Canadian bank builds brand awareness with Facebook tools

You’ve promoted your business on the Yellow Pages, countless print ads, maybe some TV and radio spots, through fax messages, a Web page, e-mail and lately through blogs.

Is it time to create a Facebook profile?


If your aim is to reach out to a certain Web savvy demographic, which you could nurture into a living, breathing mass of supporters, the answer just might be “yes”.

This was what Citizens Bank of Canada, an Internet-based financial firm in British Columbia, had in mind when it recently set out to build a Facebook presence to develop greater brand awareness for the established but little-known bank.

Early this year, the banking arm of the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union launched its Facebook page to get to the highly desirable demographic of 30 to 55-year-olds, Net surfing, social networking consumers, who live mainly in large cities.

“Facebook is such a hot topic these days, we thought it might be the perfect vehicle to help us reach our desired demographic with the limited marketing budget we have,” said Maureen McCartney, the bank’s Web marketing manager.

Citizens Bank of Canada’s Facebook page – which also featured a quirky “homemade” video promoting registered savings plans (RSP) targeted at young customers – was such a hit, the success has encouraged the bank to venture further into online social networking territory with their own social site geared towards hockey fans.

The video, launched in January of this year, only garnered a little over 1,500 hits on YouTube but the bank is happy with those numbers because they represent viewers from a highly targeted audience.

“The conversion rate is low in Facebook but because it allows you to target so well the low numbers actually translate into very positive results,” McCartney said.

She said the main purpose of the Facebook presence and the video was to establish brand awareness and provide more information about the company’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity and RSP options among young potential clients.

The Facebook page allows Citizens Bank of Canada to be in the space where prospective customers are, said McCartney. The video, she said, is an effective hook to establish that “first contact” – which the bank can then build on.

Costs – or the lack thereof – was another plus of the project.

The bank spent “almost next to nothing” on the campaign because building a profile on Facebook hardly entails any cost. The video itself probably cost just about $1,000 – factoring in time and labour –because most of the equipment and expertise came from the bank’s in-house production team.

Using traditional marketing and advertising channels such as print ads, TV or radio, said McCartney, would easily have cost upwards of $5,000 to $10,000. Eve then, the results might have been less than desirable because such ads “are like using a shotgun.”

Facebook tools enable advertisers to feed advertisements and campaigns to highly specific groups. The highly targeted marketing is possible because Facebook is able to cull demographic information and detailed data about user likes and dislikes from member profiles.

Early this month, the bank also launched a, a Web site aimed at hockey fans, coaches, managers, players and their relatives. This is an attempt of the bank to connect with this big community that spans the whole of Canada.

Rather than build a community from scratch, McCartney said, the bank is tapping into an already established community by providing hockey enthusiasts and fans a forum to exchange stories, images, videos, scores and game schedules, hockey trivia and other information.

This “un-advertising” approach is the right way to use social media in promoting a business, according to consultancy firm Forrester Research Inc.

“Facebook marketing requires communicating not advertising,” says Charlene Li, vice-president and principal analyst for Forrester in her 2007 study: Big Brands and Facebook: Demographics, Case Studies & Best Practices.

The social networking site has more than 60 million users and more than 44 million active users worldwide.

Facebook members, Li noted are “maturing” from its initial teenage-base as more than 58 per cent have college education and more than 34 per cent obtain professional employment.

Li reported that companies that approached their Facebook presence much like they would traditional media – by “treating social networks like another channel – missed an opportunity to create a unique community.”

This was the fate of the early Chrysler Jeep presence.

Victoria’s Secret Pink Facebook page on the other hand managed to cultivate and engage a community of more than 540,000 fans by offering up discussion boards, video posts, contests, and coupons.

Crest White Strips Facebook page targeted 20 colleges, offered free concert tickets and movie screenings and facilitated live chat. Then the company measured the impact on sales at nearby stores.

Engaging clients in communication with the company can be very profitable, but is also a very tricky proposition, according to another analyst.

“Internally, you can control a culture and things might spread virally pretty quickly. But once you get outside the boundaries of the company, you lose that kind of control and more complex relations come into play,” says Yanathan Yarmis, an analyst for AMR Research in Boston.

For one thing, he said, there may be legal requirements to consider which might determine what sort of information is open for online discussion. The freedom of social media has a large potential of coming head to head with regulatory and privacy issues.

“While the younger generation seems happy to share everything with everyone, those higher up the food chain say some information needs to be carefully controlled.”

Yarmis said engaging in conversation does not magically translate to better sales. “You want to get involved in conversations that are meaningful and have an impact on your business.”

Here’s a short list of some handy Facebook tools and strategies:

Profile Page – Every Facebook member gets a profile page. You can use this page to upload not only pictures but your company’s logo, contact and other information.

Facebook Marketplace – People go to this site to look for used items or find roommates. A business can use this feature to advertise products and services or open positions.

Networks – When creating your company profile, don’t skip the Networks question. You could be missing out of possible business parties and potential customers.

Facebook Events – This app helps you get the word out on your latest sale or company event.

Facebook Funwall – It’s a new way of sending out broadcast messages and greetings and a fun way to maintain contact with your customers.

Top Friends Network – Maintain further contact with your target demographic by giving them virtual rewards and gifts.

AceBucks – Make it even more fun for people to be at your site by offering people who take part in surveys and promotional contests virtual points which can be redeemed for real prizes.

Sponsored Group apps – Make a good impression or help in a worthy cause by sponsoring a group or sponsoring your own group on Facebook with the purchase of a link that hosts ad content, message boards and more.

Mini-Feed – This app enables users to receive updates whenever their friends add new photos, change profile status or write something. As an advertiser you can use the tool to track your “friends” and learn more about your target market.

Facebook Social Ads – It’s all about being viral. Reach out to your Facebook friends’ friends with an ad that displays to visitors of your profile page and their friends and friend’s friends and so on.

Facebook Pages – This feature allows you to load all sorts of ad-ons such as videos, pictures, logos and marketing content to your page.

Facebook Polls – Avail of Facebook’s polling services to gain better insights into your target audience.

Facebook Insights – Provides maps, charts and other devices that enable companies to track their “presence” on Facebook.

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