Following last week’s post exploring social media fears and opportunities for financial services brands, this blog post suggests three  ways that retail banks could make real, innovative use of social media to differentiate their products.

 

1. Social banking

Create a current or savings account with interest rates individually tailored based on a customers’ ability to recruit more members to the bank. New accounts could open with an average interest rate which increased by a small fraction each time a customer brought on a new member to join.

In the old days of member-get-member direct marketing, it was common for companies to offer discounts, gifts or value added services to customers who did the leg work in finding more customers. This model has now evolved into group buying from sites like Groupon, but there is evidence to suggest that “member get member” banking could work from Key Trade (under the control of Group Credit Agricole).

While Key Trade used a cash signup incentive, an interest based one would be a more meaningful commitment to a customer relationship and stronger motivator for recruiting new customers, particularly if interest rates could be competitive with current market offerings.

2. Social Micro Saving

Create a savings account which encourages you to micro-save via your social platforms. This could also be used to encourage micro-donation to charities. This could work quite effectively as a Facebook app which occasionally puts something into a subscriber’s news feed, reminding them to tuck £10 away in a savings account and make a small donation to charity.

Charitable donations website Just Giving noted the rise of social giving late last year and with the rise of applications like Snoball and SocialVibe, innovation is already beginning to harness the power of social donation behaviour to drive donations for charitable causes. If charitable donations can be contagious amongst social networks, it seems likely that social saving could be similarly rewarding and therefore contagious. Examples might include teams that are saving personal funds & raising charitable funds for expeditions, or groups saving towards a common goal such as holiday makers saving for a big trip.

3. Social Budget planning

Social gaming has proved itself remarkably addictive, but plenty of applications can the human desire to compete to good use. Mobile or social apps that let people compete over their personal budgeting targets could drive more careful budget planning & financial prudence.

As soon as NFC payment becomes a reality, mobile devices will be enabled to track spending both in terms of amounts and locations. If a couple, or group of friends decided to collectively budget towards a savings target, they could opt in to share how well they were performing against self-imposed goals. Personal financial data would remain private, but benchmarking against targets for lunch-time spending, for example, could earn gamers reward points & bonuses, just in the same way that FourSquare currently awards players with badges & Mayorships for check in achievements.

My purpose in exploring these ideas is to demonstrate the varied applications for integrating social media & social network behaviours with personal finance. With the growing popularity of The Co-Operative bank which offers customers a shared gains model and niche banks like Triodos offering consumer banking customers ethical and sustainable savings options, it’s not hard to imagine innovative, social financial products emerging as the financial services industry re-invents its public image.