From Contests To Social Banking – Brief History Of The Evolution Of Indian Banks On Social Media

A look at how Indian banks have evolved on social media from the days of running contests on Facebook and Twitter to using them as social banking tools

Indian banks on social media

It was back in 2011-12 when major Indian banks finally jumped on to the social media bandwagon. Amid security fears and questions like, “Why banks on social media?’, prominent players like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Standard Chartered, Kotak Mahindra, Yes Bank, Axis Bank, IDBI and others  created a robust presence on Facebook and Twitter. The idea back then was to not miss out on a single platform for product promotions. And, of course, to be present wherever the banking junta was.

Today the banking sector has come a long way on social media with high priority to social banking. As the medium matured, so did the consumer behaviour and the nature of banking. Indian banks are now offering banking on the go with super convenient ways of banking while you are Facebooking or Twittering!

But the transition wasn’t a smooth ride, it has been a gradually evolving one marked with many failures and lessons. While the bank was managed by people who grew up in the pre-social media era (read one-way communication mode), understanding the new age consumer and her banking needs posed quite a challenge for them. Nevertheless, banks made a foray into the social media world, listened to what its users said, worked on it, and experimented on the emerging medium while gaining business insights from user behaviour.

Phase 1: Facebook contests and building communities

In the beginning, banks were clueless just like other brands. Given the transparency of social media and the sensitive nature of financial transactions, most banks were content with a Facebook and Twitter presence that shared regular updates about its many offers on meals, loans and fixed deposit rates. Twitter was leveraged as a listening post for monitoring conversations and addressing complaints.

Then came the contests to engage fans in simple yet creative ways; banks did not want to be financial advisors or salesmen after all.

Contests that rewarded fans were the order of the day

Contests that rewarded fans were the order of the day. India’s fourth largest private bank, Kotak Mahindra’s Sabse Smart contest tested the financial quotient of its fans and rewarded the best with Flipkart vouchers. India’s fourth largest private sector bank Yes Bank’s Saat ka Sikandar contest quizzed its fans on movies with a smartphone for the grand prize winner.

Post repositioning with a new tagline ‘Badhti ka naam zindagi’, India’s third largest private sector bank, Axis bank launched a Facebook app called ‘Meri Zindagi ka Safar’ which calculated the distance one’s life has taken so far. The bank had also launched a ‘My Face My Traits’ Facebook app that recommended a type of customised credit cards it had introduced, after scanning your picture. Axis Bank also built a Facebook app to introduce its YOUth card, where fans could design their own debit cards.

India’s second largest bank, ICICI Bank boosted fan engagement with ‘Fan of the month’ contests that rewarded with travel vouchers worth Rs.10K. When Standard Chartered needed to sell its credit cards, it began by building a foodies network on Facebook. The bank was rewarded with a strong social media presence, a niche community and soft sell of its credit cards.

Phase 2: Baby steps in social banking

Meanwhile, experimentation continued as banks tried to figure out consumer behaviour on social media. What are their concerns? How can we address them? What products do we need to conceive that will address all their concerns?

ICICI Bank created quite a splash in January 2012 when it joined Facebook along with a Facebook app called ‘Your Bank Account’ wherein fans could access their bank account while they were on Facebook. Fans were concerned around legitimate questions like, “What happens if my Facebook account gets hacked? Does the app store my bank account data?

By December 2012, ICICI Bank came up with iWish, a financial product for the youth with a social connection. A flexible recurring deposit account, iWish enabled its user to share their financial goals on Facebook with friends and family.

In September 2013, all security concerns were addressed when ICICI launched the Pockets app on Facebook, an evolved version of the earlier ‘Your Bank Account’ app. Pockets by ICICI assured a safe, simple and social way of banking while one was on Facebook.

Fans could register on Pockets using their debit card number and PIN and avail online banking features like checking out account summary, account details and mini statement, checking credit card details, payment dues, demat holding statements, pay bills, transfer funds to Facebook friends, and more.

Safety was addressed through introduction of features like secure browsing, two layer secure access, a unique dynamically generated one time password for each transaction, daily transaction limit, one Facebook account registered for one account, etc.

In March 2014, Kotak Mahindra Bank launched Jifi, a first-of-its-kind fully integrated social bank account designed for the tech-savvy socially connected millennials. Jifi integrates social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook with mainstream banking for secure and seamless on-the-go information.

Implemented with the help of digital agency IBS, one could open a Jifi account by signing up via Facebook or email to get an invite. Account updates can be received on Twitter as a Direct Message (DM) by simply tweeting to the Twitter handle @KotakJifi with predefined hashtags. The bank’s dedicated Twitter handle @kotaksync will send out these messages, thereby eliminating human intervention and maintaining confidentiality.

Customers can earn transactional loyalty points for specific banking activities, and social loyalty points for inviting and adding friends to the Jifi network, liking/commenting on Facebook, etc. These points can be redeemed for offers and can also be transferred to friends who are part of their Jifi network.

Kotak also launched KayPay – a bank agnostic payment product for Facebook users to send money to each other. Users need to register their bank accounts to get started with KayPay, wherein they can transfer funds by choosing recipients from their friends list.

Banks like Axis Bank still depended on social media for brand building. To get consumers acquainted with the bank’s vision of being encouraging partners in their lives, Axis introduced the ‘My idea of progress’ 360-degree campaign. People could share their stories at the online platform, while the bank could better its consumer connect.

Phase 3: Social Banking ver 2.0 and interactive storytelling

With more young Indians on Facebook and Twitter than ever, new products have come in 2015. And banks are also competing aggressively to get to this emerging young consumer segment.

This January, Kotak Mahindra Bank took social banking to the next level with the launch of its ‘Jifi Saver’ – a social savings bank account which can be managed via Twitter and Facebook. Offering all benefits and functionalities of a regular savings bank account, Jifi Saver enabled #Hashtagbanking. It can be used to pay utility bills, mobile and DTH recharge via Twitter and more.

Soon ICICI teamed up with Twitter India to launch #ICICIBankPay – a first-of-its kind service in India that enables ICICI Bank customers to transfer money to anyone in the country who has a Twitter account, check account balance, view last three transactions and recharge prepaid mobile in a completely secure manner.

Similar to Kotak’s Jifi, it worked with pre-defined hashtags. To register, users have to send a Direct Message to the bank’s Twitter account. As a safety measure, the user will receive a ‘one time password (OTP)’ on her registered mobile number, which in turn is required to be sent as a DM from her Twitter account to the bank’s Twitter account in the format “#regotp”.

Once registered, the customer can transfer funds, check account balance, view last three transactions and recharge prepaid mobile by simply sending a DM.

Digital storytelling was also leveraged fruitfully. In September 2014, DBS Bank India, one of Asia’s leading financial services group embarked on a digital storytelling route to build brand awareness. Taking inspiration from the long format ad films that were the rage last year, DBS Bank had launched the first season of Chilli Paneer – a sweet love story of Ken Chang from Singapore and Asha Rao from Mumbai.

The second season of DBS Chilli Paneer launched in December included user interactivity wherein viewers became storytellers. A viewer could step into the shoes of one of the protagonists and make choices for them, while experiencing the various benefits of DBS Bank. The bank, on the other hand, tried to figure out consumer personality types based on the choices made to gain insights from it.

Phase 4: The future is where consumer insights take us

Consumers are adapting to mobile like never before. Transactions ranging from buying railway tickets to movie tickets, mobile recharge to DTH recharge have now shifted to mobile devices. Most ecommerce companies are experiencing nearly 60% of traffic from mobile devices, and a few are considering dropping their web app altogether. In this fast evolving scenario, banking is also adapting to the new age mobile banker.

When Pockets was launched, its main drawback was not being mobile optimized. But, consumer data changed all of that; ICICI rolled out the Pockets App on mobile. “Mobile transactions account for 10 per cent of our total transactions, increased from 2 per cent in 2.5 years. We have about 2.8 million customers on mobile banking, while about 15 million Internet banking users,” informs Rajiv Sabharwal, Executive Director, ICICI Bank.

Both ICICI and Kotak are trying to appeal to youngsters by bringing in simple, quick, secure and convenient ways of banking on Facebook and Twitter itself. However, there are a few differences – While ICICI allows money transfer via mobile, Kotak Jifi doesn’t. “Jifi does have social banking features similar to ours but they don’t send money on Twitter which we have,” Abonty Banerjee, GM and Head, Digital Channels at ICICI Bank had pointed out while telling us why the bank launched #ICICIBankPay.

About 25 percent of our customers are using Twitter to bank with us, while about 50-60 percent bank using Facebook

Kotak has about 40% of its customers using internet and mobile banking. “About 25 percent of our customers are using Twitter to bank with us, while about 50-60 percent bank using Facebook,” said Deepak Sharma, Executive VP, Digital banking, Kotak Mahindra Bank.

So, where does this lead us? How would mobile banking of the future be like? Where are Indian youth spending most of their time?

The rise of instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, WeChat, Hike, Line, Viber and more in the country means that online time is being stolen away from Facebook and Twitter. Will Indian banks now team up with messaging apps to cater to this newly emerging consumer segment, following regulatory approvals? The future of Indian banking does indeed look exciting.