First direct’s CEO Matt Colebrook talks social media with themoneymuse

When we first sat down to talk about creating a new direct bank we had a blank piece of paper in front of us. In the middle of it, we wrote the word “customer” and drew a circle round it – that was the first document first direct ever produced.

Why start an article on social media with that? Well, it’s the reason that we began to engage with social media. Our whole philosophy is about responding to and anticipating the needs of our customers. Two years ago, it became clear that social media was something which would deliver value to our customers and to other key audiences like the financial press, the decision was very easy, this was a space where we had to be.

Since then we’ve made real progress, there’s still a long way to go but we’ve taken some big steps. We’ve created our social media newsroom which makes it a lot easier for people to get a feel for the kind of company we run. We’re not restricted to posting just press releases so we can publish a lot more information about the company, its people and the kind of things we get up to – it helps us to make the company more transparent.

A few months ago wecreated an online consumer forum so that our customers could have a place where they can openly talk to us and we’ve recently taken the step of assigning a full time team to monitor and respond to these queries. We’re also on Twitter and YouTube (primarily to give us the capacity to provide richer content for online media outlets and to stay in touch with journalists and bloggers.)

The key thing that underpins everything we do is that it’s about the improvement of our services, not change for change’s sake or jumping on some kind of bandwagon. The news room gives us an invaluable hub for all our content. Flickr and YouTube give us much more flexibility when it comes to using images and video online. Twitter gives us a place where we can interact with journalists, bloggers and interested consumers. Talking Point gives customers a place to come and talk to us in a more in-depth way – they all add value.

It’s interesting, earlier in October I did a web chat with banking bloggers and one of them asked me where we would be with social media in five years’ time. I had to answer that I didn’t know, not an answer that you’ll often get from a banker, but the reality is that the space is changing so rapidly that nobody really knows where they’ll be. What I do know is this, we’re wholly and completely committed to our customers and wherever they are, that’s where we’ll be.

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