Plunging into Social Media
By John Jaser,
Internet Services Manager
The social media drum keeps pounding
while voices of caution are being pushed
aside – not a great formula for social
media’s long term success in financial
Just for the record, social media isn’t
the first ‘cool’ technology to appear on
the banking scene. E-mail, Internet web
sites, even Microsoft Windows were cool
in their day. In each case, we realized
the security risks after the horse left
the barn. Remember the TJX data breach?
How many debit cards did your
institution reissue at an average cost
of $4 per card? How much fraud did you
have to cover?
If your institution is contemplating a
social media presence, consider the
risks that accompany its potential
rewards. That way, bankers can
participate in the conversation without
having to plug the security holes later.
Risk #1 – Good Chat, Bad
Conversation is the point of social media. We
talk, we connect, we refer and hopefully
generate traffic for businesses that receive
positive comments. Marketing people around the
world hope to land on the good side of chat.
Land on social media’s ‘bad’ side and your
bank’s reputation becomes something to salvage.
It doesn’t matter if the negativity comes from a
single malcontent or an actual snafu. The social
networking public may only read the subject line
and bypass the underlying comment. Either way,
your financial institution can quickly become a
To counteract the damage, you might consider
monitoring major social networking sites for
‘mentions’ and nipping the bad ones in the bud.
Viralheat can monitor a site for $140 per month,
but then an employee is still needed to respond
to unkind posts. If social media is important to
your institution, this may be something to
Risk #2 – Who’s Speaking for You?
Do you believe that every employee in your
financial institution should have unlimited
access to social media? More to the point, do
you believe your employees will consistently
mention your institution in favorable terms?
If your answer to these questions is yes, then
you might have an unusually upbeat, articulate
staff. You might also have an unrealistic idea
of the damage that one disgruntled employee can
cause in today’s social media.
Let’s face it, your employees know a lot about
your financial institution. If they start
tweeting or posting details about your
institution on their Facebook wall, they could
undo months of marketing effort. They could also
slip confidential information into the
conversation, increasing your potential
liability should a criminal notice and act.
My recommendation – assign your marketing
professionals to work the social media ‘beat.’
The beat includes online forums, Twitter and
Facebook. Marketing people know what to say on
behalf of your institution. Putting everybody on
Facebook is not a good social media plan for a
Risk #3 – The Criminals
Every media presents risks, but social media
presents greater risk because its goal is trust
and sharing personal information. Can you
imagine a better forum for social engineering
Already 750,000 Facebook members have admitted to
infection by Koobface, a computer worm that
targets users of social networking websites. The
total infection count is probably higher. A few
weeks ago, an organization called ‘Control Your
Info’ took control of hundreds of Facebook
groups. The attackers insist they were merely
highlighting a security flaw in Facebook. But
their stunt broadcast the flaw around the world.
As custodians of other people’s money, bankers
manage the risks of loan loss, physical theft,
identity theft, and more. A banker’s caution may
not match the excitement of a tweet or a
Facebook post, but banks and bankers are
obligated to protect the public's college funds,
retirement assets, and other savings. That’s a
different obligation than writing witty posts.
Should bankers avoid social media in the name of
security? Not at all. But understanding that
security goes hand-in-hand with social media is
an important message that will help any
financial institution over the long haul.