Guest Post #1 – Overview of Social Media & Banking in Israel (by Gidi Dorevitch)

I launched the Visible Banking Blog back in February 2007, almost three years ago… Time really flies. Since my first post, I have always aimed to share with you my passion, my views, and some unique insights on social media in the Finance industry: not only Banking, but also Financial Services, Credit Cards, Asset Management, Investment Banking, Private Banking, Insurance… I should start considering to rebrand, don’t you think? 😉 Your views and suggestions are more than welcome.

Last month, I started to contact some of the passionate, and highly knowledgeable, people I met (online and/or offline) over the last 34 months throughout the world, during my speaking engagements, my business trips, on linkedin, on twitter or via my blog. I invited them to contribute on VB. I was delighted with the extremely positive and warm responses. Thank you all.

My key goal is to provide you with some second-to-none insights of social media and financial services all over the world, and to give this experts another plateform to share their knowledge and their views.
I have also started to schedule another type of contribution focused on specific topics such as reputation management or “anger management” (detractors involved): loads of highly exciting topics, stay tuned!

I have already confirmed 5 contributors from Australia, Spain, Germany, Russia and Spain. If you are interested, please do not hesitate to call me, send me an email, or contact me on twitter or linkedin!

Let me introduce the first ever guest blogger on Visible Banking: Gidi Dorevitch, Senior Analyst – Banking & Finance at Adkit. Gidi and his colleagues contacted me earlier this year, just before my business trip to Israel to help Bank Hapoalim better understand the opportunities offered by social media. Gidi conducts bespoke research projects for Adkit’s Banking clients in Israel: “As a senior banking analyst in Adkit – an Israeli research firm focused on global business information and best practice – I help Israeli banks keep up to date with innovative marketing and operations among banks from around the world.”

Guest Post – Overview of Social Media & Banking in Israel
Due to the fierce competition, Israeli banks – and especially their retail arms – are keen to implement trends and innovations from North American and European contemporaries, hoping to gain a larger market share. In this context, social media comes into consideration as a powerful tool, capable of assisting the banks to reach a wide range of marketing goals: recruit new customer segments, preserve existing customers, drive customers to online channels, enhance cross sales, and more.

Social media is viewed here as powerful especially since Israelis are generally very fond of technology and innovations. A very high penetration rate of cellular phones (123.7%, during 2008, according to Merrill Lynch) and computers, a culture which encourages innovation (see, for example, the high number of active Israeli start-ups), and the Israeli desire for instant satisfaction, all contribute to the popularity of social media in the country. This is especially noticed among youth & generations X,Y , who are very social media orientated – regularly using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging platforms, SMS, email, instant messaging, talkback platforms, virals, and local Israeli social platforms as well.

Israel’s retail banking market includes two leading banks (Leumi, Hapoalim), three mid-sized banks (Discount, Mizrahi Tefahot, First International), and about six additional smaller banks, mostly catering a specific customer segment, by profession, geography, or religion. Compared to the large customer base in other countries, the overall customer base in Israel is indeed small. Bank Leumi, the country’s largest bank, needs only 240 branches and approx. 11,000 workers to cater its 1.7 million customer base.

Naturally, in order to be successful, social media activity depends on regular usage patterns by as many participants as possible. Despite the social media habits of Israelis, due to the rather narrow potential user base, succeeding in a social media endeavor is definitely not trivial. There is no doubt that some of the Israeli banks social media activity is based on a “me too” strategy, and on a will to brand themselves as “up to date”, while a different part of their activity stems from the will to experiment and gain more experience in the field. However, it does seem like there will be more and more of this is the future – as indicate the following recent examples of the banks’ social media activity:

Facebook – Targeting the student segment – as the Israeli academic school year started in October, both bank Discount and Bank Hapoalim launched marketing campaigns focused on Facebook and Twitter activity. By promoting social challenges and giving away forty 1,250$ ‘scholarships’ (Hapoalim) or thousands of tickets to stand-up shows and hotel vouchers (Discount bank), the banks hoped Facebook will help them “enhance brand awareness, recruit new customers, and “Establish an ongoing relationship with students, while understanding all of their academic and non-academic needs” as said by Bank Hapoalim officials.

Computer hardware giveaway – Since Israeli banks are allowed to give new customers a “joining gift”, instead of the old fashioned “umbrella” or “toaster oven”, banks today give away mini laptops (Leumi, Mizrahi Tefahot), advanced disk-on-key (Discount), and the complimentary free SMS services to the newbie’s. There is also serious buzz about banks planning to give customers free I-phones in the near future.

Blogging and Twitting – Corporate responsibility, clearness – Bank Leumi recently launched a new corporate blog, updated weekly with posts by the bank’s CEO, the bank’s chief spokesperson, and various employees – ranging from Marketing VP, to simple mortgage advisors. Leumi also re-launched its active Twitter account (over 660 followers). The launch was accompanied by an online “day trader” investment game, with above 6,000 participants. Enrolling to the game involved registration, and participants from other banks received phone calls from the bank, encouraging them to switch to Leumi. Another good example of an Israeli bank well into blogging is Jerusalem Bank – This small bank, with only 110,000 customers and 16 branches, maintains an active Twitter account (1,077 followers) and an active blog (running for almost two years already). The tweets serve to cater for customer questions, and for handing out free giveaways to followers who answer informative questions about the bank.
On Nov. 22nd, Bank HaPoalim recently launched a twitter account PoaliMarkeTweet, focused on ongoing updates form the Israeli Stock market. After a single week, the account already had 480 followers.

Multi channel strategy – A few of the Israeli banks are currently process of imitating Mizrahi Tefahot’s unique and successful multi-channel customer management strategy, called “Mizrahi Tefahot LIVE” (introduced about two years ago): Customers who enroll, are no longer associated with a specific physical bank branch, but rather assigned a designated personal banker, who works from a call center, and is available around the clock via video-chat, e-mail, SMS, and messenger.
In order to promote the bank, during November Mizrahi-Tefahot launched a marketing campaign focused targeting customers from other banks. An important aspect of the campaign was a viral video and a few e-mail messages, which Israelis were encouraged to pass on to friends. People who e-mailed the message to more friends, raised their chance to win prizes.

Social Media Initiatives – Bank Leumi – blog & twitter, Jerusalem Bank – blog & twitter, Bank HaPoalim’s student facebook page, Bank HaPoalim’s twitter account dedicated to the Financial Markets, Bank HaPoalim student facebook page, Discount for students on facebook…

Please note that all the links are available in the corresponding categories of the Visible Banking Directory.

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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