How BNP Paribas Drove Customer Acquisition via Facebook on the Anniversary of its Virtual Branch

Times flies.  Today marks the 2nd anniversary of BNP Paribas’ ‘la Net Agence‘.  Yesterday I had the pleasure to catch up with Frank Desvigne – Director Online & Mobile at BNP Paribas Retail France, one of the masterminds behind this concept, in Paris on his very own birthday.  That was the first time I realized how well orchestrated the launch was two years ago. 😉

For the last two years, the team behind ‘la Net Agence’ has been busy:  they’ve built some sizable communities on facebook (they are about to break the 130k likes mark) and twitter (with 3,200 followers) .  More importantly, they opened 12,000 new accounts or 16 new accounts a day.

I’d like to wish Virginie Fauvel – Head of e-business at BNP Paribas, Frank, and the rest of the Team Net Agence a happy anniversary!  And Virginie and Frank, my congratulations for your achievements, your hard work and the focus you put on social media.  You are driving its adoption in the French banking industry.

Two years ago, it was one of the very first virtual branches launched by a major bank in France.  Since then most of the top French banks followed with the likes of Societe Generale with their ‘Agence Directe‘ (direct, not virtual, branch) and Caisse d’Epargne with the 14 regional instances to date of (which is now on twitter @MonBanquiersince 29 August 2011)…

Communicating on anniversaries and milestones is an excellent way to engage with your social media communities.  And there is no better ways to cebrate your anniversary on facebook than by rewarding your fans (and if you could also drive customer acquisition at the same time…).To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of its virtual branch, BNP Paribas offered two years of free banking for any new customers who open an account using the facebook voucher code on this festive day.BNPP-Facebook-RewardNewClients2Ans-v2
My Take
The BNP Paribas Net page on facebook is an excellent case study on many levels.

But first of all, let’s take a look at the page’s growth in the last two years.

Growth: Fast, Stalled, Resumed
The page is now about to make the 130,000 likes mark: BNP Paribas was one of the first major French brands to build a strong relationship with the Facebook Team in France back in September 2009.  And it took it just about 6 months to reach over 110,000 likes.  Please note that this rapid growth was driven by frequent giveaways of discounted cinema tickets (BNPP is still using this growth mechanism to this date).  Then, it stalled for more or less a year.  A few months ago, the community started to grow again.

BNPP’s page is by far ‘the most liked’ financial services page in France (I invite you to check the current French Top 10), and it is in the Top 50 worldwide (source: Visible Banking Facebook Watch series, over 1,000 pages and apps tracked in 72 countries). Other financial institutions have enjoyed some outstanding growth in the last twelve months with the likes of American Express (its Small Business Saturday page which in November 2010 reached the 1 million likes in only three weeks), or more recently Akbank and Garanti bank in Turkey which both added a few hundred thousands likes in H1 2011.

BNP Paribas’ experience on facebook is a testimony of social media experimentation and its ‘live and learn’ approach.  The bank faced a few common key challenges:

Customer Acquisition Strategy
Indeed, by adopting a giveaway mechanism to quickly build its fan base, BNP Paribas potentially impacted its ability to attract its customers and some good prospects.  And one could challenge the brand relevance for most of those 130k ‘fans’, most of them attracted by the discounted or the free cinema tickets.

Content Strategy & Community Management
By doing so, the bank has now to deal with two key issues of social media on facebook: the volume vs the quality of its fan base, the complexity of its content strategy and community management.  Can the bank communicate about financial products on the page?  Or just about soft topics such as cinema or tennis?

You must start working on your Know Your Fans/Followers (KYF) strategynow!

Reputation Management
The French facebook users reaching the page often seize the opportunity to vent and share their complaints about the bank, even thought this is not the place to do so.  This demonstrates the importance of publishing clear and simple user and moderation guidelines to give you the legitimacy to remove the most abusive comments, if needed.  On that topic, don’t reinvent the wheel: I invite you to check my list of social media guidelineswhich includes a section on facebook.  Please feel free to flag any missing links.

At the same time, you see the power of online conversation and the auto-regulation from the community in action: there is always at least a couple of customer / fans to tell the detractors off and put things into perspective.

Reward Strategy
This is one of the trickiest challenge a brand can face.  Finding the best reward to engage with the majority of your community.  It requires some serious thinking when your fan base is so heterogeneous and made of customers and prospects.  Until now, most of BNP Paribas’ contests and rewards were only accessible for their new customers.  On regular basis, you see existing customers complaining on the bank’s wall posts.  In one of its latest comments, BNPP’s community manager informed that the bank was about to launch a series of reward for their existing clients.  A live and learn process it is…

Additional Comments
If it had been me, I would have started to communicate about the imminent anniversary on the page a couple of weeks ago.  I’d have asked my fans to vote for their favourite reward within a short list of three or four.  I’d also have seized this opportunity to invite my first ever customers to share their feedback on the experience of banking with ‘la Net Agence’ in those last two years (this is not too late).

But again, congratulations for Frank and his team who are constantly improving the quality of their community management and are becoming better and better engaging with their audiences on facebook and on twitter.

In the last twelve months, BNP Paribas became the first large bank in France to launch a twitter account dedicated to customer support.  A couple of weeks ago Frank launched a very smart mainstream marketing campaign to invite the nation to open a bank account in just a tweet.  Clever marketing coup, isn’t it?

I invite you to watch the video I shot with Frank about a year ago.

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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