don’t you think?

Please note that citi forces you to give your email address to leave a comment. Even though I doubt it, it means that the Citi team may respond to the comments directly via email. I still believe they should prove their total commitment by responding to most of the comments on the blog.

I wonder who moderate the blog, how often Citi check it for new comments, and what their selection criteria is for deciding on who to respond to.

Even though the Citi team has to do better than that, it is good to see another large financial institution blogging. And I am confident they will improve. After all, the social media motto is “live and learn”, isn’t it? 😉

Citi-Blog-Guidelines-20Mar2010  

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