Commonwealth Bank of Australia Proudly Announces Facebook Milestones. But Wait, They’re Just Getting Started.

Last night, and a few days after I congratulated the bank for its 100,000 likes, I received an email from Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) with an official press release announcing the 1st anniversary of their facebook page:

“Since launching its Facebook page, the Bank has been working hard on developing and implementing a solid strategy to not only keep current fans engaged through interactive content, but create an environment for the community to unite, share suggestions, seek advice and receive active real-time responses directly from the Bank’s dedicated customer service team.”

The press release highlights the following facebook initiatives:
* Community Seeds (May 2011): Fans were invited to give away over $125,000 of the Bank’s money to six community organisations in need, by voting via the Community Seeds Facebook tab.
* Facebook Deals (August 2011): Partnered with Facebook to launch Facebook Deals to the Australian market.
* Thank You (October 2011): Customers were invited to select one free gift out of a choice of three for making Commonwealth Bank – 2011 Money Magazine Bank of the Year.
* Centenary Time Vault (November 2011): Fans were sent on a two week treasure hunt with a question on the Bank’s history posed each day for a chance to win $2,000 per day.
* Hussy’s Lunch Time Legends (December 2011 – currently active): Each lunch break of the Test matches, the Bank post an episode of “Hussey’s Lunchtime Legends” on the Love Cricket tab. The daily prizes range from cricket packs to signed memorabilia.You will find more info on those five initiatives in the press release.I invite you to check my coverage of CBA’s Time Vault and in particular howthe bank drove traffic to its branch via facebook.I am a big fan of Andy Lark – CBA’s Chief Marketing and Online Officer who joined the bank last summer.  Under Andy’s leadership and thanks to his second-to-none understanding of social media (after all, Andy has pretty much turned Dell into the social media champion the company is now), in the last four months CBA has successfully launched a number of tactical initiatives on facebook and strategic initiatives in mobile and crowdsourcing:
* Kaching: a sleek, innovative, mobile banking / payment app with facebook integration.  I was in Australia for the launch of the app back in October. I invite you to check my comprehensive coverage.
* Ideabank: CBA’s own online platform to capture ideas and suggestions from the market. Check out why I believe this could potentially be a game changer in banking.It is worth mentioning that if Andy’s high profile and influence at the bank will unarguably help CBA take their social media and digital engagement strategy to the next level, and get more funding in this area, CBA and in particular Andrew Murrell – General Manager Channel Marketing‘s team had already been busy engaging with their customers on facebook.And if facebook is at centerstage of CBA’s social media strategy, the bank is engaging on other popular channels like twitteryoutubegoogle+, and it has recently launched a blog.

My Take
2012 will be a successful year for CBA in the social media space, and it will mark a key milestone in the worldwide banking industry.  Building and implementing crowdsourcing and Voice of the Customer programmes is critical and the pioneers in this space will enjoy great traction and competitive advantage.

Supporting your Customers on Facebook and Twitter
I like CBA’s willingness to be transparent and connect with its clients wherever they are.  Few banks are using their facebook wall as an open and transparent customer support channel.  CBA is one of the happy few, with South Africa’s Absa Bank (part of Barclays).
Great stuff.  Please note they are not the only transparent bank in Australia, NAB is another excellent example of committment to transparency even during a PR crisis (the break-up).

I think that publishing this press release is a smart move from CBA, and they might as well fully leverage their achievements in the social media space.  On that note, BNP Paribas is one of the masters of the art of communication and the 1st mover advantage, like when they announce you could open a bank account in one tweet. But how innovative and unique are CBA’s activity, engagement level and growth on facebook?

Top Milestones from the Financial Services Industry
The reward for most of CBA’s initiatives is financial, which I am not necessarily a big fan of because of the risk of diluting the quality of your ‘fans’ (hence their value to your brand), but it looks like it has been an efficient way to grow the community.

Let’s have a look at the growth rate of the bank’s page and its ranking on our Visible Banking Facebook Watch series (over 1,350 pages and apps in 75 countries).  The Commonwealth Bank page is currently ranked #69 worldwide, #38 in the banking category, #11 in APAC and #1 in Australia.

It is worth noting that until last month, the comparatively small Credit Union Australia was the most liked financial institution on facebook down under.  This achievement was due to a smart initiative focused on charity, “pink your profile“.

Reaching 100,000 likes in a year in financial services is an achievement on its own.  But other financial institutions set up significantly higher records, such as:
* BNP Paribas (France): reached 100,000 likes in about 6 months in 2010
* Akbank (Turkey): reached 500,000 likes on facebook in 12 months
* American Express (US): their Small Business Saturday page reached over 1 million likes in just four weeks.

Note: one might argue that Australia is ranked #19 with 10 million users, whereas the US are #1 with 157 million users, Turkey is #6 with 30 million users and France is #9 with 23 million users.

The good news is that success on facebook doesn’t solely rely on size, but quality of your community, your brand intimacy and the level of engagement and interactions on the most popular social networking site in the world, which is expected to reach 1 billion users by mid August 2012.

In the press release, Andy pointed out the page’s high level of engagement with a ratio talking about / likes of 20% back in November 2011.  This is a good level indeed.

To put things into perspective, in December 2011 only 24 pages out of the 1,000+ we are tracking enjoyed a ratio of 20% or over.  And 17 of those 24 pages have over 5,000 likes.

Our top three last month was:
1. Peru Gourmet (Interbank, Peru) with 162k likes and 48k talking (29.98%)
2. TEB (Turkey) with 90k likes and 21k talking (23.98%)
3. Axa People Protectors (UK): 52k likes and 13k talking (25.98%)

So, how does your financial institution compare?  How ambitious is your social media strategy for 2012, and how critical is facebook?

Want to find out more about CBA’s vision and strategy in social media and more generally online and mobile?  Check out my 2-part video with Andy Lark.

Working Together
We at Visible Banking would be delighted to help you and your team better UNDERSTAND and LEVERAGE social media in a strategic yet pragmatic way. So please don’t hesitate to call me, send me an email or DM me (@Visible_Banking) to book a meeting and talk about twitterfacebook,crowdsourcingcustomer reviews, social media & social commerce in banking, financial services and insurance.

What do you think?

Written by Christophe Langlois

Based in London for almost a decade, Christophe is an entertaining fintech marketing keynote speaker and a trusted advisor to the global financial services industry on the topics of digital marketing, innovation and B2B social media.

Christophe has contributed to over 140 events in 18 countries.

Currently, Christophe is advising a number of fintech startups on marketing and growth hacking and he is the Chief Marketing Officer of The Fintech Power 50, an exclusive annual programme helping fintech scale-ups to accelerate their growth globally.

Christophe's views on are his own.

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