On March 15, 2009, Federal Reserve Board of Governors chairman Ben Bernanke changed history by being the first Fed Chairman ever to grant an interview while in office. Bernanke appeared on the CBS News Magazine 60 Minutes.
60 Minutes leads in with “Aside from the president he’s the most powerful man working to save the economy…” “Ben Bernanke may be the most important Fed chairman in history. The question is can he help lead America out of this deep recession and when?”
The interview begins with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley asking “Mr. Chairman, I’m going to start with a question that everyone wants me to ask: when does this end?” To which Bernanke replies “It depends a lot on the financial system. The lesson of history is that you do not get a sustained economic recovery as long as the financial system is in crisis. We've seen some progress in the financial markets, absolutely. But until we get that stabilized and working normally, we're not gonna see recovery. But we do have a plan. We're working on it. And I do think that we will get it stabilized, and we'll see the recession coming to an end probably this year. We'll see recovery beginning next year. And it will pick up steam over time."
What does this mean to you? The fact that Mr. Bernanke granted an interview to 60 minutes is a strong indicator that he recognizes the need for a level of transparency that was not necessary in the past.
I think a clear indicator of the demand for more transparency in business is the tremendous growth recently of social networking sites on the internet such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As I was writing this post I attempted to log into Twitter to check some facts and got the message “Twitter is over capacity. Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.” What a great illustration of the rapid growth of social networking sites.
MarketingCharts.com indicates in a blog post dated March 24, 2009, that “Twitter experienced 1,382% year-over-year growth in February 2009, with the number of total unique visitors increasing from 475,000 in February 2008 to seven million last month, according to Nielsen Online.” They went on to say “This increase makes Twitter the fastest growing member community site for the month.”
“Zimbio and Facebook , which were the second and third-fastest growing communities, posted triple-digit growth, with the number of visitors to those sites increasing 240% and 228%, respectively” MarketingCharts.com continues.
The growth and popularity of these social networking sites is a great example of the internet transitioning from what is now referred to as Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Think of Web 1.0 as being like a printed brochure. Web 1.0, like a printed brochure, only gives information. It does not engage the reader in a two way conversation.
Web 2.0 is conversational. Web 2.0 gives readers an opportunity to respond. A great example of how Web 2.0 is conversational is this blog; you have the opportunity to post comments. On Twitter, you have the opportunity to engage in conversation by retweeting (sending the post of someone else to your followers), replying, or direct messaging (sending a response privately to the original sender). On Facebook you have the opportunity to post a comment related to almost any information on the site, again, a two way conversation.
For those of you that are having trouble grasping this Web 1.0, Web 2.0 thing, consider this fair warning, there is now a Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is built around a more collaborative environment.
So what are the lessons we can learn from Mr. Bernanke?
First, I think his bold move of breaking a 96 year tradition of the Fed chairman not granting interviews is a reminder that a good leader is open to change when change is appropriate. A recent study indicates that the workforce of 2012 will be made up of 70 million Gen Y's (born 1977 to 1992) and 38 million Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964). The current recession will most likely cause more Baby Boomers to remain in the workforce longer than projected when this study was conducted, however, the shift in demographics that will occur in the workforce in the next five to ten years is still noteworthy. Gen Y is the group that discovered social media through outlets like MySpace. They grew up communicating very openly online about their lives. Gen Y expects more transparent communications from their leaders. Gen Y does not respect a leader because of their title, the leader must earn their respect through their actions.
Second, be genuine and open. If you have not had the opportunity to watch the video of the interview with Mr. Bernanke, it is well worth your time to do so. You will see a man that is genuinely unhappy with the fact that the Fed had to put money in AIG. You will also see his explanation of why it was the appropriate thing to do.
As I work with senior managers at community banks, many express concerns about using tools such as a blog, video interviews (Vlog), podcasts, and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. I understand the basis of these concerns, banks are highly regulated; all communication must meet compliance requirements. This concern is legitimate, however it is not a reason to ignore these communication tools.
Here are a few action items:
- Look at what other banks are doing.
- I did a blog post a few weeks ago on how banks are using Twitter. Twitter is HOT right now. A day does not go by without Twitter getting a mention in the media. I outlined some suggested steps related to Twitter in that post. Check here to access the Twitter post.
- Jim Brune did an excellent post about Twitter recently on the NetBanker blog. I suggest taking the time to read his post and the comments. Click here to access the post.
- Wells Fargo / Wachovia has a blog specific called The Wells Fargo-Wachovia Blog. On March 18, Matt Wadley did a good post on their co-branding effort. Click here to access the post. This is a good example of using a blog to keep prospects and clients informed.
- Monarch Community Bank has done a nice job developing a page on Facebook. They have integrated lots of photos and video. Great technique. Click here to visit their Facebook page.
- Reserve your name on every social media network that you may ever want to be on! Unless the site is geared toward inappropriate content, I highly recommend reserving your name. At the bottom of this blog post there is a ShareThis link. If you click on that link it will list the top 20 social networks currently on the web. If you do not plan to begin actively using the network now, post a message saying you are determining how you will use it in the future and tell visitors how they can contact you now.
- Involve compliance! Have you compliance staff offer guidelines appropriate content.
- Being current and relevant are very important. It is a good idea to have a "fast track" review process in place with your compliance staff when posting to a blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. You are going to want the ability to publish information quickly. Figure out in advance what the quickest way to have compliance "bless" your material is. Ideally compliance should be able to review material in an hour or so, rather than a few days or weeks.
- Have compliance set guidelines on information that can be published on an ongoing basis without being reviewed in advance. For example, I noticed one bank uses Twitter to occasionally promote rate specials. If this is something you plan to do, have compliance provide guidelines for how it is to be done once and following those guidelines going forward rather than having a compliance review done each time.
- Social media coach Laura Roeder (http://twitter.com/lkr) posted a
couple comments on Twitter on March 24, that I think are very valuable.
- "Don't put a pitch as your bio (on Twitter), (it) makes people feel like they will get a ton of pitches if they follow you."
- "The number one biggest mistake I see on Twitter is not telling anyone you are here! Put in your website sidebar, email signature, newsletter..."
- Continue learning! We sponsor a weekly series of free webinars geared toward small businesses, service professionals, and community banks called Free Webinar Wednesdays. We often have discussions around social media. Click here to see the schedule of upcoming events.
- Popular business author Seth Godin did a blog post on April 11, 2008 in which he mentions Twitter and blogging in a very short, but insightful way. Go read the post! Click here to access "Drip, drip goes the Twit"
I would love to get your comments!
Jeff Simpkins, Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach
Community Bank Consulting, Inc.
"Helping community banks successfully integrate People, Process, and Technology"